Thursday, March 23, 2006

Finally, a referendum on disengagement – sort of

Opponents of last year’s Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank frequently remind us that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was actually part of Amram Mitzna’s platform in the previous Knesset election. Since Mitzna’s Labor Party was crushingly defeated by Ariel Sharon’s Likud, disengagement opponents like to portray that election as a referendum on the Gaza Disengagement in particular, and on further unilateral disengagements in general. As they see it, the Israeli electorate had the chance to vote in favor of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and resoundingly repudiated the idea.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that while unilateral withdrawal was indeed one of the issues presented in the 2003 campaign, there were a lot of other factors involved; and in fact, it is highly doubtful that this issue had any real importance to Labor’s defeat and the Likud’s victory.

Labor in 2003 was something of a basket case. It had never come to grips with the failure of the Oslo process to bring peace and security to Israel; it had never properly recovered from the political incompetence of Labor’s last Prime Minister, the hapless, clueless-yet-arrogant Ehud Barak; and its new leader was a relative unknown with no experience in national politics. Lacking convincing leadership and campaigning ineffectively, Labor managed its worst showing since Biblical times. The Likud – led by a grandfatherly Sharon who had finally found a government job that didn’t require the administrative skills he never possessed – cruised to an easy win.

Of course, the 2003 election was hardly a referendum in favor of Disengagement, either. If anything, it was a referendum on the leadership and personality of Ariel Sharon – an ultra-pragmatic soldier/politician who had never been trusted by the ideological Right. While some Likud voters felt betrayed by Sharon’s eventual switch to a strategy of unilateral territorial withdrawal, the current pre-election polls indicate that an awful lot of the people who voted Likud in 2003 are planning to vote for Kadima – and, by implication, for further unilateral withdrawals – next Tuesday. Either these voters have all made a radical shift in their thinking over the last three years, or else they voted Likud last time for reasons unrelated to the idea of Disengagement.

This time, though, things are different. Ariel Sharon is out of the picture, and there is no figure in the current election with anything like his personal appeal. According to the latest survey, the three Prime Ministerial candidates stack up as follows:

 Ehud OlmertAmir PeretzBinyamin NetanyahuNobody
Viewed positively    26%    23%    22%   N/A
Viewed negatively    39%    43%    50%   N/A
Most suitable to be Prime Minister    26%    16%    20.5%   24%

While Ehud Olmert is slightly ahead of his competition, the differences aren’t all that dramatic; we’re clearly not dealing with a charisma-fest here. If Kadima indeed wins this election, it won’t be because of Ehud Olmert’s whopping 26% personal-popularity rating!

Further, this time there is no question that unilateralism – past and future – is the biggest issue being put to the voters. The Gaza Disengagement happened less than a year ago; its wounds are still fresh and the displaced are not yet resettled. And Kadima has stated clearly that while a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians (under circumstances that now seem wildly improbable any time in the near future) would be nice, a Kadima-led government would not wait long for the Palestinians to transform themselves into suitable negotiating partners. Since the negotiated alternative is obviously not going to happen, Ehud Olmert and his cohorts have made it obvious to all that a vote for Kadima is a vote for a major unilateral withdrawal from large parts of the West Bank within the next few years.

So this time around, it’s entirely reasonable to view the election as a referendum on disengagement. The only real question is how to interpret the results. Since Israeli elections involve lots of political parties, nobody actually “wins” here in the sense that we Americans are used to; a party that gains 30% of the vote is seen as having won a major victory. Further, not all Israeli political parties can be accurately categorized as pro- or anti-disengagement; several significant parties are rather wishy-washy on the subject, while others on the Left favor leaving the Territories but aren’t thrilled by the unilateral aspect of Sharon’s and Kadima’s disengagements.

I can think of three ways to evaluate the results of next week’s vote as a referendum on disengagement:

  1. Identify those votes that are definitely from hard-core proponents or opponents of disengagement, and ignore all others. I would count Kadima votes as the pro’s, and Likud and National Union / National Religious Party votes as the anti’s. This method should give reasonably accurate results, but it leaves out a huge number of voters – since the three parties chosen are predicted to win about 60 Knesset seats, representing 50% of the popular vote.

