A political funeral and some sham marriages: 9 things to know for February 12
Israel media review

A political funeral and some sham marriages: 9 things to know for February 12

Eitan Cabel is gunned down by Labor’s Avi Gabbay; Netanyahu tries to match up rightists and ‘his’ paper tries to make a leftist union; plus a fake marriage courtesy of the Shin Bet

Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor Party, speaks with the media before the release of the results in the Labor party primaries in Tel Aviv on February 11, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor Party, speaks with the media before the release of the results in the Labor party primaries in Tel Aviv on February 11, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

1. Cutting Cabel: Labor lawmaker Eitan Cabel’s resounding defeat in the party’s primary Monday is being called no less than a “political assassination” at the hands of party leader Avi Gabbay.

  • Cabel had been the biggest thorn in Gabbay’s side. He managed to place only 15th on the list, which means he’ll almost certainly miss out on entering the Knesset if current projections hold.
  • “This is a big political win for Gabbay,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports, noting that Cabel didn’t even watch the primary results come in from the party’s main hootenanny in Tel Aviv but rather his own campaign headquarters in the working class town of Rosh Ha’ayin.
  • Haaretz’s Jonathan Lis writes that aside from Cabel going down, Gabbay’s biggest allies won out in the internal vote and other rivals like Yossi Yonah were also pushed out.
  • “The results will help Gabbay bolster his leadership role, weaken those opposed to him and be the man who determines how the party runs its election campaign,” he writes.

2. For Gabbay, this is a victory, albeit a Pyrrhic one, as the idea that 15th on the list is considered unattainable for Labor would have been considered laughable pretty much any other time in history.

  • With the party only polling at five to seven seats, though, there are questions as to whether even former party leader Amir Peretz will make it back in.
  • Unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who failed to push his chief rival Gideon Sa’ar out and then paraded around as if he had won, Gabbay takes a diplomatic tack, calling Cabel a great legislator, and telling Army Radio he’ll work to make sure he gets into the Knesset (albeit not by giving him the No. 2 spot he holds in his pocket.)
  • “We’ll bring in more seats so he can be an MK. The most optimistic is 14,” he says, also hinting that he may give up his right to place someone of his choice as No. 2. (If Gabbay gives up the No. 2 slot, then Cabel would move up to 14).

3. Hopes for a sinking ship: Some see the makeup of the top vote-getters — young social protest leaders, with some veterans thrown in, as cause for hope.

  • Yair Fink, who finished 8th in voting and will be placed at 12th or 11th on the list, tells ToI’s Raoul Wootliff that “from tomorrow we will start to go up in the polls. This is certainly the start of something, it might take time, but we are on the way.”
  • Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev notes that “Labor’s list of top notch parliamentarians is mostly identified with social and economic issues, which could allow the party to differentiate itself from Benny Gantz’s security-focused list; Gabbay believes that Gantz’s failure to balance out his decidedly right wing list with sufficient leftists will soon send Labor voters back home anyway.”

4. Left and lefter: Israel Hayom (which first reported on the supposed putsch by Sa’ar) now claims that Labor MKs are going behind Gabbay’s back to form a joint list with Meretz. Gabbay won’t even lead this joint ticket, but will get a senior spot if he doesn’t protest, the paper reports, without citing any sources — even unnamed ones.

  • The paper does not say who is leading this effort, and describes it as a new party (no name chosen yet) formed of former Labor MKs and Meretz.
  • Israel Hayom, which is seen as closely linked to Netanyahu, has been pushing the narrative that Labor is a far-left party by trying to tie it to Meretz, much as it has tried to do with Benny Gantz.
  • On the paper’s op-ed page, columnist Ariel Bolstein tries pushing Gantz et al even further left out of Zionist realm at all, repeating the canard that he plans on joining up with Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al party to block Netanyahu from forming the next government.
  • “The hope of the whole Just-Not-Bibi camp, from Gantz to the Islamist Communists of the Joint Arab List, is the same. To build a bloc that will topple the right wing,” he writes.

5. Right refusal: Meanwhile, Netanyahu is unabashedly pinning his hopes on a union of the farthest right — pushing yet again for Jewish Home and National Union to join forces with Otzma Yehudit — led by Meir Kahane acolytes Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir, so they can get into the Knesset and bolster his coalition-to-be.

  • The parties have not been keen on the idea.
  • “If the prime minister wants he can join up with Marzel and Ben Gvir,” Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz tells journalist Amit Segal.
  • Peretz says he has to concentrate on talks to join up with National Union, which everyone assumes the two factions will do.
  • NU head Bezalel Smotrich has also told Netanyahu to join up himself with the far-rightists, showing that the factions are at least in agreement on that front.

6. Survey says: All the calculus of who should join up with who is predicated on a flurry of polls done so far on a variety of scenarios, with little thought given as to whether or not those polls are reliable or if the numbers are being fudged.

