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The 'anti-Zionist' camp goes mainstream in Israeli elections

Both Netanyahu and Livni are leveraging their international influence for electoral gain: Netanyahu in Congress and Livni at the United Nations. And, will the real Zionist camp please stand up?

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress, May 24, 2011. (Photo by Avi Ohayun/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress, May 24, 2011. (Photo by Avi Ohayun/GPO)

Elections are almost always referendums on the incumbent, and an incumbent always has an advantage against any challengers. One of those advantages is the ability to demonstrate leadership and to exploit platforms unavailable to his or her challengers, i.e. speaking before a joint session of Congress.

Such advantages tend not to be fair, or even legal in some cases. In Israel, for instance, there are laws that prevent public servants from using their official platforms to campaign. The most famous case was during Ariel Sharon’s 2003 campaign when the Central Elections Committee instructed Israeli media to cut away from a live speech by the prime minister because it was political, they said. Prime time television news literally cut away from Sharon mid-sentence.

Seven years earlier, when then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was running against incumbent Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Netanyahu accused the latter, who was on a pre-election trip to the United States, of using the visit and his diplomatic ties for electoral gain.

“I can’t find an example of any previous Israeli government whose prime minister, on the eve of elections, made a cynical attempt to use relations between Israel and the United States as a party advertisement,” Netanyahu said at the time.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the tables are turned. This time, Netanyahu accepted an invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress just weeks before general elections in Israel. The criticism is two-fold. Firstly, that the Israeli prime minister is using the platform to augment the perception of his influence over the Republican party in Washington and to “move the Americans,” as he once described his ability to shape U.S. policy. Secondly, some are accusing Republican Speaker of the House Boehner of interfering in Israeli elections by giving him that stage — behind the back of the Obama administration, which claims it is staying out of internal Israeli politics.

But it turns out you don’t even need to be in office to flout international clout during election season, and White House support for an Israeli candidate doesn’t always come through official channels.

Just a few weeks after former Justice Minister and chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni was fired from her post and new elections were called, the White House’s favorite advocate of the peace process was given an indirect endorsement by a top administration official.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a closed — but expectedly porous — room full of ambassadors that he had consulted with Livni about the Palestinian UN Security Council resolution on the agenda at the time. Kerry said that Livni told him the UN resolution would strengthen Netanyahu, her political opponent — at least one reason why Washington and European states should oppose it.

There are a lot of smart people working in the State Department, and diplomats choose their words — and audiences — very carefully. There should be little doubt that by telling dozens of people about his private consultations with Livni, and by relaying what she felt could hurt her chances of toppling Netanyahu, that Secretary Kerry was indirectly endorsing her, or at the very least publicly implying the White House’s preference that Netanyahu not serve a fourth term.

But more importantly, Kerry’s leaked remarks allowed Livni to flout her own influence over the White House back home — a counter-balance of sorts to Netanyahu’s shoe-in with the Republican-controlled Congress.

In a party statement, Livni all but took credit for convincing the Western world to support Israel in the United Nations. “[Livni is] proud that she successfully protected Israel’s essential interests in the Security Council,” said a statement from Livni’s new joint election slate with the Labor party, ambitiously named “The Zionist Camp.”

‘The [anti?] Zionist Camp’

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Tzipi Livni’s “Hatnuah” party joined forces with the Labor party last month in an attempt to form a political bloc large enough to unseat Netanyahu. (There is talk of Yair Lapid joining the Livni-Labor bloc if Netanyahu joins together with Naftali Bennett.) The name of the new list, “The Zionist Camp,” is an attempt by the traditionally left-leaning Labor and two-state-principled “Hatnuah” to escape the “leftist” label, which has become a huge liability in Israeli politics in recent years.