  2. Categorize all parties as either pro-disengagement, anti-disengagement, or irrelevant. This would include many more voters in the hypothetical referendum, but would add some significant uncertainties: for example, can we be sure that all voters for Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and United Torah Judaism would have voted “no” in a Disengagement referendum? Can we be sure that all Labor and Meretz voters would have voted “yes” despite these parties’ disapproval of unilateralism? How would Israeli Arabs have voted? (The latter group might have been more amenable to the first Disengagement, which got rid of all Israeli settlements and military bases inside the Gaza Strip, than they will be to future disengagements from parts of the West Bank, since the latter will leave Israeli “settlement blocs” in place.)  Lacking any definitive answer to such questions (although I suspect that the various political parties’ leaders know more about their voters’ preferences than I do), I suppose I would have to follow a simple right-left rule, assuming that Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Yisrael Beitenu represent “no” votes, and Labor, Meretz, and the Israeli Arab parties represent “yes” votes.

  3. For each political party, estimate the percentage of its voters who would vote “yes” and the percentage who would vote “no” in a disengagement referendum. In theory, this method could be more precise than the others; but lacking accurate polling data on the feelings of each party’s voters on the subject, I would worry that the answers we get from this method might be both precise and incorrect.

So by Method (1), if Kadima outpolls the NU/NRP plus the Likud, the disengagement has passed the not-quite-a-referendum test even if Kadima is unable to assemble an effective pro-disengagement coalition; by Method (2), an overall victory for Kadima and the various parties to its left would indicate public approval of disengagement even if many left-wing voters don’t actually like non-negotiated withdrawals. On the other hand, if the Likud plus the NU/NRP outpoll Kadima and the Right (as broadly defined) outpolls the Left/Center, we can safely say that the not-quite-a-referendum has rejected disengagement even if Kadima wins the election and sets up a coalition including Shas and/or Yisrael Beitenu.

Happy voting!

(This post can also be found at the Guns and Butter Blog.)

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A referendum on disengagement – sort of

I re-titled this post - and of course, Technorati remembered the old version, with the old link! here’s the new version!

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The new edition (#62) of Havel Havelim is up!

The new Havel Havelim #62 Jewish-Israeli blogging carnival is up at Batya’s me-ander blog. Batya’s done a great job of putting together Purim posts along with all the “normal” categories. Check it out!
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Sunday, March 19, 2006

ClichéWatch: “Hamas’ Landslide Victory”

In the weeks since Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian National Council, many commentators – including the Jerusalem Post’s Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz, in his column published last Friday – have referred to Hamas’ “landslide victory” in the elections. Like so many other little journalistic catch-phrases, this one has become a cliché: We repeat it and hear it unthinkingly, so it slips under our critical-thinking radar, depositing its memetic payload of assumptions and implications into our brains undetected.

If Hamas indeed won a landslide victory, then we are perfectly within our rights to assume that this election result demonstrates the Palestinian public’s enthusiastic approval of suicide bombings – since such attacks are a Hamas trademark, despite the fact that the group hasn’t actually carried out a suicide attack in about a year. A Hamas landslide implies that the Palestinians are uninterested in negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, since Hamas clearly isn’t ready to meet even the most minimal standards as a negotiating partner. And a Hamas landslide implies that the Palestinians, or at least a strong majority of them, approve of a fundamentalist Islamist government that will enforce dress codes, forbid consumption of alcohol, and otherwise turn the Palestinian territories into a small copy of Iran.

There’s one problem with all this: The Hamas landslide didn’t happen.

Hamas did win the election, which by all accounts was free and fair. But Hamas won only 44 percent of the popular vote, compared to 42 percent for Fatah. Because Hamas organized itself better – notably, it ran exactly as many candidates as it needed to, while Fatah often ran multiple slates which split the vote – its 44 percent of the vote translated into 56 percent of the PNC seats, while Fatah’s 42 percent of the vote resulted in only 34 percent of the PNC.

There is ample anecdotal evidence that many of the votes cast for Hamas were not really intended to give it a victory; voters chose Hamas in order to protest Fatah’s extensive record of corruption, incompetence, nepotism, and general failure to promote the interests of ordinary Palestinians. (Of course, lots of Palestinians who voted for Hamas actually wanted them to win – for essentially the same reasons.) Considering that this was the first genuinely contested Palestinian election, a degree of miscalculation isn’t all that surprising. The idea that the opposition could actually win an election may seem obvious to Israelis or Americans, but it’s a new, strange, foreign, exhilarating, and perhaps even frightening notion in the Arab world.

