We asked our members, fellows, and alumni from all over the world to weigh in on the Israeli elections. Please feel free to add your responses and best visions for the future below.
Mike Blass, WIFA (Class 14), Israel
Now that the election campaign is over, and we know who will be the Prime Minister, it is a time to remind the new government that it will be the government of all the people who live in Israel. The leadership challenge of the Prime Minister will be to remind all the ministers that their new policies, as well as the policies of the government as a whole, should be guided by the principle of what is best for the people of Israel, and not how to pay back to specific sectors or voters in the Israeli society that voted for them.
To heal the wounds of the election campaign — specifically difficult after a campaign full of bad blood and accusations by all parties and candidates — it’s the Prime Minister’s responsibility to tell the Ministers to “change the disk” and now work for all sectors of the society. This is essential in order to build public trust in Government and a strong and just society.
Mike is chairman of a committee that will develop and recommend a new code of ethics for Israeli state officials. He also teaches “Ethics for Public Officials” and “Public Law” in the School for Public Policy in the Hebrew University. Previously, he was Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counseling in the Ministry of Justice. He received his LL.B. and LL.M. from Tel-Aviv University, and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mickey Bergman, WGFA (Class 16), Arlington, VA
1. Coalition Negotiations — Considering the composition of the new parliament it is likely that Prime Minister Netanyahu will keep tight control over foreign policy and security issues. In the last days of the campaign Netanyahu removed all ambiguity about his ideology with regards to these issues. It provided him a popular momentum that even he did not expect. The backing of the right wing block will provide Netanyahu the confidence and stability he needs for that.
This leaves Netanyahu with the socio-economic issues to offer compromises and deals to coalition members. In his last administration, Netanyahu ‘outsourced’ the Ministry of Finance to Yair Lapid. This allowed Netanyahu to distance himself from the economic shortcomings, and blame Lapid for those, during the campaign.
Netanyahu, is likely to do a repeat of this maneuver, this time with Moshe Kahlon.
2. Israeli Jews and Arabs — One of the most significant outcomes of these elections is the emergence of a united Arab list. This is not a unification of thought or ideology, rather an instinctual reaction to the increase to the threshold needed in order to enter the parliament (which threatened the traditional Arab parties). The united list created a momentum in the Israeli-Arab community that has not been there before. Instead of boycotting the elections, Arabs went to vote in similar rates to Jews, and in some places even greater rates. The Arab minority in Israel is about 20%. Mathematically, a united Arab list should have about 23-24 seats in Parliament. Well…they did not get that, but they are settling comfortably with 13 or 14 seats, as the 3rd largest party in the Knesset. While this doesn’t have much impact on government and power, it is symbolically very important. Israeli Jews are much more aware now of the significant power of this minority (for better or worse).
In addition, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appearance on Election Day, ‘warning’ Israelis that the Arab are “voting in huge numbers”, illustrates the danger in the fear of Israeli Jews of the significant Arab minority.
The above trends, combined with the consolidation of a right-wing electoral win, might lead to a wave of legislation trying to curve Arab political participation and risk some of the Democratic principles of the State, such as the “loyalty law” the “nationality law”, and the “Supreme Court bypass law.”
3. U.S. – Israeli Relations — It is not news that there is no love lost between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, not enough has been said about the deeper tear in U.S. – Israeli relations; a tear that goes deeper than the two Heads of States’ personalities. Two weeks ago Netanyahu broke U.S. protocol by the way he came to speak at Congress. Last week Netanyahu blamed the Obama Administration of funneling money through foundations in a concerted campaign to oust him. Three days ago Netanyahu publically stated his absolute rejection of Palestinian Statehood, a long-standing U.S. policy objective, previously accepted by Netanyahu himself.
These latest actions and statements, combined with the last six years of ongoing crises between the two governments have led to lasting imprints all through the diplomatic and civil servant ranks in both the Department of State and the Department of Defense. Associating Israeli leadership with arrogance and negative ‘chutzpah’ are a mild way of expressing the sentiments heard inside these departments. These are not political appointees. These are career diplomats and civil servants. The ramifications of these tears can be devastating to the special alliance, if not seriously and carefully addressed. It is difficult to see how the emerging new government can do that.
Mickey is Executive Director of the Global Alliances Program at the Aspen Institute and co-founder and president of Capsool, Inc. Mickey focuses primarily on fringe diplomacy, a discipline that explores the space just beyond the boundaries of states’ and governments’ capacity and authority in international relations. He also teaches at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Mickey can be reached at email@example.com.
Jamie Traeger-Muney, WHA (San Francisco 03), Modi’in, Israel
I’m feeling disheartened. We had been very hopeful that this election would reflect the dissatisfaction with the present government that our community of friends feel. In particular, with our son going into the army in a year, we were hopeful for a government that would seriously re-enter the peace process.
Jamie made aliyah and lives in Modi’in. When she lived in San Francisco she held a variety of volunteer positions with AIPAC, East Bay Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of the Greater East Bay. Jamie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carrie Harris, WHA (Wachtell/NY), Manhattan, NY
After this election, support for Israel is so much harder to explain to my stepson. He reacts to the terrible life of so many of the Palestinians in the West Bank, the control Israel exercises over their lives and now will react to the racism expressed by Bibi and his avowed rejection of a two-state solution. My stepson’s disillusion with Israel bleeds into rejection of Judaism. I’m distraught by this. Not Israel’s problem, I know; as American Jews, it is our problem.
Carrie is a lawyer specializing in zoning, land use and landmarks in NYC at GoldmanHarris LLC. She is also the Vice President of City Lore and was previously the President of Women in Housing & Finance. Carrie can be reached at email@example.com.
Jonathan Wornick, WHA (San Francisco 06), Lafayette, CA
My party in this race was always Israel. I don’t live there. Yet. So until then, I have supported every government that the Israeli people have elected since I understood what that meant. The Israeli people, those whose lives depend on it, voted for Likud. If anyone thinks that Bibi put a stop to the two-state solution they clearly haven’t been paying attention. The Palestinians have walked away from every reasonable, life-affirming, generous offer since 1947. Bibi didn’t personally kill the chance for a resolution of this problem. The lack of a willing and capable partner has always been the problem! Now let’s all show our love and support for the little, beleaguered, despised, boycotted Jewish state.
Jonathan Wornick is a wealth manager and private investor. He has held top leadership positions at several Jewish community institutions in the Bay Area and nationaly. He currently serves on AIPAC’s National Council and is AIPAC’s Northern California’s Campaign Chair. Jonathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Smorgon, WHA (San Francisco 08), Toorak, Australia
The elections in Israel and the opinions being espoused in the aftermath, highlight that security is still the number one issue. Netanyahu’s judgement to go to Congress or boldly state his attitudes towards Middle Eastern affairs was inspired — Likud party footprint in the Knesset grew in its own right, without forming a block with any other leaders or parties. One must also not discount that Netanyahu’s own economic strategies are appealing to a vast number of Israelis, despite the fact that most Israelis live in challenging financial situations. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if all Israelis rallied behind their leaders for four years until the next elections.
Tony, originally from San Francisco, now lives in Toorak, Australia. Tony is the Real Estate Development Director of a private family business specializing in Investments, Property and Philanthropy. Since 2011, Tony has performed a key role as the head of the steering committee in Australia in the formation and growth of a global Forum program, an initiative of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal. He also currently serves as the chairman of the Mount Scopus Foundation in Melbourne. Tony can be reached at email@example.com.