Tag Archives: Tzipi Livni

A Golden Opportunity for Livni

By Niv Elis

It’s not clear why the Israeli left has shied away from putting economic arguments for peace front and center.  But the recent explosion of economically driven populist angst may change all that.

For nearly two weeks, Israeli citizens have protested en masse in the streets of Tel Aviv, building tent cities along its main drag, Rothschild Boulevard, and across the country.   Though popular disaffection with consumer prices, particularly housing, are at the heart of the the protests, growing economic inequality (persistent through strong general growth) and the neighboring protests of the Arab spring have fueled them.  Because the protests represent a significant challenge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his economic policies, they also provides an opportunity for the opposition leader, Tzipi Livni.

Sitting atop the largest party in the Knesset, which was thrust into the opposition after failing to cobble a coalition, Livni has watched in frustration as Netanyahu presided over the most stable Israeli government in decades, alongside political advocates for West Bank settlement expansion.  By linking the settlements with popular economic woes, Livni could establish her Kadima party with a strong platform, which it has lacked since the Gaza disengagment, its original raison d’etre.  And what a willing audience she would have!

To students demanding cheaper or free education, doctors demanding higher wages and young couples living at home and demanding steps to reduce housing prices, Livni can point out the incredible resources that have been consumed by settlements.  As Bernard Avishai pointed out in a TPM article, settlements cost Israel $20 billion, excluding security. The government has long provided incentives to reduce cost of living in the settlements—lower tax rates, subsidized mortgages, loan guarantees and extra community development funds.  Monies could easily be redirected toward increasing the supply of housing units within the Green Line, which would lower apartment prices dramatically.  (Pro-settlement councils are, of course, propose increased settlement construction to pull Israelis from the cities to their cheaper West Bank counterparts instead).

She could also make the case that such moves would help bolster peace talks, which themselves have economic consequences.  A peace agreement could increase tourism and decrease the defense spending that consumes a sixth of Israel’s budget.  With enough of an electoral boost from the left, Livni could reduce the unsustainable subsidies that keep ultra-Orthodox students in yeshivas instead of the workforce, much to the chagrin of university students who are not offered the same cushy perks.

The economics of the settlements have long been an underutilized rallying call for Israelis in the silent majority.  If Livni hopes to once again take the premiership, she would be wise to channel the public’s newfound economic ire toward a solution.

Israeli Elections Today–Who Would You Vote For?

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

Bibi Netanyahu

Bibi Netanyahu

Israel votes for a new leader today.

A super duper quick review:

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and his Likud party still lead in the most recent polls, but Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Kadima can catch him. Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor), who was running third for most of the race, has fallen into fourth behind nationalist Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu (whom we wrote about last week).

Because Netanyahu’s strongest campaign point has been a call for aggressive national defense, the emergence of the hawkish Lieberman threatens to take just enough votes to give the election to Livni.

ITM readers, we at Moment are curious: Who would you vote for in today’s election?

Bookmark and Share

Avigdor Lieberman: Israel’s Le Pen

By Jeremy Gillick

Two years ago, Ha’aretz correspondent Lily Galili profiled the right wing Israeli politician and founder of the Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel is our Home”) Party, Avigdor Lieberman, for Moment.

Having served as Transportation Minister under Ariel Sharon, and having subsequently been fired in 2004 for opposing the withdrawal from Gaza, Lieberman “re-emerged,” Galili wrote in early 2007, “as a strange hybrid of an Israeli version of Jean-Marie Le Pen (the infamous French extreme right-winger) and respectable statesman.” Indeed, it was recently revealed that Lieberman was at one point a member of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach Party, which was banned from Israeli elections in the late 1980s for inciting racism against Arabs.

Now, with Israeli elections just days away, Lieberman and his nationalist party are poised to make huge gains. Polls indicate that Yisrael Beitenu could win as many as 16 seats in Israel’s 120-member Knesset–potentially even more than Israel’s founding left-leaning Labor Party. And Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud Party is expected to beat out Kadima, the centrist one, has promised to give Lieberman a prominent post if he succeeds in forming a coalition. Continue reading

Of Politics and Water

Senior Editor Mandy Katz reports from Israel…

A water crisis notwithstanding, tourists are having fun up here in the Kineret, Israel’s name for the Sea of Galilee and its environs. While they might shake their heads at super-long “beaches” where the inland sea once lapped, and might fret over the much more worrisome possibility of pumps’ going dry, they don’t seem particularly concerned about the impending national elections.

Not all tourists here can vote, of course, as they’re a multinational lot. In the national parks, you do hear a lot of Hebrew, as in the verdant spring-fed pools of Tel Dan. The tamer “Gan Yardan” (or Jordan River Garden) park also centers on flowing water, but diverted into masonry channels and pools; around shaded picnic tables, sometimes set right in the shallow streams, multi-generational Arab clans with boomboxes fire up grills, cool watermelons in the water, and watch their children splash. Meanwhile, on sun-baked roads overlooking the Galilee’s depleted waters, German, French, Japanese and English are some of the languages coursing through tour bus microphones, as Christian pilgrims make the rounds of sites commemorating the multiplying of loaves and fishes, Christ’s visitation to Saint Peter and the Sermon on the Mount. Continue reading