Forward Thinking

What's Yair Lapid's Next Move?

By Nathan Jeffay

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Yair Lapid

What is Yair Lapid’s next move?

The man who shocked Israel with a stunning showing in the elections could try to establish a “blocking coalition” by uniting parties that want to stop Benjamin Netanyahu from forming the next government. Labor would definitely be game for that, as would Meretz, Hadash, the Arab parties and probably the Tzipi Livni party. But according to the exit polls, there would not be quite enough mandates to make this possible.

If he could convince the Haredi Shas party he could make it work, and such a move may appeal to Shas’ recently returned dovish leader Arye Deri. However, given that Yesh Atid is all guns blazing to draft Haredim to the army and Shas is dead against the draft, it’s difficult to imagine Shas cooperating with Lapid.

Lapid’s other hope is that exit polls may have underestimated Livni’s showing and Labors. If this is the case he could pull off the blocking coalition.

But even without a blocking coalition, Lapid’s victory is big news. If the figures are right Netanyahu could form a coalition It means that Netanyahu could leave the Haredi parties out in the cold and push through the Haredi draft. If he did this Lapid, who after all went in to politics to become a minister, could negotiate handsome portfolios for his party — I predict he will become Education Minister. The other coalition partners would be the Tzipi Livni Party and Jewish Home.

The difficulty with this option is that both Yesh Atid and the Tzipi Livni Party say they wouldn’t enter a government that won’t negotiate for a peace deal, while Jewish Home is totally opposed to a two-state solution. This raises the possibility that Netanyahu could substitute Jewish Home for Shas and resolve to advance negotiations. It’s hard to imagine given that much of his party is against a Palestinian state, but it’s a possibility nevertheless.

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Is Bibi Obsessed With Iran?

By Nathan Jeffay

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Everyone said that here in Israel we’d see an election that is all a about Iran, and today the largest opposition party started to set that agenda.

“Netanyahu is entangling us,” Kadima’s newly-revealed election slogan claims. The Hebrew word “entangling” has the strong connotation of endangerment.

Kadima’s claim is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party, lacks restraint and is prone to obsession on the issue of Iran. “Netanyahu is busy with only one thing — bombing Iran,” declared party leader Shaul Mofaz when presenting the slogan today. “Nothing else interests him. Not the middle class, not young couples, not society — only his uncontrollable urge to bomb Iran.”

Kadima is arguing in its campaign that Netanyahu’s lack of restraint on Iran is more problematic since Likud joined forces with the avowedly rightist Yisrael Beytenu party led by Avigdor Liberman last week. Mofaz claimed that “there is no responsibility and no logic, only one obsession.”

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France: The Dumbest Right-Wing in the World

By Robert Zaretsky

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Christian Vanneste

Charles de Gaulle famously observed that France had “la droite la plus bête au monde” [“the dumbest right-wing in the world”]. Events over the last couple of days reveal that the French Right continues to work hard for bragging rights to that dubious moniker.

At the start of the week Christian Vanneste, a deputy of the ruling UMP (Union for a Popular Movement), dismissed as a “legend” the deportation of homosexuals from occupied France. This was not the first time that Vanneste, who represents a district in northern France, proffered his views on homosexuality. In 2005, for example, he declared: “Homosexuality is a threat to the survival of humankind.” The difference, of course, is Vanneste was then holding forth as a moral philosopher, whereas he now pretends to speak as an historian.

Yet professional historians immediately gave the lie to Vanneste’s version of the “dark years” of the Occupation. Both the Foundation for the Memory of the Deportation, as well as the historian Mikael Bertrand, who published last year a scholarly work on gays under the Occupation, declared that the archives tell a very different story. The Nazis arrested and deported several dozen men accused of homosexuality from both Alsace-Lorraine (which had been annexed by Germany) and other regions during their occupation of France. In an interview, Bertrand added that since archival research continues, the numbers are not final.

The timing could not have been worse for the UMP. This week was to have been devoted to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s declaration that he was running for a second term of office. What had been, at worst, a non-event — Sarkozy started running for his second term the day after he won his first election—or at best a much-needed jolt for Sarkozy’s hopes — he trails by dramatic margins the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande — was suddenly overshadowed by Vanneste’s remarks. The party’s leader, Jean-François Copé (who happens to be Jewish), denounced Vanneste’s remarks, as did every other leading member of the party, including Sarkozy. Copé also announced that the party would not sponsor Vanneste in his re-election campaign for his seat in the National Assembly.

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