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1 Month to Elections: Israel Politics Update

December 20, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Dear friends,


Our Israel office reports that after so much recent political action and turnarounds in Israel, the last two weeks have seen a remarkably quiet period of the election campaign.


The deadline has now passed for parties to submit their lists, so internal position jockeying has ended; but national campaigns have not yet begun in earnest. The elections are now just over one month away, and the pace of campaigning will certainly pick up as of the beginning of January.


While there has been some considerable movement in polling numbers, the overall “blocks” remain the same. The right continues to poll around 65-68 seats, and the center-left around 40 - 42, plus a further 10 for Arab parties. These numbers have barely moved since the elections were announced. At least 61 seats are required to form a government.


What has changed, has been movement within these overall blocks.


The Right

On the right, Likud-Beitenu has been losing ground. In the current Knesset the two parties have 42 seats, but latest polls predict them winning just 35 (which is still considerably more than the next biggest party, Labor, on 19). In many ways, these numbers show the wisdom, from a Likud perspective, of Netanyahu joining his list with Yisrael Beteinu, even though this may translate into less seats. Had the agreement not been made, the current number of 35 would be split, with Likud appearing as just 25, representing a fairly small gap for Labor to close.


At the same time, Yisrael Beteinu’s leader, Avigdor Leiberman, quit his job as foreign minister when the DA’s office announced that they would indict him for a fairly minor corruption charge. Far more serious charges against Leiberman had been investigated for many years, but the DA decided, ultimately, to drop these. Leiberman remains party leader, and claims that he will “clear his name” in time to serve again in the new government. The most likely scenario is a plea bargain on a minor offence that will not preclude Leiberman from serving in public office.


The rising party on the right is the Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home), formerly known as the National Religious Party. Currently polling as the third largest party, it’s new young leader, Naftali Bennett (whose parents made aliyah from the US), has effectively tripled his party’s numbers.


Both major ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism look set to maintain their current numbers.


Two smaller right-wing parties currently as if they will just make it in to the new Knesset: The far-right Otzma Leyisrael as well as Am Shalem, led by former Shas MK Rabbi Chaim Amsalem. Am Shalem is positioning itself as a moderate ultra-Orthodox party that promotes a more liberal stance to issues such as conversion and encourages haredim to serve in the army and to work for a living.


The Center-Left

On the center-left, Yacimovich’s Labor Party continues to return solid numbers, despite the defection of her number 2, Amir Peretz, who joined Tzippi Livni’s “The Movement” party.


Both Livni’s new party and Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” are neck and neck, holding their ground in recent polls; as is the more left-leaning Meretz party.


The three Arab parties seem likely to maintain their current strength.


Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima (the party with the most seats in the outgoing Knesset) is unlikely to make it in to the new Knesset. Most of its members have joined other parties or left politics.


Latest Poll

Here are the most recent poll numbers: (from Israel Channel 2; 18 December, 2012)



Likud Beitenu                    35

Bayit Hayehudi                  12

Shas                                       11

UTJ                                         6

Am Shalem                         2

Otzma Leyisrael                2



Labor                                     19

Hatnua (Livni)                    10

Yesh Atid (Lapid)              9

Meretz                                 3


Arab Parties

Ra’am- Ta’al                       4

Hadash                                 4

Balad                                     3


A number of very good election resources are available at the following locations:,7340,L-10499,00.html



As always, we will keep you updated on all developments.


- Jerry


Jerry Silverman

President & CEO

The Jewish Federations of North America

JFNA Daily Media Report -- Dec. 19, 2012

December 20, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Israel & Mideast:


On the Israeli-Palestinian front, police charge a Palestinian teen who worked at a McDonald’s with the Tel Aviv bus bombing last month; PM Netanyahu says his government’s settlement building only continues a longtime government tradition; the UN chief urges the world to focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace quickly; and a noted Jerusalem Post reporter on Arab affairs says the Palestinians have launched their third intifada (uprising).


In Mideast issues, an Algemeiner report says the missiles that detonated in southern Lebanon this week were capable of holding chemical weapons. Meanwhile, on the Iran front, the U.S. backs new sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil revenue.


