Tag Archives: Orthodox Jews

The Death Of Trayvon Martin Has Unleashed A Wave Of Demogoguery That Must Be Answered

By Allan Brownfeld

Trayvon Martin Protest 6 SC The Death of Trayvon Martin Has Unleashed A Wave of Demogoguery That Must Be Answered

ALEXANDRIA, VA — The death of Trayvon Martin is, of course, a devastating event for his family. That a 17-year-old boy returning from a visit to a nearby store for a snack should have his life taken is difficult to understand and accept. On many levels, the incident was, as President Obama has said, “tragic.”

Still, this event has provoked demagoguery that ignores the complex facts of the case itself and has provided an opportunity for provocateurs to proclaim that race relations in America are similar to those of the segregated Old South, as if the notable progress we have made in recent years had never happened.

The Deceptions
Consider some of the things we have heard.

* Jesse Jackson referred to the trial as “Old South Justice.” NAACP President Benjamin Jealous declared, “This will confirm for many that the only problem with the New South is it occupies the same time and space as the Old South.” He invoked the memory of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed in 1955 after supposedly whistling at a white woman “and whose murderers were acquitted.” An article in The Washington Post drew parallels between this case and that of Emmett Till, as well as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, and the 1933 case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine young black men accused of raping two white girls.

* “Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead because he and other black boys and men like him are seen not as a person but a problem,” the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnick, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, told a congregation once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

* In Sanford, Florida, the Rev. Valerie J. Houston drew shouts of support and outrage at Allen Chapel A.M.E. as she denounced, “the racism and the injustice that pollute the air in America. Lord, I thank you for sending Trayvon to reveal the injustice, God, that lives in Sanford.”

* One of those who organized demonstrations against the verdict and promoted the idea that our society is little better than it was in the years of segregation is the Rev. Al Sharpton, always ready to pour fuel on a fire, and now provided by MSNBC with a nationwide pulpit. How many today remember Sharpton’s history of stirring racial strife? In 1987, he created a media frenzy in the case of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who claimed she was raped by a group of white police officers. A grand jury found that Brawley had lied about the event in Wappingers Falls, New York, and the case was dropped. The event that Sharpton used to indict our society for widespread racism never happened.

* In 1991, Sharpton exacerbated tensions between blacks and Orthodox Jews in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. A three-day riot, fueled by Sharpton’s inflammatory statements, erupted when a Guyanese boy died after being struck by a car driven by a Jewish man. At the boy’s funeral, Sharpton complained …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Western Journalism

Israel set to approve another 1,000 W.Bank homes: NGO

Israeli authorities are expected on Wednesday to give the green light for the construction of 1,071 new homes in six West Bank settlements, watchdog Peace Now said in a statement on Tuesday.

The news came as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan at the start of a sixth round of intense diplomacy to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with Israel’s settlement building a key sticky point.

It also came as the European Union was due to publish on Friday guidelines barring member states from funding projects in Jewish settlements.

Peace Now said that a government committee was expected to grant initial approval for plans to build 339 homes at Galgal and Almog settlements in the Jordan valley, Kfar Adumim northeast of Jerusalem and at Kochav Yaacov and Shilo near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Another 732 units were to be given a more advanced level of approval, one stage before the start of construction, at the West Bank’s biggest settlement, Modiin Ilit, a community of 58,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews west of Ramallah, it said.

“These approvals are part of an unprecedented wave of advancing settlement plans,” Peace Now said. “This is yet another message by Israel to the US and the Palestinians that this government is not ready for peace.”

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Israel detains 5 women for prayer at Western Wall

Israeli police have detained five women while praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for performing religious rituals that ultra-Orthodox Jews say are reserved for men.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says about 120 woman arrived for their monthly prayer service Thursday and five were detained for wearing prayer shawls.

The arrests come a day after Israeli authorities proposed a compromise to diffuse tensions over their services by establishing a new section at the site where men and women can pray together.

