“You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.” – Gabby Giffords on gun violence.

Update: Chicago high school student Hadiya Pendleton, a 15 year old who performed at last week’s inauguration events and was planning to go to Paris, was fatally shot in the back on Tuesday, Jan 29 , while hanging out with friends in a park. Please call Congress.

*****

The Senate Judiciary Hearing on gun control was held this morning on January 30; Gabby Giffords opened the hearing, saying:

Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.

The video is below, and it’s incredibly moving – when Gabby Giffords tells you that you have to be courageous, it carries quite a punch.

Here’s what we can do, now, today, to help protect boys and girls, men and women in all of our communities: We can call our elected representatives and tell them that we support the President and Vice President in their efforts.

In a democracy, that’s our job, our sacred duty. And if Gabby Giffords can go to the Senate, we can damn sure call Congress.

Sample script:

Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that President Obama/Senator XXXXX/Representative XXXXX knows that I support the White House gun control initiative.I think that things like background checks, limits on magazine capacity, and a ban on assault weapons are common sense tools to help us protect each other, and I hope that efforts will also be made to work with inner city communities to address their particular needs — I know that less than 1% of urban populations are responsible for about 70% of all shootings in cities, and it’s tragic that so many people are held hostage to that violence.

Phone numbers:

  • The Senate: 202-224-3121
  • The House of Representatives: 202-224-3121
  • The White House: 202-456-1111

Find your Senators and Representatives:

Many people don’t know or can’t remember the names of their elected officials – no shame! If you’re not sure who yours are, go to these directories:

And if you’ve called them all already – call them again, or send an email. Ask your friends and family to do the same. If you have some money to spare, you can give some to The Brady Campaign – there are floods of money behind the gun lobby, and that’s why it’s so powerful. We have to counter with everything we have.

And the first thing we have is our voice.

“Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important…. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.”

I really love this new version of MMMBop.

…and you can’t make me not.

(Also, is it just me, or does the oldest Hanson brother look more than a little like a Baldwin?)

An open letter to John Kerry.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Kerry_promotional_photograph_columns.jpgDear Senator Kerry,

In discussing Israel’s election results during your confirmation hearings, you told the Senate:

I pray that maybe this will be a moment that will allow us to renew the effort to bring [Israelis and Palestinians] to the negotiating table and go down a different path than the one they were on in the last few years. I would like to try and do that.

Prayers are a good thing. I have nothing against prayers. But—and I say this with deep respect for and real gratitude to you for your service to this country—praying is my job.

I’m a typer of words and woman of faith—you, on the other hand, are about to become the world’s most powerful diplomat. The part of your statement that matters is that last sentence: “I would like to try and do that.”

I’m already on record as believing that, under the current circumstances, the next Israeli government will be no more inclined toward peace than the current one—but that doesn’t mean that you and the White House can’t change the circumstances.

You’re hearing that Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid is a centrist, and J.J. Goldberg has made an excellent case against pessimism like mine regarding Yesh Atid’s potential—but whatever Lapid may say about insisting on a return to the negotiating table, he’s made very clear that he doesn’t personally understand what he’s up against.

Lapid’s insistence that Israel need only stand firm and the Palestinian people will give up on East Jerusalem is deeply troubling. As you and President Obama (and Prime Minister Netanyahu) know, there are simply no Palestinians, anywhere, who will ever agree to ceding all of Jerusalem to Israel. With that as his starting point, Netanyahu would be more than happy to agree to Lapid’s “negotiations.”

His approach to the settlements is of at least equal concern: While it’s clear that there would be land-swaps in any two-state agreement, most settlers would have to leave the West Bank—but Lapid insists that building won’t stop in major settlement blocs. Yet again, as both you and President Obama know, any construction serves to humiliate and tie the hands of Palestinian negotiators (in addition to being in direct contradiction to the Road Map for Peace that Israel signed with the U.S. in 2003). Moreover, the limitation of “major settlement blocs” is squishy at best. Even Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement “freeze” was more chimera than concession, in that construction never actually stopped, and was redoubled the instant the putative freeze ended.

