Do two rights make a wrong? 8 things to know for June 11
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Do two rights make a wrong? 8 things to know for June 11

An obstinacy of parties and politicians on the right are under pressure to join together for electoral victory, and moves to shore up support are planned on the left as well

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends a Knesset plenary session ahead of the vote on the Jewish state law, July 18, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends a Knesset plenary session ahead of the vote on the Jewish state law, July 18, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

1. Why all the fussing and fighting? The new elections, to nobody’s surprise, are shaping up to look a lot like the last elections, especially with the right placing an emphasis on uniting its fringe elements and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acting as the head cheerleader for such a move.

  • “Fighting on the right: An unnecessary, futile and dangerous clash,” reads a massive front-page headline in Netanyahu mouthpiece Israel Hayom, above an opinion piece by Eitan Orkibi.
  • “Rightists, look left and see what the dynamics of social collapse look like; a legitimate internal debate can easily turn into a polarizing fight between two purist camps,” he writes, giving short shrift to the idea of a dialectic that forms the heart of democratic systems.
  • “Shooting inside the APC just helps the left,” reads a headline in the same paper from columnist Mati Tuchfeld.

2. Get together, or else: It’s not just Israel Hayom, though.

  • “Something bad is happening on the right — which we would call, in better days, the nationalist camp. The unhappiness over the Knesset disbanding and the path toward new elections has shown the less good-looking sides of the players on the right, and the sparring accusations are reaching new heights,” writes op-ed columnist Shlomo Pyoterofsky in Yedioth Ahronoth. “It’s crowded on the right, and this crowding is leading to anger, unhappiness, and the sharpening of rifts that will just make harder what everyone in the arena knows needs to happen: a unification of forces for elections on one joint ticket.”
  • Haredi reporter Yanki Ferber, running into Yaakov “Katzele” Katz at the dentist, tweets that the former National Union head told him that “if there won’t be a real unification of the parties on the right, none of them will get in, including the current National Union.”

3. Already in panic mode: Unlike last time, though, many see the right-wing getting together in the end, including Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who helped split the vote last time around.

  • Prof. Asher Cohen of Bar-Ilan University, an expert on right-wing politics in Israel, tells the Israel National News website that the chances are better this time around because of the trauma of very recent history, when Bennett and Shaked found themselves out of the Knesset.
  • “Unlike the past, when we had to wait for the final days, the ‘gevald’ [panic] campaign is already embedded in voters. Given the fact that so many votes went to waste, and many to the right, some 300,000 votes, it will be hard for any party to get to the elections sitting on the edge of the threshold,” he is quoted saying.
  • Channel 20 commentator Shimon Riklin, who turned from one of Netanyahu’s staunchest allies into a quasi-critic, asks on Twitter why Likud is so afraid of the right having a debate.
  • “The ideological clarification that the right needs to undertake is real. As time passes, the normal definitions: I am right because I am against the left, or I support Netanyahu (who is a great prime minister), will no longer suffice. Unfortunately there is no idea unifying the whole right today. And the personal attacks are preventing a true discussion that needs to happen,” he writes. “What are you afraid of?”
  • In Tablet, Eylon Levy-Aslan writes that the upcoming elections will be a “race to the bottom” that “will be decided by whomever can fish the most votes out of the garbage, persuading the many Israelis who ‘wasted’ their votes on minor parties in April or did not vote to switch allegiances.”
  • “In the April 9 elections, over 400,000 votes—a record 7.7% of the national vote share—went in the trash,” he writes. “[If] 391,330 wasted votes had gone to other right-wing parties, the right-wing bloc could have won 66 seats without Avigdor Lieberman—and a resounding 70 seats in total (compared to the final result of 65). In other words, Netanyahu would have been able to form a solid right-wing coalition—and secure a historic fifth term, including support for immunity from prosecution in his three criminal cases.”

4. Easing joint pain: On the left too, there is more talk of unification in order to strengthen its position.

  • Haaretz reports that the Palestinian Authority is trying to bolster Arab-Jewish political cooperation by either lending support to the Meretz party or backing a new initiative.
  • “Since April’s Israeli election, senior PA officials have held talks with Israeli Arab mayors and political activists to explore the possibility of such cooperation,” the paper reports, though it notes that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has not backed the effort out of lingering annoyance that the Joint (Arab) List broke up before the April elections.
  • “The Arab parties are fixated on the internal Arab arena, and we think that if you aspire to change and exert real influence, there’s room for cooperation on a much broader basis,” says former MK Taleb al-Sanaa, who is taking an active role in the still-green effort.
  • Al-Monitor reports that the Joint List is getting back together, after a less than stellar showing by their composite parts in April.
  • “The united Arab list will return for sure. There are now discussions of names of who should be on the lists because in the April elections, Palestinians in the Negev were not represented, and there is a need for changes among some of the nominees for the Islamic and the Balad components. Both [Balad and the Islamists] performed poorly in April,” Haifa-based activist Jafar Farah says.

