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Nov 4: Labor Strongmen going after Ehud Barak

972 magazine’s daily media roundup: an insiders’ attack on defense minister Ehud Barak; Pro-Netanyahu tabloid celebrating the Democratic defeat in the midterms

Ahabal (אהבל): Slang (org. Arabic) for a fool, an idiot.

It’s time to learn a new word: Ahabal. That’s the term union leader and Labor strongman Ofer Eini has chosen to describe his party boss, defense minister Ehud Barak. Eini was interviewed for channel 2, and when referring to Barak’s latest scandal – his wife’s hiring of an illegal immigrant – he said, in what became an instant iconic political moment:

“You are a minister. [How are] you bringing a [illegal] Philippine home? You need to be an Ahabal to do that.”

Last night, at the same time channel 2 was running promos for the Eini interview and the “Ahabal” sentence was revealed, other labor strongman, former defense minister Benyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer attacked Barak in a gathering of his supporters.

Together, Fuad and Eini control Labor. Just a year ago they were Barak’s allies, the ones that allowed Labor to enter the Netanyahu government. Their attack on the party leader – while uncoordinated, according to both – means only one thing: Barak has lost his party. “The end of Barak’s term in Labor,” declared Haartez’s top headline

Three of the four major tabloids made attack on Barak their front story, with Maariv calling it “Operation Ahabal”. Haaretz’s Yossi Verter explains that the attack on Barak won’t lead to Labor leaving the government for now, since both Eini and Fuad are searching for a party outsider to replace Labor’s leader.

Sweet Victory

Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu, Pro-Barak, Pro-government free tabloid, is the only paper not to refer to developments in Labor as the top story of the day. Instead, it has a one-word headline (“we were defeated” – in Hebrew it’s a single word), with a picture of Barack Obama.  PM Netanyahu is quoted on page 3 saying “we will continue working with Obama”. The paper’s top pundit Dan Margalit calls Obama “the president who diverted from the American way.”

More midterm headlines: Maariv: “The Defeat”. Yedioth Ahronoth: “Obama: I’m sad. I’ll teach myself to listen'”. Haaretz: “Obama: I’m to blame for the Democrats failure”. Haaretz’s Washington correspondent, Natasha Mozgovia, estimates that the midterms were “good for Netanyahu.”

Other stories

> In the north, a policeman shot and killed a taxi driver who tried to escape from him. The police are backing up the cop, who said the driver tried to run him over. A few months ago a policeman killed an Arab car thieve. Will this new incident renew the debate over the trigger happiness of Israel’s policemen?

> The word “traitor” was sprayed on the fence outside IDF prosecutor Major Generel Avichai Mendelblit’s home. According to army sources, Major General Mendelblit became the recent target of extreme right wing Jewish elements for his decision to press charges against a few soldiers for illegal conduct during operation Cast Lead.

> Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: “If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will immediately attack the Gulf states.” (Israel Hayom & nana10 news)

> PM Benjamin Netanyahu: “We want real peace. The Palestinians don’t.” (Israel Hayom).

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    1. Ben Israel

      The story about Barak reveals the whole, rotten party “primaries” system in Israel. It is an anti-democratic national scandal. These “primaries” are not meant to give the average Israeli who is a member of the party a say in who their leader will be. The vote is controlled by “vote contractors” who sign up members in the party who really don’t vote for the party in the general elections. For example, MERETZ, Kadima and Labor all have around 30% of their membership coming from the Arab sector. One Arab who voted for Barak in the last Labor Primaries said openly he would never vote for Labor because of the October 2000 events in which Arab rioters were killed by the police (Barak was Prime Minister at the time) but when asked why he was supporting Barak in the primaries he answered simply “they are paying me”.
      There is also massive ballot box stuffing. In almost every primaries, the loser points these things out, they threaten to appeal, but then they never do, probably because their own people also do the same things.
      Barak was never popular with the Labor voters. He was chosen by some clique of power barons who stuffed the ballot boxes for him, period.
      Israel will never be a real democracy until this system is eradicate.

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    2. Ben Israel

      I should also point out that it is important to understand that “party” partisan political life in Israel is dead. None of the big parties have any real base of dedicated supporters. When I made aliyah in the 1980’s I saw that there were legions of volunteers would work for the parties in the election campaigns, distributing pamphlets, putting party stickers on their cars or signs in their windows, getting out the vote, etc. That has all died. I saw NO stickers on cars in the last elections. This is because no one believes the big parties represent them anymore. They still may vote for them feeling there is no real choice, but the voter turnout has declined from around 85% some decades ago to 60%. Many people have dropped out saying that it doesn’t matter who you vote for. All the major parties have betrayed their promises (e.g. Sharon destroying Gush Katif, Labor and MERETZ promising to put Haredim in the IDF or adopting a “social agenda”-whatever that may mean) so they broke the bonds of loyalty they have with their voters.
      Take for example Barak. He lead the Labor from having 19 seats down to 13. In ANY other parliamentary system country, he would have been booted out then and there. But in Israel, no, this doesn’t happen. Why? Because the party doesn’t really count. Barak represents the interests of certain power barons who wanted him as Defense Minister, so they kept him in . The Labor Party activist base has no say. Don’t forget that popular British Prime Ministers Thatcher and Blair were kicked out BY THEIR OWN PARTY because the party base decided they had had enough of them. Unheard of in Israel.
      In Europe, parties have commmittees who check out potential candidates in order to prevent ideological Trojan Horses from entering the party and eithyer taking it over or destroying it from within. In Israel, such things are accepted…which is why Sharon could get 2/3 of the Likud Knesset Members to agree to destroy Gush Katif even though that went against everything the Likud ever stood for.

      I envy the Americans where grassroots movements like the Tea Party can organize and make a difference in the elections within a short time. In Israel, grassroots movements are unheard of and are viewed as subversive by the ruling clique. Israel has a long way to go improve its democracy.

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