Simply put: Every single home and road added to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land is another nail in the coffin of a two-state peace. Whatever and whoever Yair Lapid might be, Benjamin Netanyahu is almost certainly going to be the next Prime Minister, and moreover, Yesh Atid is not the only party with which he’s discussing a coalition. Netanyahu has made it very clear that he wants to transform the so-called E-1 section of the West Bank into a major settlement bloc (again: in direct contradiction to promises made to successive American governments), and if the E-1 plan moves forward, it will in fact cut the West Bank in two. There’s no way to both establish a Palestinian state, and continue to coddle Israel’s settlers and their government backers.

I don’t think I’m telling you anything new. Not only do you know what a two-state peace requires, unlike most of Congress, you’ve actually been to Gaza. You’ve seen what the lives of Palestinians look like up close.

And I suspect that you also know that if you and President Obama can’t facilitate some kind of serious return to the negotiating table, the dream of a two-state peace will die on your watch.

I may have little faith in Yair Lapid and none in Benjamin Netanyahu as peacemakers—but I have enormous faith in the ability of the United States to lead, to change the international atmosphere in which Israel’s politicians function, and to encourage boldness.

Once in your new office, you can clarify to the next Israeli government that the U.S. will be standing by its own policies more firmly in the future. American vetoes at the U.N. need not be a foregone conclusion, the tax-exempt status of settlement-supportive American charities might be examined, and as Lara Friedman wrote in these pages, a simple change in official tone would go a long way. On the other hand, in exchange for concrete Israeli steps (rather than the winks and nudges of the past), the U.S. might offer the kind of financial support that would help relieve many of the social worries facing the vast majority of Israelis who live legally within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.

It might not work, and not least because you’ll still have Hamas to deal with. No risky undertaking is ever guaranteed. But as an Israeli, as an American, and as a pro-Palestinian activist, I think it’s immeasurably important that the United States make the effort.

The continuing failure to achieve a durable peace not only provides extremists with anti-American recruiting tools, it serves to grind down the courage of Israelis and Palestinians—and they will need courage to leave the conflict behind.

So please, Senator. I’m grateful for your prayers, but I would be much more grateful for action. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us in Selma: Sometimes we have to pray with our feet.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Ethiopian immigrants in Israel.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kessim_praying.jpg

Kessim (Ethiopian Jewish clergy) saying a prayer for Jews from Ethiopia who perished in Sudan on their way to Israel.

There’s a lot of ugly and unfortunate news coming out of Israel regarding the country’s treatment of the Ethiopian immigrant community, and on Twitter just now, I provided some context. I’ve decided to sum that up here as well, for those who might not want to read backward, in 140-character chunks.

First, links to the news + some related stories:

  1. Birthrates among the Ethiopian-Israeli community drop precipitously; Ethiopian immigrant women say they were “coaxed and threatened into agreeing to receive the injectable [long-acting] birth control drug [Depo Provera].”
  2. Israel admits that Ethiopian immigrants were administered Depo Provera without their informed consent. “Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu has instructed the four health maintenance organizations to stop the practice as a matter of course. The ministry and other state agencies had previously denied knowledge or responsibility for the practice, which was first reported five years ago.”
  3. Israel putting end to millenia-old tradition of Ethiopian Jewish priests: “Nearly three decades after Israel began airlifting Ethiopia’s ancient Jewish community out of the Horn of Africa, Israel’s rabbis are now working to phase out the community’s white-turbaned clergy, the kessoch, whose unusual religious practices are at odds with the rabbinate’s Orthodox Judaism.”
  4. related: Many Ethiopian Jews were forced to undergo “conversion” after their arrival in Israel.
  5. related: Many Ethiopians were tested for HIV as they immigrated to Israel; roughly 2-3% were found to carry the virus, but this information tells us nothing about relative infection rates, as no similar program was carried out among any other Israeli community at the time.
  6. related: Because of the HIV test findings, blood donations made by Ethiopian-Israelis were routinely discarded from 1984 to 1996.

