Stumping with a slump: 9 things to know for February 11
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Stumping with a slump: 9 things to know for February 11

A sad-sack Labor heads to the polls to pick its handful of members projected to enter the Knesset, and politicians make a pilgrimage to a mourning family

The entrance the Labor party primary polling station in the Tel Aviv Convention Center, February 11, 2019. (Raanan Cohen)
The entrance the Labor party primary polling station in the Tel Aviv Convention Center, February 11, 2019. (Raanan Cohen)

1. Labor pains: The party may be a shadow of its former self, but Labor activists are nonetheless heading to the polls Monday to cast votes in the primary.

  • Polls show the party getting 5-7 seats, a new low for a faction that currently has 18 lawmakers in the Knesset and was the only party that mattered for the first several decades of the state.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth reports that party leader Avi Gabbay put on a brave face and called on the party’s 60,000 activists to vote, but given Labor’s current standing in the polls, turnout numbers are expected to be quite low.
  • “The upshot is that it will give more weight to deals and ‘hit lists’ distributed in the last few days,” the paper notes, referring to lists of preferred and unwanted candidates drawn up by powerful forces within the party that many activists follow when making their choices.
  • Those who like watching paint dry and grass grow can watch the Labor turnout numbers slooooooowly tick up on this website. As of 2:30 p.m. some 21 percent of activists had cast ballots.

2. Don’t count them out yet: The primary is being seen by some in the party as a last chance to save it from oblivion, with activists hoping that a final slate of popular and dynamic candidates can revitalize it in the next two months of election campaigning, ToI’s Raoul Wootliff reports.

  • Yedioth’s Sever Plotzker also makes a case for not writing off the party yet: “The situation is not a heavenly decree — the party is not lost … Its biggest strength, which it hasn’t deployed, is found in its ability to give the public a detailed and thorough work program, should it get to form the next government. Don’t say ahead of time it’s not possible. Electoral revolutions have happened and will happen.”

3. Religion and slate: A total of 44 candidates are vying for five or six realistic spots on the list (the first two go to party leader Gabbay and someone of his choosing.) That includes 14 current MKs.

  • Haaretz reports that the low numbers and tough competition to get a realistic spot is bad news for any newcomers hoping to get a spot on the list, though there are three possible newcomers who have made names for themselves by highlighting religion and state issues: Activist Yaya Fink, Reform head Gilad Kariv and Haredi woman Michal Chernovitski, who started an ultra-Orthodox faction within the party.
  • Fink has been running the most visible (and slick) campaign of the newcomers, playing up the fact that he may be religious but he doesn’t want to foist his views onto others, which has resonated with some.
  • “He excited activists in Hod Hasharon when he told them that he may go to synagogue on Fridays ‘but there’s no reason the rest of the public needs to be locked inside without public transportation on Shabbat,’” the paper reports.
  • Globes reporter Tal Schneider tweets a picture of skullcaps with slogans calling to “separate religion and state” and “love thy neighbor” stamped on them being given out by Fink backers.
  • According to Haaretz, they are also giving out skullcaps with “equality for the LGBT community” written on them, after fighting with a printer who initially refused to put them on.

4. Sold down the list: Even in Likud, which is seen getting over 30 seats, there are not enough spots. Ynet reports that MKs who backed Prime Minister Netanyahu through thick and thin did poorly in the primary, and will not moved up the list by the party leader. They are not happy, and are now speaking out against the premier.

  • Miki Zohar, David Bitan, Yoav Kisch and Sharren Haskel have all turned to the Likud’s internal court to nullify a decision giving Netanyahu three reserved spots, the news site reports.
  • Zohar, who ended up in 29th place after the Likud primaries and being pushed down by all reserved slots, tells Ynet that “throughout the term, we paid a price for protecting him and now we’ve been sold out by Netanyahu.”

5. Mourning campaign: After biding its time, the Shin Bet on Sunday evening finally declared the murder or Ori Ansbacher a terror attack.