Now there’s nothing wrong with winning an election due to your opponent’s ineptitude; similarly, there’s nothing wrong with winning based on voter miscalculation. Hamas won fair and square; and now Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinian electorate, Israel, and the rest of the world must deal with the consequences. Good luck to us all!

The leaders of Hamas, whatever else we think of them, are no dummies. They are quite capable of reading the numbers, and they certainly can figure out the implications: Despite Hamas’ reputation for honesty and concern for the lives of ordinary Palestinians, despite Fatah’s abysmal record in office and utterly disorganized and fratricidal election campaign, despite the Palestinians’ inexperience in tactical voting, the popular vote was very nearly a tie. If Hamas intends to maintain Palestinian democracy and remain in power, it can’t afford to rely on another “landslide” like the last one.

The rest of the world should also be careful in interpreting the results of the Palestinian election. Given that both main parties were heavily involved in terrorism (or, in Palestinian political parlance, “resistance”, “martyrdom operations”, and the like), and given that neither side offered any real promise of a negotiated agreement with Israel that would grant the Palestinians what they have been taught to expect, a 44-percent-to-42-percent “landslide” is not sufficient evidence to support any conclusions about the Palestinian electorate’s readiness for peace or its support for terror attacks.

Personally, I’m quite pessimistic about the medium-term prospects for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, and I’ve pretty much given up on the short term – but not because of the “Hamas landslide” that wasn’t.

(This post can also be found at the Guns and Butter Blog.)

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kid Brother Writhes Again: Netanyahu’s failed coup attempt

Earlier this week, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu met secretly with Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel, Our Home”) party, and separately with Eli Yishai, chairman of Shas (“Sephardi Torah Guardians”). His goal? Nothing less than to steal the upcoming Israeli elections, which he appears to have despaired of winning the conventional way. Yishai and Lieberman, both of whom can perform simple arithmetic, listened politely (more or less) to Kid Brother’s proposal, thought for a millisecond or two, sent Bibi away empty-handed, then revealed all (or enough, anyway) to the press.

Bibi’s brilliant idea was to form such a firm alliance among the three parties (and presumably the combined National Union / National Religious Party as well) that after the election, he could be presented to Israeli President Moshe Katzav as the leader best able to form a governing coalition – even though the Likud is expected to be only the third-biggest party in the next Knesset. While there is no law against such a maneuver, it would be a complete violation of the tradition that the largest party in the new Knesset is invited to make the first attempt at forming a coalition.

According to current polls, the new Knesset is expected to look something like this:

National Union / National Religious (NU/NRP)10seats
Yisrael Beiteinu9-10seats
Arab parties8-9seats
United Torah Judaism (UTJ)6seats
So a right-wing coalition consisting of Likud, NU/NRP, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, and UTJ would control around 51 seats. According to Netanyahu’s logic, if the Right could improve these numbers a little, they could conceivably manage to get up to 61 seats – the minimum needed to form a government. Assuming (A) that the polls consistently underestimate support for the Right, and (B) that a substantial number of Kadima voters could be persuaded to switch allegiance to one of the right-wing parties, it would be possible to cobble together a right-wing government with Bibi as Prime Minister.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a little pre-election scheming and plotting; after all, if the parties didn’t prepare the ground before elections, it would take forever to set up governing coalitions afterwards. Further, Israeli voters are smart enough to adjust their votes based on how the various political parties are positioning themselves as potential coalition members. But unless the polls are far less accurate this time around than they’ve been before previous Knesset elections, Netanyahu’s scheme was bound to create a disaster – either for his own reputation as a political leader and strategist, or for Israel if he happened, by some dark miracle, to succeed.