There are a variety of things going on here, one of which is most certainly racism, but of a kind similar to that experienced by Israel’s Sephardi (Middle Eastern Jewish) community when they arrived, as well. Jewish communities that do not reflect the traditions and history of the dominant Ashkenazi (European, and more broadly, Western) culture have long been treated as (and often literally called) primitive, insufficiently Jewish and/or educated, and in need of sweeping correction. This played a big role in both the HIV testing and discarding of Ethiopian blood, as well as in the placement in religious boarding schools of many young Ethiopians upon their arrival, and I suspect it played a big role in the decision to control women’s fertility without their informed consent.

As regards the conversions and the phasing out of the Ethiopian priesthood, there’s an additional factor at play: Judaism as a religion is much more defined by community than some other faith systems — there are many prayers and rituals that we simply may not perform, for instance, unless we have a group of at least 10 to perform them. Thus, rules that determine who’s in and who’s out have been important. This is in particular the mark of a minority faith, where maintaining the integrity of the community as against the huge and powerful outside world – much of which has been violently hostile toward the community throughout its history, slaughtering our members in the scores and millions — is a very important safeguard.

The flip side is that we then start turning against each other for not being “enough” of one thing or another. The question of “who gets to decide?” is a very big one, but when it’s raised within discrete communities within Judaism, “who gets to decide” is one thing; when it’s a question of national policy in a modern nation state, it’s another thing entirely.

For reasons that can largely be chalked up to hubris (the country’s secular founders thought religion was going to die out), Israel has allowed Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodoxy to become the default “Judaism” of the state, and anything that doesn’t align with that standard is deemed insufficient.

This is why so many Russian Jews, who couldn’t prove their Judaism because Soviet authorities had worked very, very hard to destroy it, had to “convert” when they came to Israel; this is why Americans who grow up anything other than Orthodox must prove their Judaism over and over if they want to marry in Israel; this is why there was and remains so much anti-Sephardic discrimination in Israel’s religious hierarchy (and is a large part of why the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shas party was formed); and this is why the Ethiopian community has so often been greeted with such misunderstanding and disrespect.

The early Jewish nationalists wanted the Jewish people to be as normal as any other; Ben Gurion talked about Israel needing prostitutes and thieves for that great day to arrive — and lo: Jews, in and out of Israel, are as normal and as human and as potentially terrible as any other group on earth.

Tales of an 11 year old papergirl.

(I was, of course, a girl. And on a bike. But just try to find that statue).

(I was, of course, a girl. And on a bike. But just try to find that statue).

Chicago got its first real snow of the season this morning, so I think it’s just the right day for this…. An ode to print media, young girls, and small towns.

*****

I used to deliver newspapers.

First it was the Chicago Daily News, then, when that venerable afternoon institution folded, the Chicago Tribune. I was about 11, 12-ish (the age my boy is now, and I occasionally ask him why he hasn’t yet found gainful employ), though I’m not sure of the exact stop and start dates.

I had a paper-girl’s bike with a huge metal basket in front and metal panniers on the sides; if I didn’t remove the papers evenly as I went along, the bike would topple over, newspaper sections slithering out and sliding across lawns. Sometimes it would topple over anyway.

I always placed each individual paper carefully between the storm and front doors; if a person’s storm was locked, I would find some other safe place to tuck it. By the end of my route, my hands would be blackened by the newsprint, a particular kind of smeary black that dries the skin and transfers itself onto everything you might subsequently touch.

I hated it.

Not just the filthy hands, but the whole experience — oh my God, I hated delivering newspapers.

I remember promising myself that I would never allow my own children to do it, because if they did, I would occasionally get saddled with the task, and I was not going to ever deliver papers again — and this from a girl growing up in a house where the mom only ever took over your job if you were literally unable to do it. It was, after all, my job — unlike some newspaper pansies, my mom didn’t throw me in the station wagon to get it done of a morning.

