Danny Danon’s Appointment, Bibi’s Thirst for Power [ssba]

Danny Danon’s Appointment, Bibi’s Thirst for Power

There are moments in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisions seem so ill-informed, so downright bizarre, that the only rationale behind them must be either total insanity or simply part of an incredibly elaborate ongoing practical joke. How else to describe his appointment of Likud hardliner Danny Danon to the post of Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations? Danon has spent years making himself a thorn in Bibi’s side, challenging the latter’s authority and spewing far-right wing propaganda in every possible news outlet willing to host him. To be fair, Danon is not much different than many of his colleagues in Likud who espouse annexationist and far-right wing views on a fairly regular basis. But he is one of the few party members willing to challenge Bibi’s place at the top of the Likud pecking order, however unsuccessful these endeavors may be.

The decision seems especially galling given the likelihood of a Security Council Resolution being tabled by the French come September, which hopes to prod Israelis and Palestinians back to peace negotiations with a clearly defined timetable. Readers will recall that the US has acted as a shield at the UN, particularly in the Security Council where it often vetoes ‘undesirable’ resolutions aimed at Israel. For many years that veto was all but assured, but the steady deterioration of ties between the administrations and stagnation in the peace process has led to genuine fear that this no longer the case. Compound that with the current spat regarding Iran, and it would seem obvious to even the most casual of observers that Danon would make a terrible fit for a position that requires at least a modicum of sensitivity.

Einat Wilf, a former Laborite (and later MK in Ehud Barak’s breakaway Ha’azmaut faction) who was a rumored candidate, would have been a much more natural choice, given her moderate nature, and the fact that anyone perceived as truly ‘left-wing’ would have never been considered. Instead, Bibi plans on sending Danon to the lion’s den, armed with matches and plenty of gasoline. Even those Israelis who take a dim view of all things related to the UN—which is to say, most of the population—are completely nonplussed by this appointment. Read More »

Podcast: Women Wage Peace Fast for Israel’s Future [ssba]

Podcast: Women Wage Peace Fast for Israel’s Future

wwp op prot fast

Guy Frenkel speaks to Orly Haklai and Michal Dover about Women Wage Peace’s Initiative, Operation Protective Fast. Orly and Michal are two women from a larger group that is currently fasting from early July until late August, the entire duration of last summer’s war, Protective Edge.  They hope to bring attention to the current government’s inaction, and warn that further rounds of fighting are around the corner if changes are not implemented.



Kahlon: The Left’s Secret Hope? [ssba]

Kahlon: The Left’s Secret Hope?

Israel-watchers are no longer waiting with bated breath regarding the outcome of ongoing coalition negotiations. It seems inevitable at this point that, barring any last minute snags, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will be the the one to put together a coalition–made up nearly entirely of nationalist and ultra-orthodox parties. Persistent rumors notwithstanding, it’s unlikely that Zionist Union Chair Buji Herzog will swoop in to save the day and agree, conveniently, to a National Unity government–one in which he’d have to settle for junior party status.

Left-leaning journalists and activists have already begun mourning what they believe to be the impending demise of Israeli democracy ever since the final elections results rolled in. Without a center or center-left element to temper the right-leaning inclinations (and in some cases, far-right ones), they fear this incoming government will run roughshod over minorities, the media, the Supreme Court, and any other symbol of democracy that it can get its hands on. Never mind the fact that the right has been trying and failing to do the same thing for the last six years, with lackluster results. This time will be different–because it’s always different. Read More »

Final Thoughts on the Election [ssba]

Final Thoughts on the Election

Now that the dust has settled and emotions have cooled, we’ve got a better perspective on the challenges that await us in the future. Assumptions aside, Bibi Netanyahu is not going to have an easy time putting together a government. Despite the availability of a “natural” coalition with other right-leaning parties, plenty of evidence indicates that he understands that one without a left-leaning “fig leaf” will quickly bring the world’s wrath down upon him. Consequently, it appears that he’s quietly pressuring Bujie Herzog and the Zionist Union to join up. As we wait for future developments, and as I prepare to head back to the US in a few days, I’ve come up with a number of “lessons learned” for the left that might be of service in the future: Read More »

PPI Podcast: Post-Election Analysis [ssba]

PPI Podcast: Post-Election Analysis

Guy Frenkel speaks to journalist Noga Tarnopolsky about last week’s elections: why did pollsters and the media get things so wrong? How did the right pull off a last-minute victory? And what role should the Israeli media play in the future?


Journalist Noga Tarnopolsky

The Ugly Truth: ‘I Still Prefer Bibi to Buji’ [ssba]

The Ugly Truth: ‘I Still Prefer Bibi to Buji’

My relative from the north called me last night to discuss politics, knowing that I was itching for his input about the elections. “So what did you think?” he asked me, without beating around the bush. I laid out the scene in Tel Aviv for him: a sea of depressed faces wandering the streets the day after the results were finalized. Intense anger and resentment at those who voted ‘against their own interests’ as some of the left have sneered.

I was in shock; how could we have been so wrong? How could the pollsters, the media, et al., be so off in their predictions? How could they be so smug? After listening to me complain (and after weeks of denial), he finally revealed to me who he had decided to vote for. Hint: it wasn’t Bibi, but it did unfortunately turn out to be someone on the right. I was disappointed but not surprised. A dyed-in-the-wool Likudnik doesn’t change his spots so easily.

