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Another One Bites The Dust

If it weren't for the whole decades-long war thing, Israel would no doubt be best known for its byzantine politics which have once again kicked into high gear. Here's some analysis from Jonathan Edelstein. Meanwhile, Palestinian politics are heating up as well. On the Israeli politics front, it seems to me like the logical successor to UTJ-Likud-Shinui would be a Likud-Shinui-Labor government rather than the Shas-UTJ-Likud-Labor government that we're apparently going to get -- there's obviously something I don't understand here.

UPDATE: SoCal passes along a link to this bizarre and disturbing story: "One of two teenage girls arrested in the West Bank while stealing olives from a Palestinian orchard was found to have a message on her cell phone advocating the assassination of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon." The message said: "We eliminated Rabin. We will eliminate Sharon."

December 1, 2004 | Permalink

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When Shinui burst on the scene they took a lot of Likud and Avoda votes in the wealthy north Tel Aviv suburbs. And they were talking the talk on secularism but after the last elections they dropped those pretensions and ran with the only position they ever really stuck to, fiscal conservatism. Thus they've been sitting in coalition with UTJ for a year and a half and now walked over budget issues.

They're also perenially ambivalent on the conflict, because it's not their issue. In the coalition Sharon let his religious friends shit all over them. So it's unsurprising that the popularity of disengagement didn't help retain them. The next elections will certainly be unkind to Lapid and he knows it.

Posted by: Ruth | Dec 2, 2004 1:14:39 AM

Stealing olives from a Palestinian orchard?

The mind boggles. Is *that* the level it gets to?

Posted by: Wrye | Dec 2, 2004 3:51:30 AM

"Stealing olives from a Palestinian orchard?

"The mind boggles."

Hmmmmm--what do you think the reaction would be in this country if a small time criminal were found to have links to Islamic terroirst groups and cell phone messages regarding a planned act of terrorism? Does the name Padilla ring a bell?

Posted by: rea | Dec 2, 2004 6:54:20 AM

I think Wyre's comment was more based on the amazing pettyness of the Israeli settlers - "we've stolen their land; now we'll steal their olives. And if anyone tries to stop us, we'll shoot them" - than on the police reaction.

It's the kind of thing that almost makes one warm to Sharon. I said 'almost'...

Posted by: john b | Dec 2, 2004 8:44:10 AM

john b,
you are right on, except 'petty' is not quite the correct word. But I am not sure there is a good word for it.

Posted by: theCoach | Dec 2, 2004 9:10:31 AM

Why is it that Likud and Labor have had the same leaders for like the last 30 years? Where's the new blood? Or are younger Israelis just not very interested in formal politics?

Posted by: next big thing | Dec 2, 2004 9:15:32 AM

Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You might remember me from such public service videos as "Designated Drivers: The Lifesaving Nerds" and "Phony Tornado Alarms Reduce Readiness". I'm here today to give you the skinny on shoplifting, thereby completing my plea bargain with the good people at "Foot Locker" of Beverly Hills.

Shoplifting began here, in ancient Phoenicia. Thieves would literally lift the corner of a shop in order to snatch the sweet, sweet olives within.

Oh, Shakazaramesh, will you ever learn?

Posted by: Troy McClure | Dec 2, 2004 9:25:12 AM

On the Israeli politics front, it seems to me like the logical successor to UTJ-Likud-Shinui would be a Likud-Shinui-Labor government rather than the Shas-UTJ-Likud-Labor government that we're apparently going to get -- there's obviously something I don't understand here.

It's largely about the split within Likud that has opened up over the disengagement plan, with about half of the party's Knesset slate supporting it, and the other half opposing it. Sharon wants to bring Labor on-board, and the withdrawal opponents in Likud are more dead-set against a coalition with Labor and Shinui than they are against a coalition with Labor and those two Orthodox parties (UTJ and Shas). Swapping Shinui for UTJ and Shas might be the way to split the difference and keep the Likud together, rather than going to new elections sooner instead of later.

Why is it that Likud and Labor have had the same leaders for like the last 30 years? Where's the new blood? Or are younger Israelis just not very interested in formal politics?

Some people have been wondering about that for a long time. Sharon and Peres are quite literally the last two members of the political generation that participated in the 1948 War of Independence--Peres in a highly-placed civilian role within the military, Sharon in the fighting around Jerusalem (where he was wounded badly and almost killed). The only two post-'48 people to serve as prime minister have been Netanyahu (he's 55 years old) and Barak (62). Neither of them had much success as PM.

But the old bastards seem to have a level of trust from the public built up from having been around since the beginning and having participated in literally every single war in Israel's history. Current polls show that Sharon and Peres are by far the most popular candidates their parties can field, in terms of winning the most Knesset seats. So, as long as nobody within their parties can challenge their stature, why not stick around? Sharon is 75, Peres is 81, as old as Bob Dole (!). But think about it--if Bob Dole consistently polled as the most popular leader of the Republican party, wouldn't he still be around in some capacity? If we didn't have the 22nd amendment, wouldn't Bill Clinton still be going strong as the leader of the Dems?