That was the worst of it, really. The mornings.

I didn’t like the afternoon Daily News route — it was lonely and boring, and kind of embarrassing, if you ran across someone from school, or some damn friendly adult that you knew. I would talk to myself, make up stories, essentially play make-believe at an age when I think most kids weren’t doing that anymore. It was on my paper route that I was Magna Woman, a superhero whose power came from a mysteriously exotic (if cheap) ring that I had purchased at the Field Museum on a field trip.

But the morning route — oh good God, that was just a whole other level of misery. For a child in the Midwest, it not only meant god-awful alarm-clock setting, it also mostly meant Dark.

Even if dawn arrived while I was out, I started my day in pitch black, a lighting scheme that at the time still frightened me. I seem to recall having to talk myself down daily from some inchoate fear.

And the cold. Oh God, I was always cold! I don’t have a single memory of not being cold on my morning route — and surely there were spring and summer mornings, as well. But they don’t remain. Just the cold, and the dark, and the lonely streets, and the whirligig mind of an imaginative 11 year old. Twelve year old.

One day it was about like it is as of this writing (the high for Chicago: 8, the actual temperature: 2, and the windchill? -20), and when I got to the Currens’ house, I found a note. “Emily – Ring the bell. There’s hot cocoa waiting.”

The Currens were my grandparents’ good friends, lovely people who I was always happy to see myself whenever I happened to helping out at one of my grandmother’s famous and well-loved grown-up parties. I would walk around in my best outfit with trays of crackers, and some people would look me in the 11 year old eyes, and some people wouldn’t. Some people would know the right way to be friendly, and some people wouldn’t. The Currens were always in the first group.

But it’s my sense that the Currens would have made hot cocoa for anyone who happened to arrive with a folded newspaper in sub-zero weather — they were that kind of people. When I think of them, pretty much all I see are belted robes, broad smiles, and eyes like welcome signs.

I sat, I drank, and Mr. Curren took me around on the rest of my route (here the grandparent connection might have played a role). If memory serves, they did this for me one other time, as well, each time saying “Oh, you’re welcome, Emily! Any time!”

And I know they meant it, because the one time I knocked in spite of there not being a note, in spite of the fact that it was a balmy 17 degrees or maybe 23, they wiped the sleep from their eyes and put the pot on the stove. They were good people, the Currens.

God I hated that route. But there remains within me a powerful sense of pride that I did it, that I was good at it, and that I later got a chance to actually write for the paper that I had delivered. For the girl with the topple-over bike, that was quite a heady thing.

And the Currens gave me cocoa and smiles on days like today, in the middle of coldest, darkest winter.

Where President Obama meets Justin Timberlake.

I’m spending my morning getting increasingly enraged by the various and sundry (and stupid and moronic) dehumanizations of women that are all around me, everywhere, every day, and preparing a spreadsheet for my 2012 tax returns.

It turns out that the following can help a lot with that:

h/t The Daily Beast & @tartqueen

Silence breaking: Please tell a story about your experience with abortion.

reproductive-choice-button-0580I’ve occasionally posted an op/ed that once ran in several newspapers around the country about my own abortion. I believe, very strongly, that our stories are collectively the single most powerful tool we have in the battle for women’s reproductive rights, and that if we are to push back on the dehumanization inherent to so much of the anti-choice rhetoric, we have to claim those stories.

We are continuously shamed and cowed, frightened and belittled into silencing ourselves and denying our reality. If you have terminated a pregnancy or struggled with the idea of doing so, for any reason, and would like to tell your story, please do so here, at whatever level of anonymity that you would like to maintain. We did this once before, on the issues of sexual harassment and assault, and I think many people found it a useful, helpful thing.

