Cold Feet–Why Israeli Voters Shouldn’t Get Their Fantasy Government

Haim Watzman The talk in the locker room at the Jerusalem Pool has been surprisingly conciliatory since the election last week. Dani, who voted Meretz (after seriously considering Hadash) and Siman, who voted Likud, agree that the next coalition should consist of the Likud, Kadima, and Labor, under Bibi Netanyahu’s leadership. When I pointed out … Read moreCold Feet–Why Israeli Voters Shouldn’t Get Their Fantasy Government

Olmert Promised a Pullout, and Built Settlements

Gershom Gorenberg I have a new article up at the LA Times explaining Olmert’s legacy: broken promises, more settlements.: …At last Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Olmert chose to end his term with the same message with which he began it two years ago. “The Whole Land of Israel is done with,” he said, referring to the … Read moreOlmert Promised a Pullout, and Built Settlements

Pollsters, Conservatives Flunk Math

Gershom Gorenberg

This post is really about Jews and Obama. Patience.

A Ha’aretz-Channel 10 poll a couple of days before the Kadima primary said that Tzipi Livni was ahead among the party’s voters, 47-28 percent. Exit polls last night showed Livni with about that share of the vote, with Mofaz doing better, but not better enough: 37 percent.

Earlier, Mofaz himself predicted that he’d win with precisely 43.7 percent, a number he got from his imported Republican mad dog, I mean campaign expert, Arthur Finkelstein.

Funny enough, Finkelstein’s number was pretty close to the 42 percent Mofaz actually got when the hand count of ballots was finished this morning. Only problem is that it was even closer to the 43.1 percent that Livni got to win the election. Maybe importing American experts on negative campaigning isn’t such a good idea.

Tangent: Neri Livneh at Ha’aretz points out that if Livni succeeds in forming a coalition and becoming prime minister, all three branches of Israeli government will be headed by women: Livni in the executive, Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch in the judiciary, and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik in the legislature.

Read morePollsters, Conservatives Flunk Math

Primary Scream, or Unrepresentative Democracy

Gershom Gorenberg

Tomorrow Kadima will pick someone to replace Ehud Olmert as party leader. Olmert will then quit, to the sound of 7 million people sighing in relief, and his replacement will get the chance to form a new government and become Israel’s prime minister. The method that Kadima will use to make this momentous decision is quaintly called a “primary” in our parts, and purports to be an election. If you believe that, we have a bridge to sell you in Alaska.

A total of 73,000 people are eligible to vote. That’s 2.3 of the total turnout in the 2006 national election, and about 10 percent of the number of people who voted for Kadima. But there’s no reason to think that people voting in the primary voted for Kadima in ’06, or have any thought of voting for the party in the next national election. A few might, who knows. If so, it’s by accident.

Read morePrimary Scream, or Unrepresentative Democracy

Also Bankrupt: The Israeli Political System

OK, Lehman Bros went belly up. Far as I am from wealth, I still find this upsetting. I find it even more upsetting that the Israeli political system currently has about as much credibility with the public as Lehman’s assets had with its creditors. The ruling party’s vote tomorrow for a new leader comes down … Read moreAlso Bankrupt: The Israeli Political System

More on Mofaz’s mediocrity

Gershom Gorenberg

Buried in a Ha’aretz story on training exercises aimed at rebuilding the Israeli army’s ability to fight a war is the mention of the newspaper’s own report [emphasis added]

from October 2002 about the expected reduction in training exercises by the regular units for 2003, stating: “The burden of the territories displaces training; only two weeks per year.” This was the plan, but in reality, the troops sometimes trained even less than that. The article also reported that the army was compelled to divert all of its resources to combating Palestinian terror, and it quotes brigade and battalion commanders who admit that, two years into the intifada, their charges have no notion of regular training and exercise.

That article was based in part on a conversation with the head of the IDF’s training department at the time, Colonel Moti Kidor. Kidor told about how, when he tried to warn then chief of staff Shaul Mofaz about the decline in the regular units’ battle fitness, Mofaz nearly threw him out of his office.

Read moreMore on Mofaz’s mediocrity

Tzipi and the General: Who’s Experienced?

Gershom Gorenberg

Tzipi Livni is running against the embodiment of dumb military macho, and she’s responding wrong.

In a Ha’aretz piece this morning (in Hebrew), political reporter Mazal Mualam tells us that Livni’s main competition in Kadima, Shaul Mofaz is conducting “a negative campaign against Livni, focused on her lack of military experience” while Livni “is refraining from personal attacks.” Instead, she’s trying to set her own defense agenda, most recently by touring the northern border with the Italian foreign minister. It’s a quieter version of an ad about phone calls at 3 a.m. to the commander-in-chief.

Livni, let me stress, is far too hawkish for my tastes. A colleague who covers diplomacy describes her as a person who lacks empathy, a quality needed for good negotiation: You don’t have to agree with the person across the table, but it’s valuable to understand how he or she thinks. That said, she’s more of a diplomat than her rivals within Kadima, or outside of it. Labor’s Ehud Barak not only flubbed his chance, he has rationalized his failure by dismissing the very possibility of peace, reinforcing the right’s politics of despair. His line is, “If I couldn’t do it, it can’t be done.” Fortunately, in a multiparty system, I’m not constrained to vote for Barak, Bibi Netanyahu, or whoever Kadima picks. But how Kadima goes about making the choice still matters.

Mofaz is an ex-chief of staff who exemplifies how mediocre the officer class has become.

Read moreTzipi and the General: Who’s Experienced?