Corbyn, we hardly knew ye: 7 things to know for December 13
Israel media review

Corbyn, we hardly knew ye: 7 things to know for December 13

Israeli analysts and politicians pop the champagne over defeat of Labour party in Britain; papers wonder if third consecutive Israeli election also a cause for celebration

Illustrative: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, left, meets locals at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after an incident where where a van struck pedestrians, in London, Monday June 19, 2017. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
Illustrative: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, left, meets locals at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after an incident where where a van struck pedestrians, in London, Monday June 19, 2017. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

1.Bye, bye Jeremy: The stunning defeat of the Labour party in the British elections has Israeli pundits sighing with relief, if not cheering outright, for the UK and British Jewry. But with the results emerging overnight, the news is not displayed in the morning papers and analysts take to social media to relish the outcome.

  • Channel 12 political analyst Amit Segal tweets, with the emergence of the exit polls at midnight, Israel time: “Yes! The anti-Semite Corbyn has been eliminated.”
  • “The left-wing can never be aligned with bigotry. If it betrays itself, it’s doomed. Radical socialism cannot erase the contempt of racism, nor can it hide past sins. It’s a lesson good old Britain gave Labour tonight,” tweets Nadav Eyal, Channel 13’s chief international correspondent.
  • “There’s a sigh of relief from British Jews tonight as well as trepidation from an energized nationalist government and from the reservoir of hate remaining now on the hard-left. Corbynistas will blame the Jews, never themselves for their downfall,” writes Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz.

2. Three cheers for Boris: Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum also join the party, with many describing it as a victory over anti-Semitism.

  • Without mentioning Corbyn outright, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says: “Congratulations my friend Boris Johnson on your historic victory. This is a great day for the people of Great Britain and for the friendship between us.”
  • President Reuven Rivlin similarly keeps his enthusiasm in check, extending his best wishes to Johnson and ignoring Corbyn. “On behalf of the Israeli people, and personally, I wish you great success as you continue to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”
  • Blue and White’s Yair Lapid, however, writes that Johnson’s victory is”a defeat for anti-Semitism. I’m sure that under his leadership we can strengthen and deepen the relations between Israel and Great Britain. Congratulations Boris and good luck!”
  • Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says: “The poor showing for Jeremy Corbyn in the British general election is good news for Israel, for British Jewry, and above all for Britain’s democracy.”
  • From the left, Israeli Labor MK Itzik Shmuli notes: “I would never have imagined I would be so happy about Labour’s defeat.”

3. Unpack that suitcase: After an election that saw British Jews on the edge of their seats, with many fretting that a Corbyn win would force them to emigrate, the community was resoundingly relieved — and maybe a tad sheepish at questioning their countrymen.

  • Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tweets: “Just told my kids we don’t have to leave the country. Relief and gratitude all round. But this isn’t over. The new Labour leader will have to change the culture of the party — because although it was the leadership that enabled Jew hate, it emanated from members.”
  • Earlier, he wrote: “Now it seems like the British people have told the Corbynites where to go, I realize that the worst thing they did was make Jews so nervous that we even doubted our fellow Brits. They don’t like extremists and never have. It was awful we should ever have felt need to doubt that. The relief among the Jewish community is palpable. And the gratitude. But as the days and weeks move on, there is something on which we will reflect: the willingness of so many of our so-called allies to campaign for and embrace Jeremy Corbyn.”
  • British Jewish historian Simon Sebag Montefiore tweets: “Britain has spoken and it is the decent country we prayed it was. For Jewish people faced w such unBritish racism this has been a nightmare. We so appreciate those noble decent nonJews who dared to support us like those signed letters etc. Thank you. We will never forget this.”
  • Adds Karen Pollack, the head of the UK’s Holocaust Educational Trust: “What an emotional and challenging few weeks and years. To the friends who reached out and to those strangers who got in touch, to the people who stood up and spoke out and were by our side: Thank you. British people are good and decent. Of course we reject racism. Thank you.”

4. Labour of hate: Though a myriad of factors are raised to explain the Labour defeat, the anti-Semitism scandal is distinctly raised as having contributed to Corbyn’s loss, though analysts are split on how significantly it impacted the outcome.

