Political update Monday 22 December

Will they or won’t they? Well, they didn’t. After weeks of speculation, vacillation and hesitation, Tekuma decided to remain a part of the Bayit Yehudi faction instead of breaking away to join Eli Yishai. Inside Bayit Yehudi they’re likely to win several seats in the next election. As part of Yishai’s new party they risked winning fewer or even none. One Israeli commentator described the decision as ” a choice between winning the lottery or jumping off a roof”. Nevertheless, Tekuma nearly chose the roof, with party leader Uri Ariel speaking in favour of the split. Reportedly, one reason that the Tekuma central committee decided to stay in Bayit Yehudi was that joining Yishai would have banned women from running for the party. One of Tekuma’s current MKs, Orit Struck, would have found herself barred from their list. Anyway, after all that fuss nothing much has changed except that Tekuma managed to get a better seats deal out of Naftali Bennett and the relationship between Bennett and Ariel must be pretty awful.

Of course, it’s also bad news for Eli Yishai, whose new party without Tekuma looks a lot like it might fail to get any seats at all. That could change if he announces some popular list members or wins the backing of enough Shas-supporting Rabbis.

In Likud, Moshe Feiglin dropped out of the race for the Likud leadership after the party decided to hold the leadership and primary elections on the same day.  Other Likud members are still trying to get the two elections to be run separately by taking the issue to court. Benjamin Netanyahu got into trouble for allegedly using Likud party resources to help his leadership campaign, forcing him to write a letter of apology to the party.

Tzipi Livni’s HaTnua party doesn’t really exist anymore, but it still managed to have its own internal argument. Elazar Stern, a current MK for HaTnua, hit out at Ms Livni for merging with Labour and leaving him without a party or a seat. There are rumour he might join Yisrael Beiteinu.

Tzipi Livni was also attacked by Likud after John Kerry went around telling people she’d convinced him to block the Palestinian UN plan because it would strengthen the Israeli right. Likud said that this proved that Livni was in cahoots with the USA to oust Netanyahu, while Livni said it proved that she has real international influence.

Meanwhile, the two big parties are both tacking centrewards. Mr Netanyahu agreed to raise the minimum wage for public sector workers, a key demand of the Left, and Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni spoke about the importance of maintaining Israeli control over Jerusalem, especially the Western Wall.

Labour has also asked that we please call Isaac Herzog ‘Isaac Herzog’ and not by his nickname ‘Bouji’. Lots of Israeli politicians have nicknames that they often picked up in the army – Bibi Netanyahu, Boogie Yaalon – but apparently ‘Bouji’ doesn’t sound Prime-Ministerial.

And finally Channel 2 has set up a Whatsapp group for Knesset members which apparently now has a quarter of all current MKs and a few candidates. It seems to be the place to be, full of arguments, self-promotion and sarcastic comments. I’m trying to work out how to get invited myself.

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Election roundup Wednesday 17 December

After a few days of party splits, the last 48 hours have been all talk about party mergers.

Rumours about a merger on the ‘centre’ continue. A new poll showed a theoretical merged party of Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid getting 24 seats, though that same poll had higher vote-shares (12 for Kulanu, 11 for Lapid) than other recent polls anyway. I wonder if the poll asked about the merged party first, which would artificially boost the two parties in the seperate question? Either way, despite meetings between Lapid and Kahlon, a merger is still being strongly denied.

An alternative merger being discussed is between Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Liberman has been trying to rebrand his party as pragmatic and centrist. Again, no deal has been reached but there are rumours that Liberman and Lapid discussed it.

Staying on mergers, the merger between Eli Yishai’s new party, now called “Ha’Am Itanu” (the nation is with us) and the Tekuma faction hasn’t happened yet. Tekuma leader Uri Ariel has reportedly been made a counter-offer by Naftali Bennett to stay in Bayit Yehudi in return for higher-placed candidates on the joint list. Yishai and Ariel reportedly met on Tuesday, but no deal is done.

Yishai might be worrying, as the latest polls show his new party on only four seats and very close to not making the election threshold at all. Deri’s Shas is similarly suffering, with both parties at real risk of not making it into the next Knesset.

Naftali Bennett also made a video disguised as a bearded Tel Aviv hipster apologising to people. It’s quite funny and well-done and gets its political point across.

Professor Manuel Trajtenberg is most famous for writing the Trajtenberg report, the response and plan for responding to the demands of the summer 2011 cost-of-living protesters. Yesterday (Wednesday) he resigned from his Government job to enter politics. The talk is that he’ll join the Labour party. This is something of a blow to Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party, as many people expected Trajtenberg to run with Kahlon. Kulanu has still not announced any major names as joining its list.

The Likud primary dates saga continues. First, Banjamin Netanyahu tried to move the general primary earlier, to make it the same day as their leadership primary. This suits him as it makes it harder for his challengers, Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin, and it’s also a lot cheaper for the party. There was an internal vote and Netanyahu won. Then Danon and Feiglin appealed to a Likud internal court, which ruled that the vote was no good and so the old dates would stand. Now Netanyahu has appealed again and won again. But it’s not over, with Fieglin and Danon considering going to a ‘real’ court to try to argue their case.

And in perhaps the oddest news of the day, Shmuel Flatto-Sharon announced that he would run in the Likud primaries to seek a seat in Knesset. Flatto-Sharon was a French Jew who fled to Israel in the 1970s after embezzling $60 million. He was going to be extradited back to France until he realised that Knesset members all get immunity from extradition, so he formed the Flatto-Sharon Party in 1977. Via a combination of clever campaigning and outright bribery, Flatto-Sharon managed to win TWO seats in the Knesset. He wasn’t re-elected and became a talkshow host and media figure. I doubt he’ll get a good place on the Likud list but you never know.