5. Party’s over: The Labor list, meanwhile, somehow looks even worse than its historically dismal showing in April, with first former general Tal Russo jumping ship (or ejecting from a plane, as per a Yedioth cartoon), and now party leader Avi Gabbay announcing he will not look to keep his seat.

  • In comments posted to his Facebook page, Gabbay calls for the party’s central committee to set the leadership primary for July 2, some two months before the next national elections.
  • However, according to a Channel 13 report, Gabbay may still seek to retain a spot in the party as No. 2 on the list, which is normally reserved for someone of the leader’s choosing. If the party elects to not hold a primary to pick a whole new slate, he can give the slot to himself, while allowing fresh blood into the party.
  • In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer writes that Labor’s collapse is symbolic of a larger malaise infecting the Israeli left and keeping it from gaining ground.
  • “The much diminished Labor and Meretz parties represent the existential crisis of left-wing Zionism — the ideology that established Israel and set it on a path to security and prosperity, but that now has a very small following. They have yet to come to terms with the failure of the Oslo process and the rise of the vaguely centrist parties: These may be short-term creations — like Kadima and Yesh Atid, and now probably Blue and White — but they are much more attractive to voters,” he writes.
  • Speaking at Hebrew University as Gabbay makes his announcement, party leader hopeful Stav Shaffir holds her fire against the lame duck leader but levels an angry jeremiad against Netanyahu, charging that “his greatest success was killing Israeli politics,” according to the Maariv website.

6. You hearing me? Netanyahu on Monday agreed to attend a pre-trial hearing in October — likely too soon after elections to get himself a coalition and immunity, after being left with basically no options.

  • Yedioth reports that despite the “apparent ceasefire between Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit,” both sides are gearing up for more fighting as the premier’s legal team seeks more delays.
  • According to the paper, the few lawyers left by his side claim the evidentiary materials that they have received to prepare for the hearing are incomplete, including blank tapes that are supposed to contain recorded conversations, and other testimony “that came in files that need to be printed” which is apparently a painstaking process.
  • Meanwhile, Likud MK Miki Zohar, a Netanyahu ally, indicates the push for immunity is not over yet.
  • “The attorney general and the legal system will have to consider the election results, because the people are the sovereign,” Zohar tells Kan public radio. “The people determine the social norms.”

7. Kate speech: Far-right troll Katie Hopkins somehow found her way onto the set of i24 news Monday, and was given a platform (opposite a critical host and critical second guest, at least) to spew her usual pabulum about Muslims and immigration being the root of all problems (she once blamed the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre on a European rabbi’s support for migrants).

  • While she doesn’t exactly tone down her rhetoric, she tells the channel that calling African migrants cockroaches wasn’t so bad as it was a reference to their “enduring nature”: “Specifically because we’re taught that the only animal that could survive a nuclear holocaust is a cockroach.”
  • Haaretz reports that the city of Ra’anana canceled a screening of Hopkins’ film “Homelands,” which she is in Israel to pimp, after it was realized that it wasn’t a “Hatufim” remake (that’s a joke)/and was a bit more controversial than bargained for.
  • “Given the sensitive topic, it was mutually decided that the screening would take place elsewhere,” Haaretz quotes a spokesperson for the city, home to many Jews from South Africa (one of the focuses of the film, where she duped farmers, according to the New Yorker) and Western Europe.
  • The screening was apparently moved to a Jerusalem venue, but was canceled again and has finally been moved to the capital’s Menachem Begin Center, at least as of this writing, according to a statement from a spokesperson for Hopkins.
  • “Muslim lobby groups are working hard behind the scenes to shut us down. They do not want this documentary to be seen,” the statement claims.

8. Drawing ire: The New York Times says it will quit printing political cartoons in its international edition, weeks after an uproar over a cartoon of Netanyahu deemed anti-Semitic.

  • AFP reports that “editor James Bennet says the paper had planned for a year to cease running political cartoons in the international print version of the Times, in line with the US edition.”
  • Nonetheless, the decision is widely seen as linked to the Netanyahu scandal.
  • Responding to the decision, cartoonist Pat Chappatte writes on his blog that “This is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.”
  • Somewhat ironically and undercutting his claim (which is not necessarily wrong), Chappatte employs the dreaded all caps shout on Twitter to push his blog.
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