November 27, 2012 -Political Upheaval in Israel- Protest Grow in Egypt Marc Schulman

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

November 27, 2012 -Political Upheaval in Israel- Protest Grow in Egypt

We returned to Israel at 4:00 a. m. this morning and have been met with a torrent of news of various types. Happily none of the news is violent. As the elections here approach the political worlds has been convulsed with many changes over the course of the past few days. It started with the sudden announcement by Ehud Barak that he was withdrawing from politics, and his party would not run in the elections. This announcement was a surprise, since polls taken after the recent Gaza war show Barak gaining support and passing the minimum numbers needed to be elected. Maybe Barak was anticipating the Likud list that was elected last night. That new Likud list elected Moshe Feiglin and failed to re-elect Benny Begin and Dan Meridor. Thus, the Likud is now dominated by a group of people who totally oppose a two state solution. Though much more troubling, this same group does not believe the Supreme Court has the right to interfere in the decisions of the Knesset. They have no understanding whatsoever of the fundamental workings of a real democracy. All of this comes on the heals of the merger of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu one month ago.

It is unclear how much all of the events above impacted Tzipi Livni''s announcement today that she was reentering politics and starting a new party. Livni’s rationale is the need to provide a clear alternative to the right wing party that is Likud. Her view is that the others who are heading the left center lists are not in a position to contend for the position of Prime Minister. The heads of the other parties (Labor and Yesh Atid) have both offered Livni the number 2 position in their parties-something Livni said she was not willing to do. What the effect of all this will be is very unclear. Clearly Livni will take some votes from both Lapid and Yachimovich- but Livni's claim is that she will also get votes from people who would not vote for either, and as a result she will increase the total center left vote. This is a very uncertain gamble. It's also possible this is not the final word; meaning that, at some point later in the campaign the various center left parties could find a way to merge.

Meanwhile, as I write this piece, hundred of thousands of people in Egypt are demonstrating in Tahrir Square and in other places against President Morsi and his recent decree to grab additional powers. It's not at all clear what the outcome will be. However, based on the tweets of Morsi's opponents they are going all out in their opposition to him. More interesting, as opposed to western media that seems to believe Morsi’s claim that his seizure of power is only temporary, the Egyptian opposition has learned not to believe a word he says. At this same time the killing continues in Syria. Though in Syria there is a clear sense that the rebels are gaining the upper hand. 

Back in Israel, Nochi Danker, the embattled head of the IDB group is being investigated for securities fraud. The Israeli Security Authority has asked him to post a 5-million shekel bond and give up his passport. The charge is a straightforward attempt to manipulate the price of groups stock in advance of a secondary offering. If true, the brazenness of his actions are breathtaking. 

Finally, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies issued a report today showing that Israel’s educated middle class is seeing their standard of living going down. The same report showed that in the past decade the enrollment in secular elementary schools in the country has gone up by 1% in Arab elementary schools by 30 % and Haredi schools by 52%. The same report shows that Israeli kids spend more time in school (not sure I believe that) than most other OECD countries, but learn the least.

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