This week, much of the Israeli blogosphere is in a tizzy over what the media lost no time in dubbing a “political earthquake”: Ariel Sharon has left the hawkish Likud party, which he helped found and has virtually defined for years; he has formed a new centrist political party that was briefly called National Responsibility. After a couple of days that name was rejected in favour of Kadima (Forward). Yup, there's already a Wikipedia entry about the new political party, even though it's less than one week old.
Quite a few prominent Likud members jumped ship to follow their leader, and some well-known Labour politicians have left, or are considering leaving, their party to join Kadima as well. The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted to disband the current government in the wake of Sharon’s move, and national elections have been scheduled for March 28.
So now we have Amir Peretz rejuvenating the until-recently moribund Labour Party (see last week’s roundup of reactions to Peretz’s election to chariman of Labour), a shattered and possibly permanently sidelined Likud party and a new centrist party led by Sharon. In two weeks, the domestic political landscape has changed completely. For journalists and politics junkies who happen to be bloggers, this is fabulous stuff. There’ll be tons and tons of material to talk and write about for – oh, weeks and blissful weeks.
But don’t worry if you’re not interested in politics – Israeli bloggers are writing about plenty of other stuff too and there’s a roundup of miscellaneous posts following the political roundup.
Reactions to the Sharon earthquake
Allison Kaplan Sommer of An Unsealed Room has written several insightful and frequently hilarious posts about the events of the past week. For hilarity, check out her interpretation of Ben-Gurion University President Avishay Braverman’s speech, in which he announced that he was joining the Labour party: “The very unsubtle subtext of the speech was, ‘Yuppie Ashkenazi White People! Fear Not from the Labor Party! I won't let Amir Peretz turn into Fidel Castro! We're Social Democrats like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair!’” More of Allison’s not-to-be-missed commentary is here, here and here.
Imshin of Not a Fish writes, “Sharon and Peretz are both nasty bastards, both sly, corrupt, cynical politicians. Is Peretz any nastier than Sharon? I doubt it. Love them or hate them, the thing is that both are people who get things done, make things happen. Who would have believed the Gaza disengagement would actually happen?”
Bert of Dutchblog Israel writes, “The most positive result of Sharon's decision to leave the party of which he was one of the main founders seems to be that in the coming elections Israeli voters will have two very clear options to choose from, at least as far as our presence in the territories is concerned.” But in the same post Bert also worries that Sharon, like Rabin, is a one-man show. Who will carry out his plans if the septuagenarian leader is incapacitated while in office? Read more of Bert’s incisive commentary here, and here.
Batya, who lives in the West Bank (many Israelis call this territory by the biblical names Judea and Samaria) and blogs at Shiloh Musings, has this to say about the Likud: “The ‘real Likud’ of pro-Land of Israel loyalty is dead. It is like a brain dead patient being kept alive by machinery. It's time to pull the plug.”
Shai of Shaister is currently on vacation in the USA, and while he’s mildly irritated at missing the current goings on he has plenty of pithy political analysis: “I see the Israeli political landscape dominated by a number of political blocs at the moment. Sharon’s new party will likely dominate the center, drawing moderate Likud voters and hawkish Labor voters. The new party will more than likely kill Shinui, since it occupies the same political space but lacks both Shinui’s anti-religious message and its odious leader (Tommy Lapid).” More political commentary from Shai here.
Harry of The View from Here took a break from his usual podcasts to write about politics, “It's mindblowing that the political landscape of a country can completely change within a week.”
There’s even a post about the upcoming elections over at the purportedly apolitical group blog Israelity: “The only aspect to look forward to actually, is the campaign commercials for the fringe parties like the taxi drivers’ party, the Green Leaf party for legalizing pot, and the sentimental favorite – the battered husbands’ party. Now that’s entertainment.”
Adrian of Expategghead writes, “If Moshe Feiglin wins [leadership of the Likud] I shall seriously think of seeking work abroad.” (that remark led to a lot of controversy in the comments, which is the main reason I include it here).