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Election roundup Monday 15 December

Today’s election update:

After last night’s press conference at which Shas leader Arye Deri was supported by founder R. Ovadia’s daughter, Adina bar-Shalom, today several recordings surfaced of Mrs bar-Shalom criticising Deri’s leadership of Shas.

Eli Yishai, the former Shas leader who left the party yesterday, held a press conference tonight to discuss his own new party. Well, he tried to – but it was disrupted by Shas people calling him a traitor, grabbing the picture of R Ovadia and forcing Yishai to flee into a side-room, protected by hotel security, for his own safety. So that went well. Meanwhile, everyone is waiting to see if Uri Ariel will join Yishai to form a new party or will stick with Jewish Home.

More trouble for Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Likud ‘court’ ruled that he’d actually lose last week’s vote on whether to make the party Primary earlier. He’s said he will appeal this ruling tomorrow, and it might end up at the Supreme Court. All this while he spent all day in Rome meeting John Kerry.

The far-right is planning another comeback, with Michael Ben-Ari and Baruch Marzel resurrecting the Otzma L’Yisrael faction. It will probably struggle to make the new 4% election threshold, though.

Moshe Kahlon and Yair Lapid met today in a supposed-to-be-secret meeting. Rumours say it was discussing ‘uniting the centre’, though this is not thought to be a full merged list and more of a cooperation agreement.

Labour MK Avishai Braverman announced that he wasn’t planning to stand for the next Knesset.

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Election roundup Sunday 14 December

Political catch-up after a busy day (long post but short paragraphs):

  1. Eli Yishai has left Shas to form a new political party, provisionally called “Maran” (offensive much?). He might be joined by Uri Ariel of Tekuma, leaving the Bayit Yehudi. If they join up, the new CharDal (charedi-nationalist) party, probably Israel’s most right-wing party, will be called Yachad.
  2. Staying on Shas. There were rumours of big news from Shas, which initially seemed confirmed when Arye Deri annouced he’d hold a joint press conference with Adina bar-Shalom, R Ovadia’s daughter and a champion for Haredi women’s education. Rumours were that she would be on the Shas list to be an MK. The actual announcement – that she’d chair a new Women’s Committee for Shas – was a let-down. The other Shas news of the day was that Shas MKs met in secret and decided not to leave the party with Yishai.
  3. Every male Ashkenazi over the age of 35 seems to be running in th Bayit Yehudi primary. Today, Danny Dayan, the former head of the Yesha Council and a Likud stalwart, joined the party. Several other people have announced they’re standing in the primaries, including reality TV stars and political commentators
  4. Meanwhile, Yoni Chetbourn, a Bayit Yehudi MK, has quit the party tonight. Rumours he’s joining Yishai’s thing.
  5. Despite repeated rumours about people joining Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party, almost nobody is confirmed. In fact, as soon as a name is mooted someone comes out to deny they’re interested – Rami Levy, Michael Oren and Avi Katz of Cofix have all denied that they’re on the Kulanu list, though some are reportedly considering it.
  6. Last night Tzipi Livni was on the satirical news show Matzav HaUma and said some rude things about the Prime Minister, resulting in some very upset people saying rude things about her. I saw the show and actually thought she was pretty funny.

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Sending Footnotes

Human interaction is constructed around texts.

Sometimes these are central universally-accepted texts. In Ancient Greece the texts were the works of Homer. In Rome, they were Homer and Virgil. For much of the last two millennia, Europe and America’s text was the Bible. In Jewish communities, it was the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and the Talmud.

Texts serve as short-cuts. They provide us with ready-made phrases, metaphors and parables which are both accessible and instantly understood by the people we’re talking to. They give us a sense of shared consciousness.

In the 20th Century, our shared texts in English were Shakespeare and Dickens, and then the new media of cinema and television gave us new texts; the latest soap opera, drama or sitcom gave us our stock phrases and handy references – “it’s like that time on…”. You could watch the latest film or TV episode and talk about it the next day with your friends at work or school.

The Internet has changed some of that. There is too much text: too many videos, too many jokes and articles and comment threads; too many TV programmes to watch and books to download. Of course, the Internet has also spawned its own responses – memes and injokes that constitute their own sort of shared text – but these are all about form rather than content.

All of this is really cool, because instead of talking about things we all already know, we can share the new exciting stuff we read or saw or heard today. That’s great. But because it robs us of a shared text, it means we’re frequently making references that the other people in our conversation don’t understand.

Of course, this has always happened in some circles. People of different ages have different shared childhood and adolescent experiences, for example. An even more striking case is with people from different countries. I’ve spent enough time around Americans by now to get some of the references to Schoolhouse Rock and Twinkies, and here in Israel I am slowly picking up the society’s texts.

Frequently, then, I talk to friends and find myself referencing something that they don’t know about, whether it’s because they aren’t British or are a little older or younger than I or whether it’s just a video I saw that they didn’t or an article I was sent that they weren’t.

So I’ve started to keep a mental list during a conversation of all the things I’ve mentioned, suggested or referenced. Then, when I get home, I send footnotes – links, references, a little commentary. It’s becoming a habit and one that I quite enjoy, even if it does take a little time to curate the links.

Of course, I’ve no real idea if anyone actually follows all the material that I send them. I doubt it, because it can be a lot, with references to hundred-hour TV shows and weighty series of books – and who has that kind of time when all they wanted was to have a cup of coffee or go to a party – but I like the idea anyway, and it forces me to revisit the things I think I remember or know about, and sometimes reinterpret them altogether.

XKCD Citation needed

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