  • This is despite the same pollsters famously getting even the exit polls — considered the only really reliable kind of polling — spectacularly wrong in 2015.
  • In Yedioth, columnist Sever Plotzker writes that news consumers should be quite wary of all the polls being shoved their way.
  • “Good polls cost money, and there are no shortcuts,” he writes.
  • Plotzker recommends only trusting polls of at least 2,000 respondents, ideally 2,400. Most polls in Israel are taken with around 500 people, and done online, the cheapest and worst method available.
  • And he says pollsters need to be open about their methodology, which can greatly influence how a poll turns out, and should also include info on the degree of confidence in the numbers.
  • “The pollsters need to disclose how many refused to answer, how many were undecided, the basic data gathering methods and how confident the respondents are in their votes. Without these key measurements, the polls being published are just educated guesses.”
  • That’s not the only way results are being fudged. The Seventh Eye points out that Channel 12 on Saturday night published a graph with a survey in which Likud’s lead was made to look about twice as large as it actually was.
  • The site notes that Netanyahu also used the tactic in a campaign video Sunday about Israel’s low unemployment numbers compared to European countries. Even if you don’t understand Hebrew, you can see how the gap between 4 and 14 percent is quadruple the size of the gap between 14 and 19 percent.

גם בכלכלה – טוב לישראל.

Posted by ‎Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו‎ on Sunday, 10 February 2019

7. Psy games: The centrist Yesh Atid party has yet to release its own electoral list, knee-deep in negotiations with Benny Gantz, and one person expected to figure high on the list is former Mossad deputy head Ram Ben-Barak.

  • Ben-Barak also features somewhat prominently in a New Yorker expose on the defunct PSY Group’s links to the Mossad, and how it used subversive campaign tactics in a small town battle in the hopes of landing bigger fish, i.e., the Trump campaign.
  • The paper notes that Ben-Barak, who used to head the Strategic Affairs Ministry and whom it describes as looking “like someone from Mossad central casting,” was initially brought on for a project designed to combat BDS activists.
  • Ben-Barak tells the magazine that he regrets helping PSY Group. “When you leave the government and you leave Mossad, you don’t know how the real world works,” he says. “I made a mistake.”
  • He also calls for legislation to deal with fake news and bots: “This is the challenge of our time. Everything is fake. It’s unbelievable.”

8. The spy who didn’t love me: Even marriage can be fake in the hands of some people. ToI’s Jacob Magid reports on the fascinating case of a West Bank settler who was married to a man who turned out to be in deep cover for the Shin Bet unit investigating extremist Jews.

  • The two had seven kids together before they divorced, and now the mother is embarking on a media campaign to expose what she says was her abuse at the hands of the security service and its informant.
  • The woman, Riki Eyal, claims her story is far from unique and that there are “dozens” of other women who, unknown to them, were and are married to men who work to gather intelligence on neighbors, friends, even family.
  • “I do not deny that he ruined my life,” she says. “That’s a fact. But if you’re asking me who was more responsible, I say it was absolutely the Shin Bet. They sent him.”
  • The Shin Bet even sent them to counselling when his cover was blown and she tried to leave.
  • Dvir Kariv, who served as an agent in the Shin Bet’s Jewish Division from 1994 to 2012, confirms that the security service funds marriage counseling for its informants when necessary, but asserts that the counselors work independently of the agency.
  • The informant, for his part, admits he was Shin Bet, but refuses to speak to ToI.
  • Read the whole sordid tale here.

9. No more, Omar: US Rep. Ilhan Omar apologized for her comments about Jewish money buying support for Israel in Congress Monday, but the debate and questions sparked by the affair are still lingering.

  • While some are satisfied and some are calling for her to do more (and some are saying she didn’t really apologize), there is also concern about the effect her comments will have on fostering a real conversation about a two-state solution in Congress.
  • “That Omar has become the face of anti-Israel sentiment on the American left in a short space of time is most frustrating of all for activists and advocacy groups who wish for more nuanced conversations and policies on Israel and Palestine,” Emma Green writes in the Atlantic. “Groups like J Street, which lobbies in Congress for a two-state solution, have defended Omar and Tlaib in the past, and their cause is set back in the wake of comments like these.”
  • Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times calls her comments “a gift to the right.”
  • “At a moment when activists have finally pried open space in American politics to question our relationship with Israel, it’s particularly incumbent on Israel’s legitimate critics to avoid anything that smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry. And the idea of Jews as global puppet masters, using their financial savvy to make the gentiles do their bidding, clearly does,” she writes.
  • In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer compares Omar to Jeremy Corbyn, but notes it will be much more awkward for American Jews to oppose her.
  • “The most negative, or problematic, factor for American Jews is that Omar is a strong and authentic voice confronting the accelerating racism coming from Trump and his outriders on the far right. British Jews have to face right-wing racism as well, but nothing of that order and certainly not from within the government. Calling out someone like Omar, and her fans, for racism, is that much more difficult when American Jews are already under threat from the other side of the political aisle.”
  • And JTA’s Andrew Silow Carroll tries to unpack the legitimate argument about money in politics and how Omar managed to swerve into anti-Semitic tropes in pursuit of a worthy cause.
  • “Our politics and country would probably be better off if campaigning wasn’t a never-ending money chase,” he writes. “But Omar’s insistence that but for the grace of AIPAC politicians would take her side on Palestine is uninformed and reductionary. Maybe that’s not anti-Semitism, but it is nothing to be proud of.”
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