The move to the center is likely to drive leftist voters to further-left parties like Meretz, which have a much less apologetic tone for the legacy of their politics. On the other side of the political map, however, it is coming under fire for appropriating the word “Zionist,” which in recent years has lost most of its traditional meaning. Instead it has become a catch-all term for blind patriotism, support for the right-wing politics that have perpetuated the occupation, and the supremacy of Jewish identity over a civic, more inclusive and egalitarian Israeli identity.

Ronen Shoval, a candidate for Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party went so far as to file an official complaint with the Central Elections Committee seeking to stop Livni and Labor from running under their chosen name, claiming it is misleading. They are not Zionists, he says.

It would be appropriate at this time to bring up a court case that involved Shoval two years ago when the hyper-nationalist organization he founded, Im Tirzu, which has also attempted to reclaim the word Zionist, sued for defamation after being called a fascist movement. They lost. The judge ruled that Im Tirzu does, in fact, bear similarities to fascist ideology.

Netanyahu joined the Zionist-bashing party on Thursday, putting out a video statement in which he quips that The Zionist Camp is actually the Anti-Zionist Camp. Why? “When a future member of the Knesset from the Labor list praises a Hezbollah agent, what more is there to say?”

Well, there’s quite a bit more to say, it turns out. From analyst Mitchell Plitnick:

Bibi is referring to testimony given by Zuhair Bahloul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is #17 on the joint Labor/Hatnuah list, dubbed “The Zionist Camp.” Bahloul is a well-known figure in Israel, a soccer and basketball broadcaster for Israel’s Channel 1. He is also known for his efforts in bringing Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel together to promote co-existence and equality, which has generally been the sum total of his political activity.

In this case, Bahloul was testifying on behalf of the family of a man who was convicted of aiding a Hezbollah plot to attack Shimon Peres in Turkey. The man, Milad Khatib, accepted a plea bargain and is serving a seven-year sentence. Bahloul’s testimony was offered in defense of Khatib’s family, not Milad himself…

In fact, Bahloul went out of his way to differentiate between Milad and the rest of his family: “When I heard what this young man did I was shocked,” he said, and he stressed that whatever made Milad “fall off the right path, it was not the family that brought him to this. It is not at all typical of this family.”

Related:
Ahead of close elections, Congress gives Bibi a prime-time appearance
Is the ICC running against Netanyahu in Israeli elections?
Israel’s elections: A referendum on Netanyahu

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    COMMENTS

    1. Brian

      This to me epitomizes the inveterate liar that Bibi is and the invidious divider of Jews and Arabs that Bibi is.

      Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        Brian, when you are not copying and pasting the opinion of others, it becomes evident that your mind is empty and has nothing to express except blurt out a few insults and in some cases some incoherent rants. Shouldn’t you be copying and pasting the opinions of others to cover your emptiness and incompetence, Brian, and let others debate the absent pundits you copy and paste instead of debating you and your own ideas?

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          I drive you nuts don’t I? Pretty soon you’ll be seeing three of me like poor Gussie.

          Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the inimitable Stav Schaffir. What an amazing young lady:

          http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.638670

          It’s comes with English subtitles, for you, American.

          Reply to Comment
          • Irit

            Schaffir’s dogged pursuit of fiscal transparency is fantastic. She is great!

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Right there, Brian, you provide another evidence that your mind is empty and has nothing to express except blurt out a few nonsense only Brian understands and/or start pasting links unconnected to the discussions. What has Stav Shaffir got to do with anything except that she and Ginger Eis, whom you are obsessed with and act strangely when she is around, are “gingerly”, you little sick chiwawa? Seriously, Brian, go find a job to support yourself and quite depending on food-stamps provided by the United States government with my tax dollars! I don’t like freeloaders who can work, but refuse to find a job and work and instead depend on taxpayers to pay for their living, while they themselves clinically fixate on- and obsess with Jews and Israel their entire empty life and know nothing/care not about their own countries.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Right there, Brian, you provide another evidence that your mind is empty and has nothing to express except blurt out a few nonsense only Brian understands and/or start pasting links unconnected to the discussions. What has Stav Shaffir got to do with anything except that she and Ginger Eis, whom you are obsessed with and act strangely when she is around, are “gingerly”, you little sick chiwawa? Seriously, Brian, go find a job to support yourself and quite depending on food-stamps provided by the United States government with my tax dollars! I don’t like freeloaders who can work, but refuse to find a job and work and instead depend on taxpayers to pay for their living, while they themselves clinically fixate on- and obsess with Jews and Israel their entire empty life and know nothing/care not about their own countries.