Since we know how it turned out – Netanyahu got a lecture from his former subordinate Lieberman about “stress and panic” not being helpful to a politician trying to win a national election, while Eli Yishai told him, “Yeah, right – see you after the votes are counted” – it’s obvious that the affair was a disaster for Bibi. He was caught trying to subvert the Israeli electoral system, and (by implication) admitted that his rump Likud is headed for a resounding defeat. Worse, he looks like a fool, since his idea was an obvious non-starter from the beginning:

  • The scheme would work only if every party to the right of Kadima participated and refused to enter a Kadima-led coalition. The problem is that this broad, cooperative, united right-wing community is a figment of the far-Right’s imagination. Shas, for example, despises Netanyahu’s economic policies, as does United Torah Judaism – both represent Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”) constituencies that are undergoing considerable hardship due to Netanyahu’s slashing of government support for large families. Both Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu have expressed willingness for some form of territorial compromise with the Palestinians, and even more willingness to participate in a coalition government with Kadima. So while all the right-wing parties might be willing to join a coalition if the Likud actually won the election, only the NU/NRP can be relied upon to join a third-place Likud in trying to block the formation of a Kadima-led coalition.

  • While Netanyahu’s plan wasn’t actually illegal, it was enough of a departure from normal procedure that President Katzav would almost certainly have refused to go along with it, even if Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu had signed on.

  • Just when the Likud is struggling to maintain its position as a mainstream force in Israeli politics, Bibi’s scheme would have frightened away whatever moderate center-Right voters were still loyal to the party. By positioning the Likud only as the leader of a right-wing-to-ultra-right-wing coalition and not as a potential partner to Kadima, Netanyahu has made it very clear that a vote for Likud is, in essence, a vote for the National Union. Anyone who wants a moderate-right-wing voice in government but doesn’t want the NU extremists to run the show would be forced to vote for Shas or Yisrael Beitenu; others might bolt to Kadima and hope that Ehud Olmert veers to the right after the elections, or else just stay home and spend the Election Day holiday hiding under the covers.

If Netanyahu’s scheme had worked, Israel would have been in trouble indeed – quite apart from considerations of whether the Right’s policies are correct. Even under the most optimistic scenario (barring major miracles, at least) the coalition envisioned by Kid Brother would be barely large enough to govern. The departure of any one of Netanyahu’s four coalition partners would bring his government crashing down – and he would not have any way of cobbling together a new coalition, since there would be no “reserve parties” in the Knesset willing to join Bibi’s government. (This is in contrast to Ariel Sharon’s coalition with Labor, when Shinui was ready to re-enter the coalition or support the Disengagement from outside, or a possible Kadima-Labor-Shas coalition that could draw on Yisrael Beiteinu or Meretz at need.)

Netanyahu’s previous term as Prime Minister demonstrated that he is completely incapable of exercising effective leadership with a fractious coalition like this; every coalition party would have an effective veto on everything the government attempted to do, and Bibi does not have the force of personality to subdue the extortionists. If Bibi seems to be twisting in the wind now, it’s nothing compared to what his life would be like if his little scheme had worked!

(This post can also be found at the Guns and Butter Blog.)

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kid Brother Writhes Again: Netanyahu’s failed coup attempt (Version 0.0)

(This post has been replaced - the new version is here.)
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Monday, March 13, 2006

The Writing on the Wall department

According to today’s Jerusalem Post, a young man was arrested in Jerusalem for spray-painting “pro-Olmert” graffiti. Apparently he sprayed the message “Olmert will not divide Jerusalem” on a wall of the Malha shopping mall.

…All of which would be moderately interesting, if only because the people who spray-paint stuff on walls usually have rather more exciting (or, at least, rather more vivid) messages to convey; but there’s one thing about the story that I find truly strange: Who exactly decided that “Olmert will not divide Jerusalem” constitutes pro-Olmert graffiti?

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Are Israeli Arabs loyal to the Jewish State? Does it matter?

Ze’ev over at Israel Perspectives may finally be starting to come around – or maybe not; I’ll leave it to others to judge. His latest post, entitled “Are Israeli Arabs Loyal to the Jewish State?”, includes his recent thoughts on the subject, including his reactions to a recent poll of Israeli Arabs’ attitudes towards the Palestinian elections, Israel, and Zionism. It also includes some long comments from me, as well as Ze’ev’s friend “H” – who, unlike me, is an actual lefty. (Has anyone noticed that Ze’ev has some very strange friends for a self-professed right-winger?)

