Wednesday, March 18, 2015

OK, Last Election Post -- Fascinating Overnight Turn-about by Rabbi Dov Fischer


With 99% of the votes now counted, the polls and earlier reports have been up-ended somewhat, as Likud has burst into a significant lead over Labor.

If you read my prior two posts (from last night and this evening), you will be better able to understand what apparently happened:

It seems to me that, at the last minutes, some voters from each of the two politically nationalist Orthodox parties — Bayit Yehudi (Bennett) and Yachad (Rabbi Yishai) — got scared that, although their parties ultimately would join in a nationalist coalition with Likud anyway, nevertheless they apparently feared that the Likud Party’s own vote tally would be less than that of Labor (“Zionist Union”).  And they seemingly further feared, therefore, that President Rivlin would designate Herzog, if Labor got more seats than Likud, to form the government.  Indeed, over the last 48 hours before the election, Netanyahu and his main Likud campaigners started to spread that message: “You don’t want us to get fewer seats than Herzog, or Rivlin will designate Herzog to form the government.”  That appeal seems to have worked, at least just enough.  Therefore, it seems that some Yachad and Bayit Yehudi voters switched over to Likud on the last day, causing Bayit Yehudi to get only 8 seats instead of 11, and causing Yachad to get only 3% of the vote instead of the 4% of the vote that they were looking at getting.  As a result, instead of Yachad coming in with 4-5 seats, all their votes get flushed down the toilet, and the combined coalition of the right lost, probably, two seats (as I explained in my prior note).

There is another point.  Many of us know that, despite their talk of free speech and opposition to McCarthyism and censorship, certain circles punish people who do not toe their political line.  We see this in Hollywood and entertainment, in journalism, and in academia.  If you are thought to toe the wrong political line, you cannot get work in certain fields unless you are a superstar . . . or self-employed.  Throughout Israel’s first thirty years, from 1948-1977, the country was ruled by the Labor/Socialist (Ma’arakh) coalition in combination with the Mapam (Socialists/Marxists).  During those three decades, it was personal economic suicide to tell anyone that you supported Menachem Begin, who led the opposition and ran unsuccessfully every election for thirty years.  (Like Harold Stassen on steroids.)  Thus, you were forced to join a union, and you were forced to vote Labor — or at least to say so — or you would be outright fired without cause.  I personally know several families in Israel who have told me their accounts of how their parents or grandparents were ruined back in the 1950s and 1960s when Labor found out that someone voted for Begin.  As a result, during those years, it became common in Israel for people to tell pollsters that they were voting for Labor, even when they were voting for Likud — because they were scared for their jobs.  It became common for Israeli election polls to be wrong because the vote for Begin would always be much more than the pollsters had been told.  I believe that fear now is gone among the new generation of Israelis, who have grown up post-1977 in a world where Likud has legitimate status, but I also believe that Israelis over 55 and 60 include many Likud voters who remain scared to divulge their true party preferences (much as many Iranian Jews in America will refuse to sign a petition for anything, because — well — they just won’t sign things).  (There is no personal risk in saying that you are voting for Labor, just as there is no personal professional risk in Hollywood or academia if you declare yourself a Democrat.)  This may also account for a few extra votes that came in for Likud, as the polls may have been skewed just enough to tilt two seats to the Left and away from Likud. 

It now appears that the seat apportionment will be something like this:

Likud                                     30  (Wow!)
Bayit Yehudi (Bennett) (Modern orthodox, Nationalist)  8  (disappointment for Bennett, who once hoped for 15 and was thought in double digits)
Shas                                       7  (Sephardic “Black Hat”)
UTJ/Agudath Israel         6  (Ashkenazic “Black Hat”)
Liberman/                            6  (Russian anti-Leftists)
Yachad/Rabbi Yishai         0  (The minimum needed to avoid cut-off was 3.25% of the vote, and they got 3.00% of the vote, so all lost and wasted)

That increases the nationalist-religious bloc to ~ 57.  I had predicted 55.  My over-all prediction was on-point, but the internal shuffling of votes from Bayit Yehudi and Yachad gave Netanyahu/Likud a few more seats at their expense.

Despite the efforts of the Obama-Kerry State Department with their  funding of “One Voice/ V-15,” this final result actually creates a much more right-wing/religious coalition than existed before because Netanyahu now is on the cusp of a 61-seat majority, and he did it while managing to remove Yesh Atid/Lapid from his government.  Until now, Lapid was a thorn in his side.