Posted by: Haggai | Dec 2, 2004 9:48:15 AM

On the Likud/Shinui/Labor thing, there's also a simpler point to be made: Shinui is not a "right-wing" party by anyone's definition in Israel. For Likud to be in a coalition with them and with Labor would be seen, certainly by the Likudniks themselves, as a right-wing party being almost a junior member in a coalition with two left-of-center parties. UTJ and Shas are essentially seen as right-wing parties, making it easier for Likud to live with them (though some of the ultra-Orthodox tend to be more "left" on government aid to the poor; Shas has been in previous coalitions with Labor).

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 2, 2004 10:08:35 AM

Arafat's death was bound to lead to changes. Here's hoping a real opportunity emerges.

And, while it isn't central to the discussion, I enjoyed Troy McClure's posting. The focus by a couple of folks above on the fact that the teen-agers Matt mentioned were stealing olives is nothing short of bizarre. My G-d, what will those crazy Jews do next? Dress their babies up in suicide belt costumes for a parade?

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Dec 2, 2004 10:27:34 AM

In that part of the world, olives are a key to the land. Here's a post I wrote on the subject last year.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich | Dec 2, 2004 11:17:09 AM

I think that you are placing too much significance to the olive stealing.

When I was in college, I stole about half a bushel of apples from the orchard next door.

This was a couple of girls out on a REALLY STUPID lark.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff | Dec 2, 2004 11:52:26 AM

Larry-

One crazy Joo did kill a PM and sometimes he posts comments on this site under the name Modern Crusader. Two Jewish girls who steal from Palestinians in the West Bank and want Sharon murdered, not too suprising.

Posted by: heh | Dec 2, 2004 12:20:54 PM

If you think this is about 'stealing', than you just don't understand what's going on there. See here: West Bank olive harvest clashes or here: Gush Shalom

It's not the kind of when I was in college, I stole about half a bushel of apples from the orchard next door stealing, this is a deliberate campaign of harassment and violence.

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 2, 2004 12:45:30 PM

Brian, heh, abb1 et al.,

Violence is one thing, harassment another. I realize these distinctions are sometimes difficult.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Dec 2, 2004 2:33:45 PM

When I was in college, I stole about half a bushel of apples from the orchard next door.

And as others have pointed out, this is more than somewhat irrelevant to the cultural and economic significance of olive groves in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

So, Haggai, who might be the next generation of Israeli political leaders?

Posted by: ahem | Dec 2, 2004 5:55:19 PM

Hard to say, ahem. Nobody thinks that the internal dynamics of Likud are pointing to anyone besides Netanyahu at this point, in terms of who Sharon's successor will be. There are others who want to get in the mix, like Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, but they probably face a steep climb within the Likud to unseat Netanyahu. Within Labor, Barak is now trying to make a comeback, and there are a few others who hope to rise as well, but no clear front-runners. The previous Labor PM candidate, Amram Mitzna, was popular with the party's primary voters, but couldn't build any support within the party's top echelons.

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 2, 2004 7:04:01 PM

Shas is now making noises that it's willing to negotiate with Palestinians in the post-Arafat era. It seems to me, though, that having Shas and UTJ in any governing coalition is an invitation to an endless series of demands for more bribes. They're also likely at any moment to stab you in the back, precisely when you're about to reach a historical compromise (see one Ehud Barak).

Methinks it smells.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin | Dec 2, 2004 7:31:37 PM

"Where's the new blood? Or are younger Israelis just not very interested in formal politics?"

The new blood were Netanyahu and Barak --- both were failures, so they went back to the youngest leaders of the founding generation Sharon and Peres (obviously, I didn't mean they were leaders during the founding, but that they are part of the founding generation).

Posted by: Joe | Dec 2, 2004 8:20:40 PM

"Shas is now making noises that it's willing to negotiate with Palestinians in the post-Arafat era."

Shas has always been somewhat moderate, more so than the Likud. They were in favor of Oslo during the Rabin era, and were, I believe, members of Barak's government. Shas's spiritual leader, Ovadia Yosef, has stated several times that while land is sacred, life is more sacred and that he favors land for peace.

Posted by: joe | Dec 2, 2004 8:22:33 PM

The object of stealing the olives is to destroy a Palestian family's livelihood so that they will have to choose between leaving and starving. This is ethnic cleansing at the most grassroots level. People do need to realize that the Israeli settler movement includes individuals who make Milosevich look like Gandhi. If Sharon, the man who most fostered the settler movement and the main beneficiary of Rabin's death, ends up being their next victim, it would be a sad irony, but an irony all the same.

And our idiot press still occasionally describes Rabin's killing was the work of an unbalanced crazy, rather than the political homicide it was.

Posted by: the exile | Dec 3, 2004 5:32:21 PM

"... individuals who make Milosevich look like Gandhi."

Yes, you know, the ones who are engaging in systematic atrocities that make Milosevich's program of widespread and intentional murder of civilians, starvation in camps -- forget about the leaving part -- and systematic rape look like... spinning yarn on a wheel.

The question that continues to perplex me is why otherwise rational and even liberal-minded people would actually believe it acceptable to promulgate such slander.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Dec 3, 2004 10:38:01 PM

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