Rather than reproduce the whole discussion here, I’ll suffice with sending you, my loyal readers, to Ze’ev’s site. You are loyal, right? Ze’ev seems to think so: He refers at one point to “Don and his followers”! I never knew I had any followers, but it’s quite flattering to think that somewhere, scattered throughout blogspace, there is a loyal corps of Donistas mesmerized by my charismatic prose and willing to jump through hoops (or even, dare I say, off the top of tall buildings?) at my merest suggestion.

Thanks, Ze’ev – you’ve made my day!

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Firecrackers in Nazareth: Terrorism or “Prank”?

A few days ago, an Israeli couple and their adult daughter entered Nazareth’s Church of the Annunciation disguised as Christian pilgrims and proceeded to throw firecrackers. The three attackers were themselves set upon by a mob, and eventually had to be smuggled out dressed in police uniforms. More than two dozen police officers and protesters were injured in rioting after the incident.

The firecrackers as well as small gas tanks (presumably containing pressurized propane gas) were hidden in a baby carriage the couple wheeled into the church. Assuming that the gas tanks were full and the couple had planned some way of detonating them, it’s entirely possible that the incident could have caused serious injuries or deaths.

Haim and Violet Habibi, the couple that carried out the attack, are of mixed religion: Haim is Jewish and Violet is Christian. (Odelia, the daughter who accompanied them even though she opposed the planned attack, is the child of Haim’s previous marriage; I haven’t seen any clear report of her religious affiliation.) The family has a long history of involvement with Israeli child-welfare authorities: Violet Habibi has threatened at least once to kill her children, and the couple’s younger children have been removed from parental custody and placed in foster homes. The Habibis lived for a time under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction in Jericho, at one point traveled to Ramallah to petition Yasser Arafat for asylum, and later barricaded themselves inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and threatened to set off explosives (which turned out to be firecrackers); according to one report, Haim Habibi at some point attempted an attack on Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher as well. The Habibis and others familiar with their situation claim that the Nazareth attack was an attempt to call attention to their situation and obtain more favorable treatment from the Israeli government.

Despite accusations made by some Israeli-Arab Knesset members such as Mohammad Barakeh and Azmi Bishara, there is no evidence of any right-wing, nationalist, or racial motive for the attack on the Church of the Annunciation. Haim Habibi has a documented history of mental illness, and Violet Habibi sounds to me like someone who could use a little counseling as well. The couple’s statements after their rescue and arrest have consistently highlighted their economic and family difficulties, and they have repeatedly denied any racial or religious motive for the Nazareth attack.

And now, the Sixty-Four Shekel Question: Was the incident in Nazareth a terror attack?

Many voices in the Arab world have decried the Habibis’ attack on the Church of the Annunciation as a “Jewish terror attack” or an “Israeli terror attack”; these voices generally neglect to mention that one of the perpetrators was a non-Jew, and some have even cast all three as Jewish religious extremists. Defenders of Israel have dismissed the incident as the “random senseless act of a couple of malicious pranksters” (as opposed to terrorists who are trained, sponsored, equipped, and dispatched by terror groups) and complain that “the anti-Israel media is all over this as a ‘terrorist’ attack”. Now it’s clear enough that the Nazareth incident cannot be accurately labeled a “Jewish terror attack”, since its perpetrators were not all Jewish and appear not to have been religiously motivated. It’s equally clear that no terror organization was behind the incident. Does that mean it wasn’t a terror attack after all?

I’m afraid not. Terrorism is best defined as politically motivated violence against civilian targets – where “political” motivations often include ideology and religion, and the perpetrators are normally understood to be sub-state entities. In categorizing the Habibis’ attack on the Church of the Annunciation, we need to consider several points:

  • The attack was intended to influence the actions of the Israeli government, and thus had a political motive – even if the goal was only to change government policy regarding the couple’s own children.

  • The definition of terrorism doesn’t require that a terror attack be carried out or supported by a terrorist organization. This is important to remember, as the “leaderless resistance” phenomenon encourages individual terrorist action; in coming years, it’s entirely possible that an increasing number of terror attacks worldwide will be “organizationless” attacks.

  • There is no “sanity test” for terrorism. As long as the perpetrator of an attack has a political/ideological/religious motive, s/he can be as crazy as s/he likes. If there is a political motive, even an irrational one, the attack is not a “random senseless act” by a “prankster”.

