Sunday, November 23, 2008

Here's everything you need to know about the Likud primaries, which are scheduled for December 8.

There are 98,000+ eligible voters. Each voter can choose ten candidates on the national list and one candidate from among those running in the region in which the voter is registered. (A candidate can either run for a national slot or a regional slot, not both.)

Positions 2 through 21 (following Netanyahu) on the Likud list for Knesset will be filled by the top 20 vote-getters in the primary. The exception is that the top women vote-getters are bumped up to slots 10 and 20, in the event that they did not earn better slots. The top olim and young people also get bumped up (but I don't recall to which slots). After that, the slots are distributed to the top vote-getters in each region and assorted exotica.

Before naming names, it is worthwhile to consider some tactical issues raised by the above-mentioned rules. First note that the fact that each voter chooses 10 national candidates, but 20 national candidates make the cut (before we get into the netherworld of slots 22 to 40). To appreciate the implications of this, imagine (for the sake of simplicity) that Likud voters consist of two camps: blue (60%) and orange (40%). Suppose that the blues and oranges each have a preferred list of 20 national candidates, with little overlap. If each voter could choose 20 candidates (rather than 10, as is actually the case), the blue camp could get all 20 of its candidates elected. However, when each voter can only choose 10 candidates, a lot depends on how each camp distributes its votes over its 20 preferred candidates. In the extreme case, where the blues distribute their votes uniformly, while the oranges all agree on their top 10, the oranges can take the top 10 slots. In less extreme cases (e.g. both camps distribute their votes normally), the oranges are at least assured of getting close to half their preferred candidates in, even if closer to the bottom of the top 20. Bibi (who thinks of himself as the head of the metaphorical blue camp) has belatedly wisened up to this and is trying to slide the size of the ballots up from 10 closer to 20.

A second tactical issue involves how a voter should distribute his votes. Any ballot with fewer than 10 names chosen is disqualified. Suppose you really care about five candidates and are indifferent about the rest. Your best tactic might be to vote for your five and then choose five hopeless candidates, since choosing five promising candidates might be to the detriment of those you care about. If you do so, you might as well choose women, olim and young people, since these slots are guaranteed, so you'd be getting the most bang for your buck.

Taking all this into account, who are the candidates to vote for? I won't mince words here.

Let's dispense with the Feiglin issue at the outset. Feiglin will do what is best for Manhigut Yehudit because he believes that what is good for MY is ultimately good for Israel. If you share that belief, vote for him. If you don't, don't vote for him.

As for the current crop of MKs, there are exactly four who have intelligence and integrity: Yuli Edelstein, Miki Eitan, Ruby Rivlin and Yuval Shteinitz. There might be others who are more strident in promoting views with which I agree, but we should all know by know that stridency is an unreliable barometer.

One note on this. Some of you are probably wondering why I prefer Miki Eitan (who voted for hitnatkut) to Gideon Saar (who voted against it). The answer is that both are candidates for the Justice Ministry and on all matters related to the justice system, ME is far more reliable than GS. (If you trust me on anything, trust me on this.)

With regard to the other current MKs, Gilad Erdan is okay, though a bit of an over-ambitious never-did-anything-but-politics type. The rest, forget about.

Of the newcomers, if Meridor gets in he will simply be the representative of Beinisch and Aharon Barak in the Knesset. He is a dangerous man. Bibi correctly understands that Meridor and the other lefty opportunist now jumping on the bandwagon (Dayan, Hefetz, Peled) will bring in a few extra seats from the center, but I believe he underestimates the damage they will do subsequently -- or, worse, he doesn't care. (Aside: Uzi Dayan is a good person with many good ideas. My beef with him is strictly on the issues.)

The exception is Bogie, who is terrific. (Benny Begin is a deranged super-mamlachti who will be manipulated by Meridor.)

Another newcomer is Yechiel Leiter, whom I'd like to like. He is dati, Anglo, educated and has real ideas. Unfortunately, in the manner of briefcase carriers basking in reflected glory, as Bibi's guy he has developed a certain arrogance that has rubbed many people the wrong way. If someone would like to come to his defense, I promise to copy the substance of any comments into the body of this post.

As for ex-MKs trying to return, Ayoub Kara is a courageous friend of the Jews, even if not a genius. Same for Michi Ratzon (who is, of course, Jewish).

If you're inclined to throw a vote to someone running for one of the oleh spots, the situation is as follows. One leading candidate is the kind of guy whom you'd cast as Gaydamak's henchman, another is a Kadima MK trying to hang on (sorry bub, no way), another is supported by Feiglin for personal reasons but is otherwise not qualified. This leaves Asia Entova and Ariel Bolshtein. Take your pick.

For the regionals, I'll only discuss my region (Yosh), where the candidates are Yossi Fuchs, an attorney from Neveh Daniel, who has done excellent work on behalf of the Gush Katif refugees and has brought many "Bagatzim" (always for good causes, though sometimes unwittingly and unwisely aiding the empowerment of the Court). The other is Boaz Haetzni, who is a wonderful writer with very strong right-wing views. My guess is that Yossi would be the more effective parliamentarian.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Last night's Likud convention was a rather civilized affair, as these things go. I'll tell you why. During three hours of speeches, the names of various suspicious characters now trying to piggyback on the Likud's rising fortunes -- Dan Meridor, Assaf Chefetz, Uzi Dayan, et al. -- were not mentioned even a single time. (I was paying careful attention.) If these names had been mentioned, the facade of unity and civility would have come crashing down.

Of course, the exception is Benny Begin, who was treated like royalty. He will come out right near the top in the primaries. Unfortunately, Begin Junior is a hopelessly uptight white guy whose exaggerated sense of propriety will be exploited by manipulative self-righteous pricks like Meridor. Buyer beware.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Most people who sound off on politics share the rather tedious habit of being mindless partisans. The interesting ones identify strongly with a point of view generally associated with some political camp, but still manage to call 'em as they see 'em. One such person is Camille Paglia, whose in-your-face raunchy style is not in the least off-putting (to me) because it is accompanied by total disrespect for the orthodoxies of her own camp as well as others.

For one outstanding example, her fisking of Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin's feminist anti-pornography crusade is priceless. (I couldn't find it online but her book Vamps and Tramps is worth getting just for the MacKinnon and Dworkin stuff. Warning: This stuff is not suitable for those who are, um, makpid on shemiras einayim and oznayim or would have their kids believe that they are.) This week she has a piece in Salon on Obama and Palin that is very much worth reading (especially the second page).

(Nudnik pre-emption: Yes, my definition of "tedious" and "partisan" in this context is equally applicable to right and left.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack Obama won't get a hundred days of grace from Iran, but he gets one day of grace from me.

Obama has the best qualities of good academics, but only a few of the flaws. He is thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, articulate, rarely flustered and meets arguments head-on. At the same time, he is grounded, a skilled manager and delegater and is never petty or vain.

In many ways, he and his rise to power represent all that is great about America.

His one flaw (sorry, even his day of grace doesn't justify ignoring the main point) is that he is beholden to a doctrinaire liberal philosophy that distorts reality, punishes the virtuous and undermines the ability of Western society to defend itself. But enough about that; unfortunately, I'll have four years to hammer that point home.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tony McPeak. Samantha Power. Richard Lugar.

To all my friends who are voting for Obama:

I have only one small request. When the day comes that you are ashamed to look me in the eye (and it will come soon), please don't insult my intelligence by telling me that you had no way of knowing. You knew. You had other priorities.