How to lose friends and influence elections: 7 things to know for February 24
Israel media review

How to lose friends and influence elections: 7 things to know for February 24

Netanyahu is pilloried by some of his best friends over a move to bring Otzma Yehudit into the Knesset in order to bolster his chances of forming a coalition post-election

A man holds a sign outside the Washington Convention Center where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 2, 2015. (AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM)
A man holds a sign outside the Washington Convention Center where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 2, 2015. (AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM)

1. Boom goes the Diaspora: You know things are bad when you’ve lost AIPAC. The decision of the hawkish staunchly pro-Israel lobby to comment on Israeli elections and slam a move to bring the extremist Otzma Yehudit party into the fold is seen as a major blow to Netanyahu by pundits and politicians alike.

  • Globes reporter Tal Schneider says the move is “a sonic boom,” in regards to Netanyahu’s relationship with the Diaspora.
  • Channel 13’s Barak Ravid calls it a “big deal,” and not in the sarcastic use of the term. “The extraordinary action shows the depth of the shock among Israel supporters in the US … The conservative head of AIPAC would not publish such a statement unless they felt their supporters expected them to.”
  • A headline in Yedioth Ahronoth calls it “rebuke from best friends.”
  • It’s not just AIPAC either. The American Jewish Committee also slams Otzma Yehudit, as does the ADL.
  • The Boston Jewish Community Relations Council also says it has complained to the government about the move to empower the party.

2. No easy way to Washington: AIPAC hasn’t turned its back on Netanyahu, though, announcing Saturday night that he would be appearing at the conference.

  • However, Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes that “what was supposed to be a victory march on Netanyahu’s triumphant way to the White House has now turned into a tense arena with hidden dangers lurking in every corner.”
  • Channels 11 and 13 both report that Blue and White honchos Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon have also been invited to the confab, as well as Labor’s Avi Gabbay.
  • It’s not yet clear if any will take time out of campaigning to fly to Washington to attend the conference.
  • There are also questions about whether AIPAC’s ban on Otzma Yehudit will extend now to its partners in Jewish Home/National Union.
  • Israel Policy Forum director Michael Koplow tweets he hopes they and others don’t break bread with those who break bread with racists.

3. Naming names: While the groups are careful not to name Netanyahu, others are not so shy, including conservative columnist Bret Stephens, who calls it “Bibi’s shameful bargain.”

  • “Netanyahu and [Jewish Home head Rafi] Peretz have legitimized hateful fanatics until recently considered beyond the pale. Even if no Kahanists serve in a future government, the prime minister’s political embrace of them is a stain that cannot be ignored,” Eli Lake writes in Bloomberg.
  • National Review editor Jay Nordlinger tweets that he has admired Netanyahu for decades, but now “he has stayed too long. His dignity is ebbing away.”

4. ‘Irresponsible AIPAC’: Netanyahu hit back at critics Saturday night and defended the deal with a bout of whataboutism directed at the left wing and Arabs.

  • While he did not name AIPAC, Israel Hayom, known as his mouthpiece, slams the lobby for being “irresponsible” and “dragged into the political mud,” in a front page headline.
  • Columnist Dror Eydar, who Netanyahu has appointed to be his envoy to Italy, writes that AIPAC doesn’t represent American Jewry and American Jews are being led astray in any case. “We’ve seen over the last few days a concentrated attack by most of the Israeli media, which has influenced the disinformation being accepted by American Jews,” he writes.

5. Labour’s loss: Israelis are also taking an interest in political goings-on elsewhere, including the splintering of the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, amid roiling anti-Semitism allegations.

  • Walla News’s Oren Nahari tries to explain to Israelis why the split is such a big deal: “Unlike Israel, where we are used to political upheaval and people moving between factions, in Britain, the electoral method actually dictates the narrowing of the parliamentary political system,” he writes.
  • In the Guardian, London Mayor Sadiq Khan warns that Labour splits lead to Tory governments, but, “It’s devastating that so many Jewish people now feel that Labour – a party that should be their natural home – does not have their best interests at heart, and worse, seems to them to be unwilling to tackle the scourge of antisemitism within.”
  • Why are Khan’s thoughts important? UK Jewish News’s Jack Mendel notes that he “has consistently shown himself to be perhaps the last frontline Labour politician the community can trust. “

6. Attacked in Venezuela: There is not a ton of coverage anymore of Venezuela’s own troubles, but they have not gone away.

  • Annika Rothstein, a Jewish Swedish journalist who often travels to Israel and writes for Israel Hayom, gives a harrowing account on Twitter of being detained and beaten by pro-Maduro thugs while trying to report from there.

7. From Manischewitz to the moon: The Israeli press and others are still marveling at the Beresheet moonshot as a show of Israeli genius, and this is with almost two months to go until it actually tries to touch down.

  • Yedioth’s Udi Ezion notes that the lander is the cheapest, most simple device to ever attempt to make it to the moon and land on it. “The significance goes well beyond the blue and white flag stamped on its leg. Big NASA, which put 12 people on the moon, which sent up a space station and hundreds of astronauts, wants to recreate what was done in the last four years in a factory in Yehud.”
  • Miriam Adelson, wife of Israel Hayom publisher Sheldon Adelson, writes in the paper that the launch in Florida moved her to tears: “[Beresheet was sent] as an illustration to Israelis and to the world of the fact that the Jewish people are always stretching out toward the stars, beyond the horizon. That the Jewish people are always acting for the good of everyone, to make the world better, even if the world, more than once, has disappointed us.”
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