One note: If you’ve never commented here before, or will be choosing to comment under a different name in order to preserve your anonymity, your comment will immediately go into moderation — I promise to fish out all moderated comments as soon as I can.

And finally, let me stress: There will be no shaming here. There will be no shaming, no doubt, no name-calling, no trolling. This is a space in which you can tell your story safely. I promise.

Yair Lapid – no cause for optimism.

yair lapid

Yair Lapid

In the lead-up to yesterday’s elections, there was real concern in certain circles (and happy certainty in others) that Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party was poised to sweep into the Knesset’s second place position, directly behind a weakened Likud—weakened in part by Bennett himself, a man who gives public expression to what many assume to be the real position of both the Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu: Settlements Always, Palestine Never.

When that didn’t turn out to be the case—when it turned out that the putatively centrist Yair Lapid had not only come in behind Likud, but had far outstripped Bennett—there were expressions of relief, even hope, in some corners. Perhaps, just maybe, a roughly centrist government will emerge, one that will genuinely negotiate for peace?

With all due respect, though, there’s simply no objective reason to even entertain that thought.

First of all, it’s important to remember that these results are preliminary, in that they don’t yet include the votes of the military. Israel’s soldiers have traditionally skewed slightly to the right of the rest of the country, and in recent years, this tendency has increased, along with a growing religiosity. There’s good reason to think that when all the votes are counted, Bennett and/or the Likud will have gained two-three seats, and in a parliament this polarized, that can make a big difference.

More to the point, however, even if the division of seats doesn’t much change, neither will Bibi. He is and has always been a right-wing opportunist whose first and primary goal is to achieve and maintain power. He’s spent his entire political career catering to the settler community, and though he’s not himself personally religious, has been more than happy to cede power and influence to the ultra-Orthodox in order to maintain a coalition that keeps him in the driver’s seat, and advances the settlement project. A single speech at Bar Ilan University, made years ago, doesn’t mitigate the fact that the Prime Minister has done everything in his not inconsiderable power to make sure that a Palestinian State becomes a literal impossibility.

And then there’s Yair Lapid, also an opportunist, albeit one who at least looks centrist. He’s said that he won’t join a government that doesn’t negotiate with the Palestinians—but honestly, that’s meaningless. “Negotiations” can mean anything or nothing, and Netanyahu has himself “negotiated with the Palestinians” on more than one occasion. Negotiations aren’t a goal unto themselves, and without a solid commitment to compromise, will continue to serve the Israeli government as they have for years: a handy diversion with which to distract the international community, even as Israel’s hold on the West Bank deepens.

Moreover, Lapid has made it painfully clear that he has no real grasp of the enormity of the occupation’s implications, and doesn’t understand what a genuine, durable peace agreement will entail. He launched his campaign in the bloated West Bank settlement of Ariel, and has publicly (and more than once) announced that if Israel’s government just stands firm, it will convince the Palestinian people to give up on East Jerusalem as their capital.

As I’ve written before, this latter position is nothing short of delusional, and reveals a deep and abiding attachment to the same kind of magical thinking recently expressed by Daniel Gordis: We will deal with the Palestinians as we imagine them to be, and all will be well.

The only thing approaching an ideological commitment that Lapid has ever clearly expressed is an aversion to the ultra-Orthodox. I think it’s a decent bet that he wouldn’t join a government in which the ultra-Orthodox have more power than he does, but as long as he can present himself to his secular supporters (half of whom, not incidentally, self-identify as right wing) as having done better than Shas in coalition negotiations, I imagine he’d be happy to sit alongside them—and, quite possibly, Bennett—in a Netanyahu government, and passively support expanding settlement construction and the headlong rush toward West Bank annexation. And again: The rightist parties are likely to actually gain seats when the soldiers’ votes are counted.

There are two Israeli Jewish parties actually dedicated to saving the Jewish State from itself and negotiating a true peace accord with the Palestinian people: Meretz and Tzipi Livni’s HaTnuah. And if the projections hold, Meretz and HaTnuah will jointly take 12 seats.