  • Police spokespeople and other officials had already been referring to it as one, but the nature of the attack, which had been somewhat unique, had led the Shin Bet to treat the case with extra caution.
  • Netanyahu was one person who had been careful not to call it a terror attack, ToI’s Jacob Magid notes. The Shin Bet announcement came — likely not coincidentally — as he visited the Ansbacher family as they sat shiva in Tekoa, and he relayed it to them directly.
  • On Monday, Benny Gantz and Avi Gabbay also make their way to Tekoa, and tweet about it.
  • Other politicians, especially on the far-right, have also made the murder a campaign issue. Zehut’s Moshe Feiglin spoke in Tel Aviv at a rally/vigil Saturday night and a day earlier Michael Ben Ari of the Otzma Yehudit party filmed a campaign video outside Ansbacher’s funeral.

6. Terror haven: The delay was not necessary, Ansbacher’s aunt Na’ama Cohen tells Israel Hayom: “From our point of view this was terror. She went for a walk in the woods. An Arab doesn’t go around with a knife for no reason, he doesn’t go for a hike with a knife.”

  • Walla’s Amir Bohbot reports that the fact that the suspect was able to get from Hebron’s Abu Sneineh neighborhood to Jerusalem with a knife is causing consternation among commanders of the army unit responsible for that area.
  • “This neighborhood gets constant treatment from Golani,” a commander is quoted telling him. “Its proximity to the Jewish area, the fact that it identifies with Hamas, the terrorists coming out of there are in our sights. We’re always acting there.”
  • Yedioth columnist Ben-Dror Yemini blames not only the suspect’s possible ties to Hamas, but a plethora of voices in Palestinian society.
  • “Ori Ansbacher was murdered because the killer came from a society in which many glorify murder and hatred. She was killed because not just Hamas but also the mufti of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammed Hussein, preaches the murder of Jews.”

7. If you come at AIPAC, you best not miss: Democratic lawmakers are facing increased pressure to bring the hammer down on Palestinian lawmaker Rashida Tlaib and Muslim representative Ilhan Omar.

  • Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called on Democratic leaders to take action against the two, comparing their statements to white supremacist Steve King, who was given a slap on the wrist by the GOP, JTA reports.
  • Omar in particular is facing heat after tweeting that Republican representatives are being bought by pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
  • “Omar’s comments touched upon a long-running, and particularly ugly, thread of the anti-Semitic movement — that Jewish money fuels backing for Israel in the United States and elsewhere,” Politico reports.
  • Among those to call out Omar are Chelsea Clinton, Max Rose and a slew of others from both sides of the aisle.
  • JTA’s Ron Kampeas notes that Omar wasn’t even technically correct, as AIPAC does not pay anyone.
  • Dovish Jerusalem activist Daniel Seidemann notes, though, that AIPAC members do often have deep pockets that congresspeople know about.

8. The future is bleak: After months of ever-increasing hype, Channel 12 rolled out its futuristic reality show “2025” Sunday night, earning a collective shrug.

  • “This was the biggest television buildup in the last decade, and as you know, the more you raise expectations of viewers, the bigger the potential flop,” writes Ynet’s Smadar Shiloni, adding that the whole concept of the show was confusing.
  • On an online poll by the site, 77 percent agree that they do not understand the show, while only 23% say it’s promising.
  • The show, which is essentially Big Brother but in some sort of overly branded dystopian back lot “city” in which contestants need to bank money, is compared  by Haaretz’s Irina Melamed to a cross between “The Truman Show” and “Black Mirror.” And that’s not a good thing.
  • “In the near future — maybe in 2025 — we’ll regret the waste of time we spent watching this,” she writes.
  • The show, which cost NIS 100 million to produce so far according to rumors, still managed to pull a 21.1% share of viewers, Globes reports. The problem is that the number is an average, with the episode starting with a 26% percent share that plummeted to 17% by the end.

9. If you will it, he is no journalist: Channel 20 has its own problems, after interviewing Likud spokesperson Erez Tadmor (of Im Tirtzu) about why one of the cases against Netanyahu is bunk, and calling him a “journalist.”

  • Eliran Tal, the reporter who produced the segment, tells the Seventh Eye media watchdog that it was “human error” by a production assistant. “It happens,” he says.
  • Haaretz reporter Chaim Levinson notes that Netanyahu nonetheless shared the program on Facebook.
  • “One little goat,” he quips, referring to the Passover song (which is actually not circular, but cumulative.)
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