Netanyahu has lost steam in last week before elections


With less than 24 hours before Israeli elections, the latest polls only bring bad news for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although his victory is not in question.

Unless a political cataclysm occurs, Netanyahu will get the most votes Tuesday. But what polls announced Friday is perhaps not going to help when putting in place a stable coalition government in which his ‘mastery’ will be allowed to do and undo at will.

If polls are correct, his success will depend more on partners in the Executive, which, according to experts, could be formed by the extreme right and religious parties. The inclusion of center-left parties in the coalition becomes more palatable to the world, something that Netanyahu does not rule out.

The polls released on Friday agreed that the center-left block greatly shortened the distance with respect to the right. That is possible, in part, because the alliance led by Netanyahu has plummeted, to the point of losing up to 10 seats compared to its current strength in the Knesset parliament.

With about 15% undecided, the sum of the support that all the parties of the right and extreme right would receive is comparable to that projected for the left.

The difference is that the right in principle also counts on the votes of the ultra-orthodox formations, while it is highly unlikely that the left chooses to cooperate with the Arab parties, traditionally subjected to ostracism in the Knesset. So Netanyahu’s victory is not in doubt, but his strength and his coalition government are.

“The question is not whether I will win the elections, but whether there will be a stable direction behind the wheel. There are people here and there that say, ‘We also want to drive the wheel’, but when there are too many hands, the car could overturn, “Netanyahu said in an interview that the Maariv newspaper.

Analysts emphasize the political wallop posed to the Prime Minister this year, especially if you consider that it was Netanyahu himself who decided to call for early elections in January, with the aim of strengthening its comfortable majority and, so that once he consolidated his power, he could engage in complicated missions as a possible offensive against Iran or the extent of the challenge to the international community because of the construction in the settlements.

Proof of the Prime Minister’s anxiety is his unusual openness to the press. Netanyahu gives interviews these days to multiple local media. The idea is to stop the bleeding of votes and a desperate attempt to recover the migrated to the far right.

Netanyahu presumes that “there is a strong representation of settlers in the Likud”, his party, and anticipates that “the days when the bulldozers destroyed settlements are far behind.” Finally he warned voters that a vote splitting on the right could lead to the arrival of left leaning parties in government.

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection challenged by rival candidate and allied opposition


When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to call early elections, it was with the conviction that it would strengthen his majority in government and that such result would mean the beginning of a new term where he could do and undo at will. But, two weeks before the elections, the absolute reign of King Bibi is not so clear.

Ironically, his biggest threat now comes not from the left or the center parties as it traditionally happens in Israel. It is coming from the newborn extreme right, led by Naftali Bennett whose party’s numbers have gone through the roof.

A recent survey of Israeli radio ascribed to the Jewish Home, Bennett’s party, 18 seats out of a total of 120 of the Knesset. The same poll gave 35 spots to the electoral alliance led by Netanyahu’s Likud.

The Bennett phenomenon is however disturbing to Netanyahu for several reasons. Firstly, because his alliance lost seven seats compared to the outgoing Parliament. The votes of Bennett, a banking software mogul who has spent seven years in politics, is supported by disenchanted voters from Netanyahu’s party.

The election to be held in two weeks will not be important just because of the number of votes each candidate will get, but also because the winning candidate will need to be strong enough to form a government.

No major party has been able to obtain an absolute majority in the history of Israel, so they’ve had to form broad coalitions and these elections will not be an exception. The good news for Netanyahu’s Likud is that the Jewish House are almost natural ideological allies. The bad news is that Bennett and the prime minister publicly profess enmity.

In this context, Netanyahu has turned his speech even more to the right, taking his discourse to the streets in search of votes. On Sunday he was seen at a nightclub in Tel Aviv, in jeans, in front of the DJ, aware that many of the new voters are young Jewish people with ages under 30.

In the large colony of Ariel Netanyahu told settlers that large global threats are Iran and Syrian chemical weapons, not settlements. Half a million Israelis live in settlements in the Palestinian territories, which are considered illegal by the international community. Despite the firm stance against the construction of more illegal settlements, the current Prime Minister has promised to build even more.

Bennett is the only candidate who opposes even lip service to the creation of a Palestinian state. He also defends the annexation of much of the West Bank and some autonomy or dependence of Jordan for the rest. “I am against a Palestinian state,” Bennett said Tuesday during a foreign policy debate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “If they have a state, the door will be opened to Palestinian refugees across the Arab world,” said Bennett.

His public speeches, which often ignore the Palestinian issue and focus on the socio-economic problems of the country, entice many Israelis who take for granted that there will be a peace agreement in the future and prefer to focus on domestic issues. A poll that the Times of Israel released Tuesday indicates that relations with the Palestinians is a priority for only 16% of the Israelis.