  • “Corbyn came weighted with baggage too heavy for a Hercules to shift: the IRA, the Hamas friends, Venezuela. But antisemitism was an accusation he could not shift. I am certain he sees no stain of it in himself, refusing to comprehend it and so could not apologize. Failure to purge every case left candidates on the doorstep dumbstruck when anyone said ‘I can’t vote for an anti-Semite,'” writes Polly Toynbee in The Guardian.
  • “Were Labour to have been narrowly defeated, some of Corbyn’s supporters might have sought to place some blame on the Jewish community, who they have accused of inflating Labour’s anti-Semitism problem… But most of even Corbyn’s most fervent supporters know that responsibility for a defeat so overwhelming can only be ascribed to the party leader himself,” writes The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz in these pages.
  • But at least one former Labour member embroiled in the anti-Semitism scandal blames the Jewish community for the party’s loss. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a Corbyn backer who was removed from the party for statements deemed anti-Semitic, says “The Jewish vote wasn’t very helpful.” Livingstone tells the Press Association. “Jeremy should have tackled that issue far earlier than he did,” referring to the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party which had snowballed without adequate response.

5. Sa’ar you concerned yet? In Israel, the looming third elections in under a year dominates the agenda as yet another campaigning season kicks off. But first, Netanyahu will face off with his rival, Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar.

  • The pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom leads its paper with a poll showing Blue and White widening its lead over Likud, 37-31. The poll projects the right-wing bloc receiving 51 seats, compared to 47 for the center left. But in a first, the poll suggests a Likud led by Sa’ar would pick up the same amount of seats (31, with Blue and White dropping to 33), and boost the right-wing overall (56 for right, 42 for center-left).
  • The Likud primaries battle between Netanyahu and Sa’ar is set to heat up shortly, with the date set for December 26. Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz report that Netanyahu has a packed schedule with numerous meetings set with Likud activists. Sa’ar is seeking the endorsements of Likud ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan, reports Haaretz.
  • But just ahead of the Likud party vote, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to release his legal opinion on whether Netanyahu can form a government in the future due to the criminal charges against him. That opinion is expected by December 18, reports Israel Hayom, as part of a High Court of Justice petition lodged by businessmen. And it could shake up the leadership vote and the third elections.

6. Third election’s the charm?: While many are lamenting the political gridlock that has kept the country without a functioning government with full powers for a year, some see hopeful signs for change.

  • In its lead editorial, Haaretz casts the failure to form a government as a positive sign for Israel’s democracy. “In fact, Israel must go to the polls again because the system of checks and balances that is the foundation of democracy worked. It prevented, in every manner possible, a situation in which a prime minister who has been charged with criminal offenses, who seeks to escape to the ‘city of refuge’ of parliamentary immunity, continues to serve.
  • “Therefore, there is also no call for the lamentation and the cries of ‘shame’ surrounding the failure to form a government. On the contrary: it’s a badge of honor for the parliamentary immune system, which disgorged from itself the possibility of collaborating with the forces seeking to sabotage Israel’s democratic infrastructure from within,” it writes.
  • ToI’s Horovitz writes that the third election may be an opportunity for Israelis to hammer out what they want, once and for all: “But rather than look at round three of elections as proof of that system’s failure and paralysis, perhaps, in its purity, it is enabling the electorate to work through the hugely sensitive decision of who should lead this country, and thus how and where it should be led, a little more protractedly than is the norm. Perhaps our system is actually working for us rather than against us.”

7. Will Netanyahu leave or remain: The upcoming election is cast as a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership, with the prime minister entering weaker than ever.

  • “For years we’ve grown accustomed that his victory is the default [position]. Now, after two consecutive elections, he’s no longer unbeatable,” writes Yossi Verter in Haaretz.
  • “It will be a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership,” a senior Blue and White official tells Yedioth.
  • Haaretz outlines the campaign strategies of both large parties. Netanyahu will again seek to force the far-right Otzma Yehudit to merge with Jewish Home, it reports, but wants Naftali Bennett to run separately so that younger and more disillusioned right-wing voters won’t flock to Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman. Netanyahu is also hoping to increase turnout among the right by forcefully attacking the legal system, it says.
  • According to the paper, Blue and White is concerned that its growing support in the polls means one of the two parties to its left — Labor-Gesher or Democratic Camp — may fall under the electoral threshold. Though the party has yet to formulate its campaign messaging, it’s expected to cast itself as guardians of the legal system.
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