So really, there’s no cause for even cautious optimism. On the contrary, perhaps a hard-right government would have shocked the world and Israel out of its complacency. As it is, it looks like Israel is set to continue to muddle along on its way to its own ruin.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

I had an abortion.

Catching up on all the coverage of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and my good lord, if it isn’t depressing. And here I thought this body belonged to me. Just like a real human.

I am, as always, struck by a powerful sense that those of us who have had abortions must not give in to the shaming that we face every day, and on the contrary — we have got to stand up and be heard. So once again, here’s a piece I wrote sometime ago, versions of which appeared in several newspapers around the country. 

reproductive-choice-button-0580Maybe You Just Don’t Know

By Emily L. Hauser
Chicago Tribune
March 16, 2006

I’ve had an abortion. Have you?

The recent decision to ban virtually all abortions in South Dakota has generated a great deal of raucous arguing; many abortion opponents hope the new legislation will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and lead to the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. As usual, the argument suggests the existence of clear-cut opinion, the “supporting” or “opposing” of the act itself.

What is not discussed, of course, are people’s hearts.

Women readers, of course, know their own answer to my question; many of their men would be surprised by it.

Many men don’t know that their wives, sisters or mothers have, in fact, terminated a pregnancy. They don’t know because the women they love fear their response. Will he see me differently? Will he — figuratively or literally — kill me?

So, as a nation and as individuals, we largely don’t talk about it. And when we do, we’re often not honest. The shadow of perceived opinion is very long. We speak publicly as if there were two clear positions — but in private, most of us know this isn’t the truth.

My abortion is a thing of which I’m neither ashamed nor proud. I wish that I hadn’t had to do it, but I did.

The average reader will want to know why — because most of us have a sliding scale of morality.

Even some staunch opponents will agree in cases of rape; others where there is genetic defect; a larger number, if the abortion takes place early in the first trimester; many, of course, think it’s always a woman’s choice.

I believe there is a vast middle ground made up of most Americans, those who feel abortion is neither irredeemably evil, nor free of moral implication. Witness polls conducted recently by the Pew Research Center: 65 percent of respondents don’t want to see Roe vs. Wade overturned; 59 percent feel it would be better if fewer abortions were performed in this country.

At least some of our ambivalence may be cultural. Japanese society maintains a standard ritual, mizuko kuyo, to memorialize aborted or miscarried fetuses and stillborn babies. In a paper discussing the rite, Dr. Dennis Klass, a Webster University psychology of religion professor and a grief expert, writes: “The abortion experience is seen as a necessary sorrow tinged with grief, regret and fear which forces parents to apologize to the fetus and, thus, connect the fetus to the family.”

This describes my own experience well — but I’m an American. I carry a different culture, and I fear that in apologizing, I accept some notion of personhood that somehow “makes” the entire thing — murder. So, I hesitate.

I ask myself: When I aborted my first pregnancy, did I kill a baby? I honestly don’t think so. But did I stop the potential for life? Absolutely. Insofar as life itself is simultaneously the most mundane and most divine fact on our planet, this means something.

But I’m willing to say that I don’t know what that something is. I can only function in the cold reality of my own world — and as such, I alone can judge whether my abortion was a moral choice. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t happy, but it was the least-bad of two bad choices. It was moral.

I don’t know anyone for whom abortion is easy; I don’t know anyone (any woman, at least) who sees abortion as birth control. These choices are stunningly complex. When we deny that, when we talk as if we are all 100 percent clear on this issue, we deny our humanity. And we deny our grief.

And why, in the end, did I have my abortion? I’m not going to record that here. You and I don’t know each other, and my reasons are personal. I don’t need to defend them, and neither does your neighbor, the stranger at work — nor, perhaps, your girlfriend.

Very quick take on the Israeli elections results.