  • There is no defined “minimum severity” threshold for terror attacks. Even assuming the church had been empty (which it wasn’t – it was packed with worshippers when the Habibis came in) the attack would have qualified: Property attacks, especially when the target has religious, economic, cultural, political, or symbolic significance, fall under the definition of terrorism.
Clearly, then, the Habibis’ attack on the Church of the Annunciation was a terror attack – albeit not a terribly successful one. But it certainly wasn’t a “Jewish terror attack”, and (considering that the government whose policies the Habibis wanted to change was our own) it was an “Israeli terror attack” only in the most tenuous sense.

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Hat tip: My research for this segment was considerably aided by this post at Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion. Erudite blogger Richard Bartholomew seems to be a little left-of-center for my taste – for example, he makes the rather dangerous mistake of thinking that the Guardian has anything useful to say about the Arab-Israeli conflict – but his posts are clear, thorough, well-written, and well-documented.

(This post can also be found at the Guns and Butter Blog.)

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Logic, Internet-style

As I related a week ago, I left a comment on Ze’ev’s Israel Perspectives blog regarding his post on the conflict between “democratic values” (as elucidated by Israel’s Supreme Court) and Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. After the dust had already mostly settled, someone added the following comment to Ze’ev’s post:

Radlauer and his ilk would lead us down the drain with Olmert & Kadima at the helm... Heaven help us!!! We cannot grant equality to the Arabs for they do not recognize Israel at all, they want to supplant Israel with their pseudo-"palestine". But Radlauer & his cohorts are too stupid to read the writing on the wall, and hopefully, will be the next - and ONLY - Jews to be disengaged!

The gentleman who posted these lines is, of course, correct about my political leanings; I admit that he has correctly discerned my personal qualities as well. However, I find the logic of his central non-Radlauer-related contention to be rather suspect:

  • Premise: Israeli Arabs do not like the State of Israel, and have political aspirations with which Israeli Jews, in general, do not agree.
  • Conclusion: Israeli Arabs must be punished for this disloyalty. In the context of Ze’ev’s post, this punishment can be assumed (conservatively) to consist of lower funding for their children’s education and other government-provided services than Israeli Jews receive.
At a bare minimum, it appears to me that we’re missing a middle premise here – since I see no obvious and necessary connection between the stated premise and the conclusion. What might such a middle premise look like? Here’s a suggestion:

  • Premise (suggested): Government services should be provided on the basis of some form of loyalty test (or perhaps based on simple race or ethnicity) rather than on the basis of equality before the law (adjusted as necessary for actual need).
Now, if we accept this premise, Ze’ev’s – and this comment-writer’s – contention is correct, and Israeli Arabs (at least collectively) would in fact deserve a lower level of government services, despite the fact that they pay the same taxes as Israeli Jews. Were this premise to become part of Israeli law, even Stupid Radlauer (along, no doubt, with his cohorts) would read the writing on the wall – and Stupid Radlauer, with or without his cohorts, would be on the first plane out of here.

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I wouldn’t normally waste time refuting some miscellaneous Internet forum post; I suspect (or at least hope) that few people take the medium all that seriously, and this comment is actually far less incoherent than some. But this particular bit of illogic, with its missing and highly questionable middle premise, is amazingly common in Israeli politics. (It’s probably just as common everywhere else, but I happen to live here.) I can’t remember how many times I’ve read comments from the Israeli Right (including some by very reputable columnists who are actually paid for their opinions) that basically boil down to the same thing:

  • The Arabs don’t like us…

  • (insert questionable middle premise here)

  • …and therefore we can’t leave the Gaza Strip / we can’t get out of Lebanon / we can’t fund Israeli Arab schools equitably / we need to hold on to every silly settlement in the West Bank / or whatever.
This kind of illogic is particularly dangerous because it effectively removes reasonable consideration of our national interest from Israeli political discourse. Instead of logically discussing what’s best for the State of Israel – taking account of the hostility of our neighbors where appropriate, of course – we use the hostility of “The Arabs” and the missing-and-thus-unchallengeable middle premise as a way of aborting thought and forcing the desired (usually right-wing) conclusion.

*          *          *

On the other hand, I suppose this type of logic does have its advantages:

  • The Arabs don’t like me.

  • The right-wingers don’t like me.

  • Therefore, I must go eat some pizza.
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