Israeli Election Watch: Where’s the beef? Who is the Kahane candidate? So what if Livni’s a woman?

  • Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz in his recent weekend column says he already knows who lost the election: Israel. "We will be unhappily casting our uncertain ballots for representatives who, on the whole, have managed to avoid setting out their own red lines and telling us their own specific conception of Israel — representatives who, in some cases, aspire to lead us without even having made those conceptual choices themselves. The blind led by the evasive. What does Israel seek for itself? The day of fateful choice is upon us again. Watch us duck it."
  • In an editorial Tuesday, Ha’aretz sounds a similar note, insisting that the three main candidates for prime minister are putting forth agendas that lack any commitment or position. "It is hard to shake off the feeling that this sort of lack of clear distinction is intentional. The three candidates, and the parties they lead, are not offering a political alternative to the current direction. On the contrary: They are building an alibi for the day after the elections, when they and their political factions will become part of the three-part puzzle that will set up a coalition with Shas, the ultra-Orthodox parties, and most likely, in spite of the limp opposition of Labor, also with Avigdor Lieberman."
  • "We had a wonderful country," former Meretz lawmaker Yossi Sarid says in his Ha’aretz column. "In the past, the cameras of elections videos soared like a bird, and we were able to see the old beautiful Israel from its point of view. We saw tractors and good, well-plowed soil, and the faces of well-meaning farmers, their faces plowed with wrinkles. But their time is up. That’s the last thing the parties need, to have some moshav in the Galilee or some kibbutz from the Negev creep into the frame at the expense of the red shingles of a settlement home, sitting on robbed land."
  • The Washington Post reports that the key issue in Israel’s current election campaign is whether the military operation in Gaza went far enough.
  • Others on the Israeli political scene are suggesting that Avigdor Lieberman has gone too far. In an interview with Army Radio, Israel’s most recognizable television anchor, Haim Yavin, called Lieberman "Kahane’s successor," referring to assassinated far-right leader Meir Kahane, Ha’aretz reports. 
  • But Ynet columnist Emmanuel Rosen offers a differen take, saying Lieberman is simply a "gimmick with a beard" who will prove to be like every other politician. "Lieberman enters the vacuum of despair and boredom in the face of the ‘regular politicians,’ yet just like with every elections gimmick, here too we shall see disappointment follow the enthusiasm. Those who are waiting to see Lieberman devouring Arabs in the Israeli government will get, to their regret, Lieberman as a responsible and calculated politician, just like everyone else. And those who expect to see someone who will add some action and drama and spice to our tired politics, will very quickly discover that Lieberman certainly understands the difference between the promo and the movie itself."
  • The Jerusalem Post reports on its front page Tuesday that a new book by former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk claims that the tough-talking Lieberman agreed to support a plan by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to hand over territory to the Palestinians as well as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to cede Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount.
  • How has Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party, "often dismissed by its critics as a populist fluke, risen from its humble beginnings as a party for Russian immigrants to a full-blown political juggernaut?" the Jerusalem Post asks. Because, pollster Rafi Smith explains, veteran Israelis, not just Russian olim, are planning to vote for him.
  • Far-right activist Baruch Marzel is stirring things up after being named the supervisor of a ballot box in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, the same town that the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled he has the right to hold a right-wing protest march in, the Jerusalem Post reports. But an Arab politician is demanding Marzel be removed from his position, according to Ha’aretz.
  • The National Union Party’s number four candidate, Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, tells Ynet that he’s the real Kahane candidate.
  • A campaign ad in which the fervently religious Shas Party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, says anyone who votes for the party will be blessed, has been disqualified, Ynet reports.
  • Haredi extremists opposed to public display of photos of women have painted over Livni’s face on campaign posters throughout Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.
  • Ariana Melamad says in Ynet that the ugly chauvinism of Israeli politics is rearing its ugly head. "The fact that Livni is a woman does not guarantee that she will excel in leading this nation. Her two rivals are men. Each one of them has already failed in the past. It is tempting to say that they failed because they are men, but we won’t go there. Tzipi Livni, her voters, and the voters of all other parties deserve a more enlightened and respectful elections discourse. In this discourse, the men have already failed."
  • Writing in Ha’aretz, Amia Lieblich also weighs in on the gender issue: "Livni’s womanhood leads many to dismiss her ability to lead the country, particularly in security matters. Others don’t like seeing a woman so highly placed for religious reasons. In order to convince voters she is fit to lead, Livni must invest not only in effectively marketing her ideas, but also in refuting preconceptions about her gender."
  • A Jerusalem Post analysis looks at how green are the parties.
  • Former lawmaker and current think-tanker Natan Sharansky tells The Jerusalem Post that Benjamin Netanyahu will not clash with current U.S. President Barack Obama. Sharansky also says he has no plans to reenter politics.
  • The main prime ministerial candidates answered questions submitted on YouTube, in what will be the closest thing they hold to a debate, The Jerusalem Post reports.
  • Oh, those campaign commercials, what would we do without them, asks Jerusalem Post columnist Ruthie Blum Leibowitz. "Still, it is a tradition. That it is one which everybody loves to hate – like, say, the Eurovision Song Contest – only indicates how ensconced it has become. And how part and parcel of the electoral process it is. It also provides a bit of light relief to the otherwise weighty considerations involved in deciding how to cast one’s ballot."
  • Check out how Iran’s Press TV covers the candidacy of Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Hint, they call him "Israeli warlord" in the headline.

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