First of all, the basics: Israel’s system of government is parliamentary, and Israel’s parliament (the Knesset) has 120 seats. In order to form a government, a party has to have a majority of those seats, which in practice means that the party with the most seats has to negotiate a coalition with other, smaller parties, which in turn means that smaller parties often wind up setting policy, completely out of proportion to their numbers, because they serve as kingmakers.

Exit polls from today’s elections indicate what’s being presented by Israel’s media as a right/center-left split of 61/59 – here’s HaAretz’s excellent graphic breaking that down:

israel election haaretz exit poll jan13

A few important notes:

  • As you consider the “center-left” of Israeli politics you must always (and I mean this quite literally) simply erase from your calculations any seats held by the “Arab Parties” (aka: parties made up of Palestinian-Israelis and/or Hadash, the bi-national communist party which is considered an “Arab Party”). The Arab parties have never been included in an Israeli coalition, and unless and until something very fundamental changes, they never will be. So it’s really 61/50.
  • These are preliminary results, so the final count may very well shift around to the tune of 2-4 seats, not least because:
  • Members of the military vote on their bases and cannot be exit-polled, so no initial projection can include them — and Israel’s soldiers, traditionally slightly to the right of the rest of the voting public, have been growing increasingly right and increasingly religious.
  • The party of former-talk-show-host-turned-politician Yair Lapid is, as one person put it, a “tofu party” — Lapid is not ideologically committed to much of anything, other than broad anti-ultra-Orthodox sentiment, and while he looks like a center-left politician, he’s really just a Tel Avivian opportunist. His goal is his own aggrandizement, and half of his party’s voters identify as right-wing. Furthermore, as my friend Ori Nir pointed out, “more than this was a pro-Lapid vote, it was an anti-Netanyahu vote by the ‘soft right’.”
  • Lapid has already demonstrated that he really has no grasp of the parameters of Israel’s single largest outstanding issue, the occupation. If (as I wrote here) he genuinely believes that Israel only has to stand firm in order to get the Palestinians to give up East Jerusalem as their capital, then there’s no reason to think that he has any grand vision of sharing the land.
  • On the other hand, Naftali Bennett, the head of HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home), is a True Believer. He is absolutely committed to never allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state, and as a modern Orthodox Jew, he carries the whiff of religious credibility.
  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s experiment of joining forces with the ultra-right Yisrael Beitenu party headed by neo-fascist Avigdor Lieberman — considered by many (myself included) a sure bet for electoral dominance — clearly failed.

So in light of all of the above, I think there’s a very good chance of the following happening:

  • Likud is still the party with the most seats, and as such Netanyahu will get first crack at forming a coalition. This he can do with Lapid and Bennett, and if the above projections hold, he’d have 67 seats. However, I actually suspect that these parties will jointly pick up another two-three seats from the soldiers — my guess is that they’ll come at the expense of Labor and HaTunua (headed by Tzipi Livni), and that they will go to Lapid and Bennett (rather than Likud). 
  • If Bibi decides to go this route, HaBayit HaYehudi will give him cover on the religious front, without making onerous demands in the style of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, and Yesh Atid will give him cover with regard to the concerns of Israel’s shrinking secular majority (and by secular, I mean here “Jewish Israelis who are fed up with ultra-Orthodox coercion”).
  • Lapid will give lip-service to the need for reconciliation with the Palestinians, but will be easily and quickly swept up by nationalist appeals to “security” the next time any Palestinian anywhere does anything unsavory, and will passively support settlement construction and the galloping trend toward annexation of the West Bank.

Needless to say, I could be wrong, particularly with regard to any potential tension between Netanyahu and Lapid. Netanyahu might prefer the discomfort of once again aligning himself with the ultra-Orthodox over giving too much to Lapid, even though big chunks of his own base have zero love for the ultra-Orthodox. Bear in mind that I tend to be very pessimistic when it comes to Israeli politics, and while I haven’t often been proven wrong, it’s been known to happen.

It will be days before we know anything for sure. But for now, those are the contours I see shaping up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,659 other followers