But regardless of their political proposals, which really appeals to voters is the figure and the personality of Bennett, who until recently was the director general of the umbrella organization of the settlers. “He served in the most prestigious combat unit of the army while being a software millionaire.

In the larger picture, it seems that the once almighty Labour movement will get almost the same number of seats as the far-right Jewish Home. The other center-left formations would be well below that figure, but could form a bloc to overshadow Netanyahu’s candidacy.

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Israeli Offensive a distraction to postpone Election?


Several Likud ministers and leaders of the opposition Labour Party have raised the possibility of postponing the parliamentary elections of January 22 because the military offensive in Gaza. Note that they are turning the latest Israeli offensive into an excuse to not hold the scheduled elections. From outside Israel however, it is easy to see how this offensive was launched to postpone the election and keep as much of Likud’s influence in place for a later military offensive in the region.

“We have to consider the possibility of postponing the primaries to avoid jeopardizing the voters,” said Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, the Likud leader, according to a report published today by the newspaper “Yediot Aharonot”. How many times in history have governments created threats to further their agendas? How many times have they caused conflict to stay in power so that those agendas can be furthered without delay?

Although most media outlets which bother to do some analysis on the Israeli-Palestinian situation think this military offensive is all about the possibility that the United Nations recognizes Palestine as an observer member within that entity, Israel’s military offensive is just a tool to provoke Islamic radicalism to attack Israel so the so-called leaders of the Jewish people have an excuse to perpetuate their power for a longer period. That will enable them to solidify their footing so that they are able launch larger attacks on Israel’s neighbors.

Erdan had joined this weekend other members of government and members of Likud, the party headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a proposal that could also be supported by the Labour Party, led by Sheli Yajimovich.

A considerable part of officials and activists involved in the preparation of the Labor primaries have been enrolled within the quota of 75,000 reservists called Friday by the Israeli government in preparation to invade Gaza.

“There is no doubt that this is an extraordinary mobilization of key people in our ranks,” said Yajimovich, who asked to wait until they return from the border with Gaza. The problem say party leaders, the only ones that still need to have their primaries, is not only one of organization, but also of security, they say. How could we ask voters to go to the streets to vote amid rocket attacks from Gaza?” said Erdan. The Minister forgot that it was Israel who started the latest round of attacks by murdering one of the most influential leaders of Hamas. Israel also made inflamatory comments about how the country planned to bomb Gaza and murder Arab people and their leaders.

The inability to hold primaries would prevent the parties to submit lists of candidates to Parliament before December 6, as required by the electoral law, which would require delaying the elections on January 22. Isn’t this coincidentally convenient? What a better way to make sure the current murdering policy of the Israeli government is maintained than to postpone elections so that the same murderers who now occupy positions of power get to stay in office to prolong the Arab-Israeli conflict?

By the way, given recent criticism about our coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict, we’d like to clarify that when criticising Israel’s murderous campaigns against innocent Arab populations, we describe the actions of the Israeli leaders, not the Israeli people. As mentioned in several written in the last three years, the leaders of Israel do not represent the Jewish people, but their own interests to destabilize the Middle East region to balkanize the population even further as a way to justify the mass murder of both Jews and Arabs. So, there is not anti-Semitism here.

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Switching Focus from Iraq to Iran

Ray McGovern
Consortium News
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a blow to the neocons who had long dreamt of permanent military bases. But the neocons are now trying to spin the Iraq disaster into another excuse to confront Iran.

You might think that by now I would be so used to infuriating neocon drivel that, to preserve my own sanity, I would avoid looking at the Washington Post or at least its editorial pages.

I have tried. But it seems that after almost a half century in Washington, and particularly after the recent rash of “wars of choice,” it is simply not possible. One has to keep an eye on what bloody mischief the neocons are devising.

The Post’s lead editorial on Sunday is ostensibly about Iraq and blaming President Barack Obama if things get worse after U.S. troops leave in December. But these days Iran is the main concern of the neocons who infect that editorial page.

In the wake of Obama’s withdrawal announcement on Friday, the Post’s neocon editors are worried that:

“Mr. Obama’s decision to carry out a complete withdrawal [of troops from Iraq] sharply increases the risk that … Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will wither.”

The bugaboo of Iran is raised no less than six times in the five-paragraph editorial. One is prompted to ask an innocent question: Which country did the neocons think would profit if Saddam Hussein, Iran’s archrival, were removed and his army destroyed?

America’s neocons apparently hoped that Israel would be the beneficiary, with a U.S.-occupied Iraq serving as a land-based aircraft carrier for applying military pressure on neighboring Iran and Syria. But you don’t start a war on hope.

That Iran would almost surely benefit the most from the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a no-brainer. And that is precisely why, before the attack on Iraq, Israeli leaders were insisting “we do Iran first.”