            (re-post; original still missing)

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            The irony, American punk, is that you are the one who seems unemployed and unemployable. I’m confident I pay far more in taxes each year than you earn.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            “I don’t like freeloaders who…depend on taxpayers to pay for their living”

            Oh no? Then you should love Schaffir’s emphasis on fiscal transparency, as Irit says, in doggedly following all the underhanded, illegal transfers of Israeli taxpayer money to the settlers and special interests. She should be your hero. This should be right up your alley, American. Unless, of course, you were a hypocrite.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Of course, Brian, when confronted with the fact that they are unemployed, not looking for a job and not working, while having taxpayers pay for their living, even though they can work, freeloaders usually blurt out: “I’m confident I pay far more in tax than you earn”. That’s pretty standard, Brian, and we understand. And of course, Brian, when others in the US are at work, you are compulsively fixating on- obsessing with and “researching” Jews and Israel on every blog and website dealing with Jews and Israel, copying and pasting the opinions of your favorite pundits here and parroting them. In fact, to quench your irrational thirst for Jew-news, you even pay for subscriptions for Israeli websites/newspapers with the money provided to you by the United States government to feed yourself, Brian, even though you have no subscription for websites/newspapers from your own country – the US – or any other country and don’t spend time on any US website ranting about the human rights situation in your own country and how to make your own country – the US – better. Why, Brian, why? Why are you obsessed with Jews and Israel, Brian? Tell us!

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Incredibly lame.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Of course, Brian, it is incredibly lame that you irrationally fixate on- and obsess with Jews and Israel, while not caring for what goes on in your own country. It is incredibly lame that you neither care about the tax distribution in your own country nor understand the tax policies of your own government, but instead you get emotional and agitated because of- and revolt and riot against the tax distribution in Israel and the tax policies of the Israeli government without facts on- and understanding of what you are revolting against. It is incredibly lame that you said on the other thread that “you have always imagined Ginger Eis” and on this thread provided the videoclip of Stav Shaffir – as you put it – “for your viewing pleasure”, not actually for what she said which is not new and has been said by many others before her in both Labor and Meretz parties. Tell us, Brian, how often do you whack it when “viewing” Stav Shaffire while “always imagining Ginger Eis”? You have a lot of issues, Brian. Go find a job, Brian. You need it now more than ever.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Lamer still. Are you a hormone-besotted teen? It feels like it. Whenever you get your head handed to you you ratchet up crudely offensive sexual talk about women and men. You see “sex” everywhere. You must be a teenager. Emotionally and intellectually that’s the impression you give. Honestly.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Running away from your own self and your own words as fast as you can, Brian, while ranting about “honestly”? Ok, Brian, lets talk “honesty”. FIRST point: you irrationally fixate on- and obsess with Jews and Israel, while not caring about what goes on in your own country. It is incredibly lame that you neither care about the tax law and tax distribution in your own country nor understand the tax policies of your own government, but you get emotional and agitated because of- and revolt and riot against the tax distribution in Israel and the tax policies of the Israeli government which have NOTHING to do with you – without facts or understanding what you are revolting against. Why, Brian, why? What exactly is wrong with you? Pls. “honestly” address that. After that we address the second point.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            No, let’s address the second point first and foremost: for me the pleasure in viewing the video–which is what one does with videos, one views them–is strictly sociopolitical and intellectual. For you, it is somehow sexual, simply because the MK happens to be female. How crudely sexist of you. MK Schaffir herself has importantly addressed squarely just this kind of political and social devaluing of women by men that you are doing right now.

