Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Likud Ballot Box: Bungling, Betrayal--and a new Ballgame

By Tuvia Brodie

On Sunday, November 25, 2012, Likud voters across Israel went to the polls to participate in a process to determine who would run on the Likud ticket in the upcoming January, 2013 national elections. The polls were scheduled to remain open until 9pm Sunday. But as voters reached their polling stations, many found that the computerized ballot machines didn’t work.
By late Sunday, the Likud elections committee announced that, because of complaints, they would offer additional voting the next day, November 26.    
Was that necessary? By the actual end of Sunday voting—which had been extended to accommodate complaints--some 51.6 per cent of Likud voters had voted. A call for an extra day of voting seemed strange because, in the last primary, less than 50 per cent had voted—and no one then had called for an extra day of voting.
What was the motive for another day’s vote?
Some Likud Nationalists grumbled—mostly to themselves--that an extra day was offered because Leftists in Likud grew frightened that Nationalists had captured too much of the vote; the computer issues were simply a pretext to help Likud Leftists more time to vote, to negate Nationalist election-day gains.
Were the computer problems pre-planned?
This looked like paranoid nonsense. Reality suggested that  it was problems with the computerized voting machines, not conspiracy, that prompted the extra day.
But then, a curious thing happened: while Likud polls did indeed open for a second day of voting, many poll stations in Judea-Samaria (considered a Nationalist stronghold) didn’t open at all.
Nationalists complained to the Central Election Committee. That Committee ruled that multiple stations in Judea-Samaria had to open. But as Israeli news reported, even though the Central Election Committee had issued the order for more polling stations on Monday morning, it was only later in the afternoon that the stations opened.
What was going on?
Likud political opponent Yair Lapid scored points for comic political commentary by declaring, “I looked at the Likud primaries: those people want to run a country?”
Our Jewish heritage teaches us about behaviour. We learn, for example, that we must not only avoid doing what is wrong, we must avoid the appearance of doing wrong (see Talmud Tractate Avodah Zarah, 12a).
Likud gives the appearance it is doing wrong. Remember, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has already given an appearance of wrongdoing in two previous primary battles with Moshe Feiglin. In one primary, he used arcane rules to drop Feiglin from the Likud candidate list. Then, in the last Likud primary, enough voter fraud occurred that voters never did learn how many votes Feiglin really received—20 per cent, 23 per cent or 30-plus per cent?
There may not have been wrongdoing in those primaries. But, there certainly appeared the impression of wrongdoing.
Now, computer and poll-place shenanigans raise more suggestion of wrongdoing.
Is there a pattern here? The tactics above focused on Moshe Feiglin. He seems to be the perennial target for Likud wrongdoing. His voter appeal threatens the anti-Nationalist power-makers in Likud. This primary reveals Feiglin gaining support, not losing it. He took a high 14th place in this week’s primary; dropping him again may not be pain-free.
For many Nationalists outside Likud, the incessant pressure against Feiglin is the reason he should leave Likud; clearly, the argument goes, Likud doesn’t want him.
It’s a good argument. But it’s the wrong solution.
Center-stage for Israel politics is not the Nationalist camp. That may sound cruel. But it’s true. Center-stage is Likud, Israel’s largest and most powerful political party.
If Nationalists want to lead Israel, they must lead from a stage that attracts more than just Nationalists. That means Likud; and if you have been paying attention, that also means Feiglin because his base stretches beyond the Nationalist core—perhaps more so than other Nationalists.
Nationalists might not like that. But leading Israel is not about being liked. It’s about leadership. It’s about leading people who don’t like you.
If there is one thing Moshe Feiglin learns in Likud, it’s how to deal with people who don’t like him. It’s a schooling most of us avoid. But it’s a schooling that, if it doesn’t destroy you, builds the strength you need to lead a nation.
You cannot go to that school by standing with your friends.  You do that the way Feiglin is doing it in Likud--the hard way.
The day after the primary, Nationalists dominated the Likud list. The voter message was clear. There is a new ballgame in town. Nationalists gain strength. Feiglin grows ever more prominent.
History teaches us that Likud wrongdoing could shift that list. Betrayal is possible. Feiglin is a target.
Netanyahu should be careful. The ballgame has changed. If he  betrays Likudniks too much, he could ‘cut off his nose despite his face’.
Is that a knife he’s holding?

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