But the U.S. neocons thought they knew better and that sequencing Iraq before Iran would be an easier sell with the American people. After all, they had already been trained to hate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein because of the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. In the early part of the last decade, Iran’s leaders were a much more amorphous target.

The neocons also thought the conquest of Iraq would be easy with American military might crushing not only the Iraqi military but the country’s will to fight. “Shock and awe” would pave the way to a “cakewalk.”

In 2003, the joke circulating in neocon-dominated Washington was whether the next U.S. target should be Iran or Syria with the punch-line: “Real men go to Tehran.”

Also, the neocons’ top allies in the Bush administration – Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – understood Bush’s personal animus toward Hussein. Bush once called Hussein “the guy that tried to kill my dad.” Cheney and Rumsfeld knew an open door when they saw one. Bush, an impressionable fundamentalist Christian-Zionist, was bereft of strategic understanding.

However, eight-plus years later – with nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers dead and about $1 trillion spent, with Iraq torn by sectarian and political violence and with the Iraqi government essentially ushering the U.S. forces out by refusing to extend immunity from Iraqi laws for any U.S. troops who would remain – the neocons must finally face the hard truth: their grandiose scheme was a flop.

Chicken Hawks

It is not only American soldiers who will be coming home from an immoral, illegal and ill-thought-out war. The chickens, too, are coming home to roost. And, without admitting they were really dumb, the neocon chicken hawks are inadvertently admitting soto voce, that they didn’t have a strategic clue.

And they still don’t. It is a safe bet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud associates are admonishing the neocons who still hold great sway in Official Washington: “See? We told you we should have done Iran first. But it’s not too late.

“Now we have another compelling reason to put the ‘military option’ on Iran right in the middle of the table — and, finally, exercise that option. Or you can go down in history as a bunch of wimps.”

The new compelling reason for war is that Iran’s influence in the region has zoomed in this zero-sum game between “evil” Tehran and the Tel Aviv-Washington “axis of good.” In the words of this Sunday’s Post, “Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage,” ironically, because of the disaster in Iraq.

So, there’s no time to waste. To warn still-gullible Americans about the dangers of Iran’s new strategic advantage, it’s imperative to enlist the neocons in the U.S. news media, those running the foreign policy shops for the leading Republican candidates, and the neocon holdovers inside the Obama administration.

Time, also, to revive the specter of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Let’s see if neocon favorite CIA Director David Petraeus can twist enough arms of his subordinates to reverse the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

Petraeus has always risen to the occasion when the neocons have wanted to accuse Iran of meddling in Iraq — evidence or no evidence. [See’s “Petraeus’s CIA Steers Obama on Policy.”]

Let’s have him issue warnings about the possibility that Iran will take potshots at U.S. troops as they leave.

And, oh yeah, let’s get him to provide the kind of “intelligence” that will turn a cockamamie plot about Iran supporting an assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador from admittedly “implausible” status to that of plausible — well, plausible enough for the neocons who dominate the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). [See’s “Petraeus’s CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot.”]

Chalabi Made Us Do It

Speaking of which: One of the Post’smost prominent neocon columnists, David Ignatius, sought out the neocons’ beloved charlatan Iraq War propagandist Ahmed Chalabi, whom Ignatius describes as “the most effective lobbyist in favor of the 2003 U.S. invasion.”

“You will not be surprised,” wrote Ignatius, “that Chalabi offered no apologies for a war that cost many thousands of American and Iraqi lives and more than a trillion dollars.  Quite the contrary, he lauded the United States for its role in overthrowing Saddam Hussein,” though he criticized the follow-through of the occupation.

Ignatius, too, raised the obligatory specter of Iran, asking Chalabi about reports that he has become “an overly enthusiastic supporter of Iran.” The slippery Chalabi replied that he favored good relations with Iran and “wanted Iraq and Iran to be ‘a meeting ground rather than a battle ground.’”

Is Ignatius, at this late stage in the U.S. history with Chalabi, not yet aware that he tends to play both ends … and then goes with the side that appears to be winning?

Ignatius wants us to believe that the mess in Iraq was pretty much all Chalabi’s fault, ignoring the painful reality that Chalabi could have accomplished zilch if not for the neocon-dominated FCM that eagerly promoted his self-serving lies.

Many of the Iraqi “walk-ins” who lied to U.S. intelligence and the FCM about Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD and alleged ties to al-Qaeda had been scripted beforehand by Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.

Knowing Chalabi (all too well), Ignatius says it should come as no surprise that Chalabi remains adamantly unapologetic for the war on Iraq. But why should Chalabi be subjected to any accountability when almost none of his willing collaborators in the press have been?

Chalabi may have been, as Ignatius claims, “the secret instigator of the Iraq war.” Even so, he would have accomplished little without a mountain of intentional gullibility at the Washington Post and other top U.S. news outlets, a pattern that continues to this day.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).