Don Radlauer of On the Contrary writes an open letter to Ariel Sharon with some rather interesting advice and commentary – such as: “There is no point in declaring that there will be no further unilateral withdrawals under a National Responsibility government; nobody will believe you even if you believe yourself, and your voters actually like the idea of unilateralism. Your voters want you to do what’s best for Israel, and if negotiating with the Palestinians won’t get us there, that’s the Palestinians’ problem.”
At the spiffily designed One Jerusalem group blog, there is a hilarious post that summarises the fun at one of Israel’s most popular (and totally irreverent) television satire shows, Eretz Nehederet (A Great Country). The show, which is broadcast Friday nights, had a field day this week with sly skits skewering Sharon and Israeli politics in general, and the post includes a link to video clips from the show (the clips are in Hebrew only, I’m afraid, but some of them are universal enough to be enjoyed even by non-Hebrew speakers).
One Jerusalem also posted a video clip of Amir Peretz making his first speech in English. The event, which took place at the opening of the new Rabin Centre, was broadcast on Israeli television news to general national hilarity. Peretz speaks great Hebrew; he speaks French and Arabic as well. He does not, however, seem to speak English. Go watch the speech, but make sure you’re not eating or drinking near your keyboard – otherwise there’s liable to be some spillage.
Dave of Israellycool also posts two photos, called “separated at birth,” that mutely – and hilariously – explain why Israeli voters who come from the former USSR might not be too enthusiastic about Amir Peretz.
A week ago Friday, David Bogner of Treppenwitz posted some photos and political commentary about the West Bank settlement of Efrat, where he lives. Bogner writes that none of Efrat’s land was stolen from Palestinians, and posts photos showing parts of his settlement that are still cultivated by Palestinians who live in the area. But the most interesting part of the post is the comments thread: Jewish readers from all across the political spectrum wrote to express their agreement or disagreement with David’s political views regarding Israel’s presence in the West Bank, and a long debate ensued. The comment thread is fascinating for two reasons: (1) it shows that a debate between people from opposing political camps can be conducted with civility; and (2) it is an excellent summary of viewpoints from Israel’s political left, center and right.
At Jewlicious there’s an amusing story about a carrier pigeon that flew from Israel to Lebanon. According to a Lebanese newspaper, the pigeon, which was found by a resident of Kfar Tabnit, was carrying a steamy love letter from an Israeli girl to her boyfriend. The Lebanese man who found the pigeon was less interested in the letter and more concerned that the bird might be carrying Avian flu, so he rushed it over to the local police. But it turns out that there’s a lot more – and less – to the story.
At my blog, I posted a translation of a letter by Nazir Majli, a Palestinian commentator on Israeli affairs for the London-based Al Sharq Al Aswat. The letter, which is addressed to Majli’s three sisters residing in a Jordanian refugee camp, is written in Hebrew and was published in an Israeli periodical. The article is called Enough With the Hatred. Excerpt: “Enough with the hatred, let’s let it go; because we don’t have much time left. We need every day, every hour and every minute we have left to find a change in direction. We want our children to think about their studies and about advancing themselves. We don’t want them to grow up without experiencing childhood. We want our children to hug computers and bicycles, not stones.”
Miscellaneous – non-political
Alli Magidsohn, the Tel Aviv-based editor of an English-language site called Jewsweek, has written an article on the Jewish blogosphere and its significance. She mentions and quotes several Israeli bloggers in the article – including moi (of course!).
Stephanie Freid of Stefanella’s Drive Thru has taken a no-politics-on-my-blog vow. Instead she writes lovely posts about her life in Tel Aviv. Recently she composed a list of fun things to do in the city that are either free or cheap. Sample suggestion: “Check out the Interior Ministry's gorgeous, young security guards at the entrance and upstairs. Modeling candidates, every last one. While inside, view the acrylic and oil paintings on the ground floor and the photo-essay exhibit on the 2nd. Are we feeling cultured after our moment of lechery?”
Finally, if you like to cook and are looking for inspiring recipes – or just enjoy looking at luscious photos of homemade cakes, cookies, soups and more, check out Chanit’s blog. It’s called My Mom’s Recipes and More and if you're not hungry now – you will be, after you check it out.