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 more Also Bankrupt: The Israeli Political System

Obama in Israel: Political Implications

Gershom Gorenberg

Obama stopped through for two nights and a day, as if he were writing one of the New York Times travel pieces about how to spend 36 hours in some locale. At first glance, the trip was purely about photo-ops, gathering footage for later campaign ads that will air in south Florida. But there were some hints of real political content, as I explain in my new article at The American Prospect. Here’s one piece:

Hamas Walks It Back: On Wednesday morning, Israel Radio reported responses to Obama’s arrival, including this one: “A Hamas spokesman said, ‘The American senator is trying to reach the White House via Tel Aviv, at the expense of the Palestinians.'”

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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?

Updates: Pipes’ Pinocchios; Obama’s Gender; Undivided Jerusalem

Gershom Gorenberg

  • The Washington Post’s campaign factchecker awards three Pinocchios to conservative rottweiler Floyd Brown – and to his pseudo-academic alter ego, Daniel Pipes – for promoting the canard was a Muslim as a child and is hiding the fact: “Both Brown and Pipes base their arguments and conclusions on factoids that have appeared in the mainstream media. But they make no attempt to weigh the evidence fairly,” the Post said. In other words, they’re misusing some details to make up stories, as conspiracy theorists will. Pipes, we can be sure, will not be dissuaded from finding invidious Islamic plots everywhere.
  • Will Obama be the first woman president?

    Read moreUpdates: Pipes’ Pinocchios; Obama’s Gender; Undivided Jerusalem

Tzipi Gets A Gun

Gershom Gorenberg

In America, they have an election for national leader every four years. Then they’re stuck with whatever they bought, whether it works or not. Here we have an election whenever the humidity, the soccer results, the stock market and the mood in the State Prosecutor’s Office line up in a formula known only to several deceased alchemists. But the rumors are that we’ll have one this year. That explains why a leak just appeared in a British paper on Tzipi Livni’s previous life as a spook, as I explain in my new column at The American Prospect :

One line of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s resume has always been an enigma. From 1980 to 1984, it says, Livni served in the Mossad. This week, some details of her work in the ultra-secretive espionage agency emerged in the Sunday Times of London . While based in Paris, an acquaintance told the paper, “Tzipi was not an office girl. … She blended in well in European capitals, working with male agents, most of them ex-commandos, taking out Arab terrorists.”

Read moreTzipi Gets A Gun