Labor (“Zionist Union”) came out with ~ 24.
The Arab Parties with 14 — not too shabby.  Looks like those “One Voice/ V-15” buses that shuttled voters in Arab neighborhoods to the polls all day helped them get an extra seat.
Yesh Atid/Lapid  —  11
Meretz (the outright leftists, endorsed by Sarah Silverman of the Comedy Channel) — 4  (probably lost their fifth seat to the Arab Parties)

Kulanu (Kahlon) — the king-maker, as I explained last night — gets 10 seats.  If they join the Likud coalition, that gives the Likud coalition 67 seats.

It will now be impossible for President Rivlin to refrain from inviting Netanyahu to cobble together the next coalition.

My prediction is that Moshe Kahlon holds out for the best deal he can get, and he joins the Likud coalition.  For years he was a Likud member.  His party includes some people from the left and many from the center, and they can live in a Likud coalition if Netanyahu gives them what they want: (i) Kahlon as Finance Minister; (ii) a commitment to lower prices for food and housing, and a greater focus and commitment to making life affordable for both the middle class and the lower economic strata.  Netanyahu has too much else at stake (facing Iran, resisting Obama and Kerry, and just-plain looking at the media and at the White House and showing that he survived their unprecedented effort to interfere with another country’s elections), so he will give in.  And really Kahlon and Kulanu wants mostly legitimate stuff, based on “Fischer’s Law of Economics” (named for me).  Fischer’s Law of Economics teaches as follows:

When, as Prime Minister of a country — any country — you find that your countrymen are bordered on the south by Hamas murderers shooting rockets at them, and on the northwest by Hezbollah murderers shooting rockets at them, and on the northeast by Syria where Assad and Al Qaeda and ISIS and Iran all are vying for the chance to shoot rockets at them, and while Iran is building a nuclear bomb to destroy them, and yet hundreds of thousands of those countrymen all are focused on one thing — the sky-high, exorbitant price of cottage cheese — it then is time for you to ask your Defense Minister to worry about Lebanon and Gaza and Syria for the next 48 hours, to ask your Foreign Minister to worry about Obama and Kerry and Europe for those same next 48 hours, and it is time for you to devote the next 48 hours to figure out why cottage cheese costs so much and to do something about it.

I believe that Kahlon will make the deal with Likud.  First, the Left came out really bad, and Kahlon has no reason, upon his party’s first-ever election, to want to be associated with that mess, sitting in the opposition.  Second, his Kulanu is very-much kind-of-like Lapid’s Yesh Atid, only with Kahlon instead of Lapid.  But they both are kind-of centrist, with similar economic-focused agendas.  Therefore, if Kahlon were to sit with Labor, then he would have to distinguish himself every day in the opposition from Lapid.  By contrast, if he joins with Likud, he becomes Finance Minister, a huge winner.  And — you are reading this here first — there is something more:

Many Israelis, even on the right, are a bit tired of Netanyahu.  Sick and tired of him.  They just want a change.  Just because people get tired of the same guy all the time.  Jeb Bush has this problem now in America:  “What — more Bush?”  Hillary also has it: “Oh no, not this again!”  In a world that flies with tweets and texts, people like new – new – new.  If five years is enough for “Mad Men,” for “Downtown Abbey,” and for “Breaking Bad,” then four terms is enough Netanyahu, just because. The thing is, there is no one else within Likud of his stature.  It is a bit like Hillary and the Democrats: presently, there is no one else. As long as Likud has no one else of Netanyahu’s stature, the Likud needs to keep presenting Bibi as their candidate for Prime Minister.  That is beginning to cost them some votes, but they have no choice because no one else stands equal to him in the party.  I have a hunch that Kahlon will bring his Kulanu into the coalition, and then — in a year or two or three — will himself re-join the Likud party, perhaps causing his Kulanu party to split.  Those in Kulanu who lean towards Likud will follow him back into Likud, and the others will join Yesh Atid or Labor.  (This happens all the time in Israel.  In fact, it never does not happen.)  IF — a big “IF” — Kahlon proves to be a successful Finance Minister, getting prices down and making life more fair for the middle class and those lower on the totem pole, where everyone can eat cottage cheese with joy, then he will emerge within Likud as the next #1 in the party, beating Netanyahu in an internal primary in three or so years.  And then he gets to go for Prime Minister.  That is where I think this is going, why I think Kahlon surely will align with the Likud coalition now, and why I think Netanyahu will be Prime Minister for at least the rest of Obama’s and Kerry’s remaining 22 months or so.  Magi’a.

Chasal Sidur Pesach.