In Israeli political news, a new nationalist party could be the third-biggest winner in next month’s elections, a poll shows.




·         Ynet News -- ‘After bombing bus, terrorist went to work’,7340,L-4321930,00.html

·         Times of Israel -- ‘All Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem. We’re not going to change that,’ says Netanyahu

·         Times of Israel -- Ban Ki-moon slams ‘dangerous’ settlement plans, urges world to focus on Israeli-Palestinian conflict ‘before it is too late’

·         The Gatestone Institute (analysis, Khaled Abu Toameh) -- Palestinians: The Third Intifada Has Begun




·         Algemeiner -- Report: Destroyed Hezbollah Weapons Depot Held Missiles Capable of Being Equipped With Chemical Warheads




·         Jerusalem Post -- New US sanctions to trap more Iran oil revenue


Domestic Israeli Issues:


A new nationalist Israeli political party could be among the top winners in the Knesset after next month’s elections, a new survey shows.


·         Times of Israel -- Poll shows nationalist Jewish Home could be third largest party in Knesset


For more Israel news, see the weekly JFNA Israel news page:


For more security news, see JFNA’s Secure Community Network (SCN) news page:


Israel Advocacy:


A L.A. high school trains students in Israel advocacy; and the JCPA’s Martin Raffel looks at how rabbis and others can play a greater role in connecting young Jews to Israel – and helping create Israel advocates.


·         Jerusalem Post -- LA high school trains young Israel advocates

·         NY Jewish Week (op-ed, Martin Raffel) -- Rabbis Can Play A Pivotal Role On Israel


For Israel advocacy news, see the Israel Action Network’s website:




Globally, JTA reports how Jewish schools are responding to the massacre in Newtown, Ct.; a JTA piece looks at how Federations and others are digging into more data for more effective fundraising; the Times of Israel reports on a successful venture in Israel to use surplus restaurant food to feed the hungry; the Chronicle of Philanthropy scans nonprofits on the administration’s tax plan; Jewish environmental groups petition Congress; and Jewish environmental leaders discuss challenges and opportunities.


Locally, Federations are highlighted in L.A.; Metrowest, NJ; Northeast PA; Northern NJ; New York; and St. Louis.




·         JTA -- Jewish schools respond to Newtown with discussion and security additions

·         Times of Israel -- More data adds up to savvier fundraising for US Jewish groups (highlights Federation)

·         Times of Israel -- US immigrant keeps Israel’s food out of the trash

·         Chronicle of Philanthropy -- Nonprofits Split on Supporting Obama Tax Plan (highlights JFNA/Federation)

·         JTA -- Jewish environment coalition asks Congress to extend tax credit

·         Zeek -- A Green Gevalt: Nigel Savage and David Weisberg on the Hazon/Freedman merger and the Jewish environmental movement




·         The Weekender (northeastern PA) -- Matisyahu connects in intimate performance Review (highlights JFNA/Federation),242638

·         St. Louis Jewish Light -- Building Jewish leaders - one class at a time (highlights Federation)

·         LA Jewish Journal -- Schools amp up safety precautions following Sandy Hook tragedy (highlights Federation)

·         NJ Jewish News -- Family agencies get Sandy relief funding (highlights Federation)


JFNA Daily Media Report -- Dec. 18, 2012

December 19, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Israel & Mideast:


On the Israeli-Palestinian front, a majority of Israelis favor a two-state solution, a new poll shows; Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation stumbles, while the Jerusalem Post reports a major part of controversial new Jerusalem housing beyond the Green Line was not approved.


In Mideast issues, a defected Syrian military leader says the regime’s chemical weapons stockpile nears that of Israel’s nuclear arms; while an Iranian official denies Syria’s Assad will soon fall.


Meanwhile, Iran vows to continue uranium enrichment, and says sanctions are not making a major impact; Israel’s deputy PM says the U.S. remains ready to strike Iran; and the likely new U.S. defense secretary appears to be changing his position on Iran.