Read More »

Post-Election Day Blues [ssba]

Post-Election Day Blues

When I went to sleep on Tuesday night, the seeming parity between Likud and the Zionist Union was aggravating, but they confirmed my initial suspicions: the likelihood of a national-unity government. Still, I wondered how it could be, that Bibi was able to bridge the gap so effectively? I hadn’t shared the initial euphoria of many in Tel Aviv that Bibi was out the door; I knew that even with a larger number of mandates, Buji Herzog would have trouble cobbling together a center-left coalition. Nevertheless, there was cause for some optimism.

When I awoke, I was greeted with the shock of a complete rout of the center-left, with the Likud taking a resounding lead of 6 mandates. The worst news of all: Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On’s decision to resign following Meretz’s showing of only 4 seats, barely squeaking by the threshold. Thankfully, this decision has been reversed, as of today, with the discovery that surplus and soldier votes earned Meretz an extra seat.

As I wrote a few days ago, Gal-On had taken on the thankless task of trying to keep at bay the party’s falling numbers, shrinking in large part due to Meretz supporters deciding to vote “strategically” for the Zionist Union. Despite her best efforts, the party suffered, although it thankfully survived the cut-off; the silver lining here is that the highly racist and fascist Yachad party failed to make it into the Knesset. Her initial decision to resign to make way for MK Tamar Zandberg (with whom I chatted for our Podcast) was bittersweet, and not completely unjustified. Tamar represents the “new generation” of the left in Israel: she is smart, articulate and achieved a great deal, even within the truncated term she was given. Even a relative of mine who is not a fan of Meretz, spoke highly of Gal-On: “She’s a very classy, honest politician. It’s rare that you would find someone in Israeli politics today who would have done such a thing”.

Read More »

PPI Podcast: Pushing for a Diplomatic Solution in the South [ssba]

PPI Podcast: Pushing for a Diplomatic Solution in the South

Guy Frenkel travels to Sderot to meet with Anat Hefetz, a co-founder of the Movement for the Future of the Western Negev, and discusses ways in which a future Israeli government can pursue a diplomatic solution to violence plaguing the area.



Anat Hefetz, Co-Founder of MFWN.


Zahava Gal-On’s Last Minute Plea to Voters [ssba]

Zahava Gal-On’s Last Minute Plea to Voters

I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed after I arrived at The Guild Bar in Tel Aviv and peered around: where were the masses of passionate Meretz voters crowding the place? It’s a few days before the end, I told myself. Everyone already knows who they’re going to vote for, so it’s redundant for them to come and hear what anyone has to say. I was, at the very least, comforted by the fact that the majority of those in attendance were young voters; I was tired of going to events for left-leaning crowds and seeing nothing but a sea of older, well-to-do, Ashkenazim.

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On arrived half an hour late, having just come from another television interview. “This is the fifth event today I’ve spoken at”, she told the crowd; she was clearly tired, her voice hoarse, but still buoyant. Gal-On, in the wake of pessimistic polls, has been working overtime, making appearance after appearance on television, at parlor meetings, and anywhere else she can reach possible Meretz voters. A few weeks ago, I reported on the party’s new campaign, which targeted voters hoping to strengthen the center-left bloc by abandoning Meretz to support the Zionist Union. That decision seemed to be prescient, as some polls now estimate the party barely scraping by the electoral threshold of 3.25%, or about 4 seats.

We’ve been here before, of course: on the eve of the 2013 election two years ago, the party had only 3 mandates, and was deeply concerned, even with a threshold of 2% of being left out of the Knesset. This was during the dark days in which the media was whipped into a frenzy of projecting the takeover of the Knesset by right-wing forces. The reality that unfolded was far more complex, of course. The right only maintained a slight majority, and Bibi’s grip on power was shaken ever-so-slightly by the unexpected rise of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Pleasantly enough, Meretz, rather than contracting, doubled its representation to 6 mandates.

This time, the atmosphere seems even more desperate: advertisements have appeared on billboards across the city, featuring a steely faced Gal-On proclaiming that “we cannot afford to lose Meretz”. Whether or not these dire warnings are justified, she clearly does not want to take any chances. Read More »

Coffee with Motti on the Eve of Elections [ssba]

Coffee with Motti on the Eve of Elections

Motti, a friend of the family, embodies some of the most stereotypical ‘Israeli’ attributes, for better or worse: He is notoriously outspoken on just about every single subject, and isn’t shy to let you know just what he thinks. He also, apparently, believes that it’s his job to dispense parental, sage-like wisdom to me about everything from my career choices (“Why are you wasting your time in international relations? Go find a stable job!”) to politics (“What the hell do you know about the situation here! You didn’t grow up in Israel”.); I was not amused.

But Motti never truly offends me; I always find what he has to say refreshing, even when I disagree with him about 80% of the time. Naturally, I was eager to hear and risk becoming temporarily infuriated by his take on the elections, over coffee and croissants at a Tel Aviv bakery.

“So who are you voting for, and why?” “Zionist Union, because they’re honest; compared to Bibi, of course, everyone’s honest”.  Read More »

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