            As for the second point, whatever it actually is in that congealed stew of Jews, taxes, and countries, I think you just can’t stand the whole idea of +972. And I am your proxy for that hatred. You wish that your favorite enterprises could exist in a hermetically sealed off time and space and nationality warp–“leave ‘us’ alone to do what ‘we’ want, it’s none of your business”–like the vast distances in time and space that sailing ships and camel caravans had to travel in the 14th Century. You can say that to you I’m an annoying outsider who doesn’t really know what’s going on, but Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man is no outsider.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            I am not at all surprised that “the second point” is very important to you even as you deny that it is not, while demanding that it be addressed first. ALL the “sexual comments” you have posted to Ginger Eis are on record on this site and if you continue deny, I will re-produce them here. You also said sexual stuff about Haneen Zoabi to muddy the waters about your sexual obsession with Ginger Eis, and if you deny I will re-post your comments here. You yourself provided the video of Stav Saffir yourself – and I quote you – “for your viewing pleasure” ! and you clumsy attempts to rationalize and play stupid is not even convincing. All of that has to stop: no more sexual comments to and obsession with Ginger Eis or anyone else on this site. I will consider this matter closed for now until you start relapsing.

            With regard to the “first point”, your gibberish rants does not even remotely address it. Try again!

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            You’re so full of it and everyone knows it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            And just weird, too. Ick.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            You, Brian, are a living proof that there is never a good explanation for irrational fixation on- and obsession with Jews and Israel. That explains why you have no defense – except blurting out short phrases like : “it is lame” and “you are full of it”. Don’t worry, Brian, I am tracking and watching you like the eagle on the treetop. like the American Sniper I lie in ambush watching and waiting.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            You’re so comical. And so full of it and everyone knows it. Outed now as a brazen liar. You did it to yourself. “Like the American Sniper I lie in ambush….” The very definition of the psychotic stalker. Go ahead. Make my day pal. The Stav Shaffir video seems to have really rattled you and you’ve done your usual nasty sexual twisting. Eeew. What a creep. Anything to distract–anything.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            “You’re so comical. And so full of it and everyone knows it.”

            Only your psychotic, schizophrenic mind “knows it”, Brian.

            “Outed now as a brazen liar.”

            You were “outed” as an anti-Semite for claiming that “Jewishness is as a kind of mafia, ruled by a code of omertà!” No one lied about you and you “outed” no one. Btw. that sentence is incomplete!

            “You did it to yourself.”

            This one is an expression you borrowed from Merav, and you can’t even use it to make a correct and complete English sentence? What a moron!

            “Like the American Sniper I lie in ambush….” watching and waiting. Indeed, Brian. Your hate-filled ilk are the type I like to encounter in the battlefield.

            “The Stav Shaffir video seems to have really rattled you and you’ve done your usual nasty sexual twisting”.

            Stav did not say anything new. She was repeating claims that have been made by OTHERS when she was still a kid. Everyone in Israel is familiar with that claim. But I understand that you had other things in mind for choosing that video clip. Keep whacking it while “viewing” Stav and “imagining Ginger Eis”. Just don’t pull it too hard, else you get hurt.

            “Eeew….”

            You borrowed that one from Ginger Eis and it makes you sound like a girl. You really have more issues than I thought. What a girly-man. Go find a job and quit obsessing with Jews and Israel, you little chiwawa.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            No. You lied. People know. As for the rest of the ramble: Q. E. D.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Somewhere you write “flout” (which means to break a law so others can see) when you mean “flaunt” (which means to make soimething very visible, but carries no suggestion of law-breaking).

      Reply to Comment
    3. Paul

      Bibi Is truly the anti-zionist.
      Zionism in its Bibi form is unsustainable.
      It would difficult to find a true character witness for Bibi the manipulator.He remains an anathema to The Jewish people. He should stay in Washington far away from Eretez Yisrael.

      Reply to Comment
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