·         Jerusalem Post -- Poll: Majority of Israelis prefer two-state solution

·         Ynet News -- IDF, PA collaboration in West Bank faltering,7340,L-4321681,00.html

·         Jerusalem Post -- Major part of new Jewish community in east J’lem not approved




·         Times of Israel -- Assad’s chemical stockpile ‘has reached similar levels to Israel’s nuclear weapons,’ defected Syrian general says

·         Jerusalem Post -- Iranian minister denies Assad to fall




·         Times of Israel -- Defiant Iran vows to continue enrichment, dismisses sanctions as insignificant

·         Jerusalem Post -- Ya’alon: US poised for action on Iranian nukes

·         Times of Israel -- Likely new defense chief seen backpedaling on opposition to Iran strike


For more Israel news, see the weekly JFNA Israel news page:


For more security news, see JFNA’s Secure Community Network (SCN) news page:


Israel Advocacy:


In advocacy issues, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress may pass an anti-Israel resolution this week, JTA reports; and the American Jewish Committee will focus on Israel and global advocacy.


·         JTA -- BDS resolution against Israel could pass at ANC national conference

·         Forward -- AJC Turns Toward Israel, Global Advocacy


For Israel advocacy news, see the Israel Action Network’s website:


Connecticut Tragedy:


Several media outlets report on the story of the Jewish boy killed in the attack in Newtown, Ct., while the JCPA and others are seeking tighter gun control laws. See the JFNA statement on the tragedy here:


·         Forward -- Noah Pozner Recalled As Jewish Boy With Big

·         Algemeiner -- Noah Pozner’s Sister Handed President Obama a Picture of Her Mother Smiling

·         N.Y. Jewish Week/JTA -- Jewish Policy Umbrella Sees Major Shift In Priority Of Gun Control




Globally, Israeli President Shimon Peres urges national political action to address child poverty in Israel, in the wake of a new report on the issue; and the Chronicle of Philanthropy looks at the rise of e-philanthropy.


Locally, Federations are highlighted in Kansas City; Monmouth County, NJ; and New York City.




·         Jerusalem Post -- Peres calls for immediate action on child poverty

·         Chronicle of Philanthropy -- Year-End Online Gifts are Bigger, but Number of Donations Slows




·         N.J. Jewish News -- Agency comes through for area Sandy victims (highlights Federation)

·         K.C. Jewish Chronicle -- Memoir recalls Jewish Federation’s challenges and successes (highlights Federation)

N.Y. Jewish Week -- Sandy’s Émigré Toll on Staten Island (highlights Federation)

JFNA Daily Media Report -- Dec. 17, 2012

December 18, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Israel & Mideast:




Israel pushes ahead new apartment construction in East Jerusalem; West Bank Palestinians welcome Hamas; and a large majority of Palestinians say armed struggle is the best way to independence, a poll says. In Mideast news, the U.S. plans for the possibility that Syria’s Assad could lose control of chemical weapons.


·         Jerusalem Post -- Ministry to advance approvals of 6,500 housing units in East J’lem

·         Christian Science Monitor -- West Bank welcomes Hamas back, with excitement – and apprehension

·         Times of Israel -- 88 percent of Palestinians believe armed struggle is the best way to achieve independence




·         Washington Post -- U.S. plans for possibility that Assad could lose control of chemical arms cache


For more Israel news, see the weekly JFNA Israel news page:


For more security news, see JFNA’s Secure Community Network (SCN) news page:


Israel Advocacy:


The head of a U.S. campus group looks at lessons from 2012; an Israeli social media effort re-launches, and another one backfires.


·         Jerusalem Post (op-ed, Stephen Kuperbeg) -- Learning 2012’s lessons for Israel on US campuses

·         Algemeiner -- ‘Friend a Soldier’ Connects IDF Troops With Internet Users Around the World

·         N.Y. Times -- Israeli Embassy Deletes ‘Christmas Thought’ Attacking Palestinians From Facebook


For Israel advocacy news, see the Israel Action Network’s website:


Connecticut Tragedy:


Several stories in the Jewish and Israeli press cover the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, while a Times of Israel piece compares gun laws in Israel and the U.S. Meanwhile, a day school principal speaks about the unspeakable. See the JFNA statement on the tragedy here:


·         Times of Israel -- Noah would have become a great man,’ uncle tells mourners in tearful service for shooting’s youngest victim

·         JTA -- Ahead of funeral for Newtown victim Noah Pozner, temple opens fund for family

·         Forward -- Jewish Community Consoles Rampage Victims

·         Times of Israel -- In Israel, unlike the US, a privilege - but no right - to bear arms

·         Ejewishphilanthropy (commentary, Shira Leibowitz) -- Speaking About The Unspeakable




Globally, a foundation director looks at the idea of organizational sabbaticals.


Locally, Federations are highlighted in San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, CA; Tampa, Orlando, Pinellas and Pasco Counties, FL; and Rockland County, NY.




·         Ejewishphilanthropy (commentary, Rachel Levin) -- Jim Joseph Sabbatical




·         Pasadena Star News -- Hanukkah finally gets a theme song, thanks to Maccabeats and Matisyahu (highlights Federation)

·         Heritage Florida Jewish News -- Top Jewish Federation alliance experiences Israel through the performing arts (highlights Federation)

·         Nanuet (NY) Patch -- Response to Sandy Hook Tragedy from the Jewish Federation of Rockland (highlights Federation)

JFNA Daily Media Report -- Dec. 12, 2012

December 13, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Israel & Mideast:


The Palestinian Authority is threatening Israel with International Criminal Court charges over plans for housing units in E1, while in Gaza, Palestinians are reportedly rebuilding smuggling tunnels destroyed during Operation Pillar of Defense. Israel’s foreign minister criticized European leaders for regarding “Israel’s destruction as a given,” and says Israel will withhold tax revenues from President Abbas' administration until March.


In the region, reports indicate that attacks by the Syrian regime have become more lethal, while more than 100 countries have recognized a Syrian National Coalition to support forces battling Assad. Senior EU and Iranian diplomats today discussed the timing and venue of possible new round of nuclear talks.




·         JPost -- PA to request ICC membership over Israeli settlements

·         Washington Post -- Israeli foreign minister: Many leaders would sacrifice Israel, ignore threats to Jewish state

·         Reuters – Israel to withhold Palestinian funds until March

·         YNet News -- Gaza's tunnels rebound from Israeli offensive,7340,L-4319001,00.html




·         YNet News – Report: Assad Firing Scuds at Rebel Forces,7340,L-4319199,00.html

·         Haaretz -- France: More than 100 countries back new Syria opposition coalition

·         Chicago Tribune -- World powers hope soon to agree new round of talks with Iran,0,3102056.story


For more Israel news, see the weekly JFNA Israel news page:


For more security news, see JFNA’s Secure Community Network (SCN) news page:


Israel Advocacy:


After a University of Sydney professor supporting the BDS movement boycotted an Israeli academic, the Australian Jewish community voices criticism. A professor associated with the BDS movement is tapped for a committee aimed at combating anti-Semitism in the California State University system.


·         Times of Israel -- Australian Jewry rebukes Sydney professor over Israel boycott

·         Algemeiner -- BDS-Linked Professor to Chair California University Anti-Semitism Task Force


For Israel advocacy news, see the Israel Action Network’s website:




Media continues to report on the growing coalition of charities, including JFNA, fighting to preserve charitable tax deductions. Federations intensify security training to resist cyber-attacks; Jewish Federation-supported NECHAMA continues to help Hurricane Sandy victims. The Baltimore Jewish News covers JFNA’s dismay at the Senate’s failure to ratify a UN disabilities treaty last week.


JFNA released a briefing on a new Jewish community Disability Inclusion Initiative today:


Locally, Federations are highlighted in Baltimore, Greater Pittsburgh and St. Louis.




·         NJ Jewish News -- Philanthropies oppose talk of limits on tax deductions

·         Jewish Community Voice -- Federations’ security arm ramps up cybersecurity

·         Baltimore Jewish Times – Missed Opportunity

·         Forward -- Little-Known Jewish Group Helps Sandy Victims




·         Sacramento Bee -- The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Announces $500,000 In Emergency Grants To Nonprofits In Israel

·         Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- Jewish social services agency has adapted and served for 75 years

·         St. Louis Jewish Light -- Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jewry made a difference