The Western Wall, believed to be the only remaining part of the biblical Temple compound, is the holiest site where Jews can pray. It is currently divided into men’s and women’s sections. Orthodox rabbis, who control Israel‘s religious institutions, oppose mixed prayers.

The new proposal still needs government approval.

From: http://feeds.foxnews.com/~r/foxnews/world/~3/UqEA50GbHT8/

Israeli president handed lineup for government

Israel‘s prime minister has notified the country’s president that he has succeeded in forming a government.

Benjamin Netanyahu presented the lineup to President Shimon Peres on Saturday, a day after a coalition deal was signed ending weeks of deadlock.

Netanyahu says this is a decisive year for the economy, security and promoting peace.

The coalition will be sworn in Monday, two days before President Barack Obama visits.

Along with Netanyahu’s faction, the government comprises Yesh Atid, which has vowed to help Israel‘s middle class and end draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews; the Jewish Home party linked to the settlement movement; and Hatnua, which is committed to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

It is the first government in a decade without ultra-Orthodox parties.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

A look at the makeup of the new Israeli government

Four parties will make up the new Israeli coalition government, adding up to a 68-seat majority in the 120-seat parliament. It is the first Israeli government in decades not to include any ultra-Orthodox parties and includes some staunch secularists. On security matters, its members range from hard-line hawks to the center-left. Here is a look at their main policies:

— Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu (31 seats): Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish Likud Party teamed with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman‘s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu for the election but the two parties have not officially merged. Likud is known for taking a tough line toward the Palestinians and for its conservative economic policies. It also advocates strong international action — possibly including a last-resort military strike — against arch-enemy Iran‘s nuclear facilities. Netanyahu has grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, though his party traditionally claimed the West Bank and east Jerusalem for Israel. Yisrael Beitenu, which represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union, takes an even harder line toward the Palestinians. The party has a more secular following and rejects the sweeping draft exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jews. Lieberman has been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust and currently cannot serve in the new government, though the Foreign Ministry is being held open for him until the conclusion of his trial — assuming he is cleared. Likud’s Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief, is slated to be the new defense minister.

Yesh Atid (19 seats): Founded just a year ago by former TV personality Yair Lapid, the party represents secular, middle-class interests and surged to become the second-largest bloc in parliament. It has vowed to enact a universal military draft, ending exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, and wants to cut the stipends they receive from the state. The party also advocates spending less money on Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. Lapid has vowed to make a serious effort to reach peace. Yet his campaign made little mention of security issues, focusing heavily on a social and economic agenda that favors investment in education and other issues important to the middle class. Lapid is slated to become the finance minister, a position with great influence over the budget. His party will also control the Education Ministry and three other minor portfolios.

Jewish Home (12 seats): Although its core constituency is modern Orthodox Jews, the party surged in the polls on the back of a strong pro-settlement message and the appeal of its charismatic leader, high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, to secularists as well. Bennett is allied with Lapid on most domestic issues, but the two differ sharply over peace efforts and settlement building. A former leader of the West Bank settlement …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Suspect in New York hit-and-run that left couple, baby dead to return from Pennsylvania

A man arrested in Pennsylvania in connection with a gruesome car crash that killed a pregnant woman and her husband on their way to a hospital waived extradition Thursday and will be taken back to New York.

Julio Acevedo, 44, surrendered to police in the parking lot of a Bethlehem convenience store on Wednesday and was later ordered held without bail overnight in Lehigh County Prison on a charge of being a fugitive.

Police in New York say Acevedo is wanted on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He is accused of speeding down a Brooklyn street at 60 mph early Sunday and crashing into a car carrying Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21, who died Sunday. Their premature son, delivered by cesarean section, died Monday.

Acevedo told Judge Kelly Banach he had finished the 11th grade, was unemployed and that he lives in Brooklyn with his mother. He wore an orange jump suit and was shackled at the ankles and wrists.

His surrender Wednesday evening was brokered by a friend who had been in touch with police earlier in the day. The friend met officers at New York‘s Grand Central Terminal and then led them to Acevedo in Bethlehem, about 80 miles away, police said. The friend had told police that Acevedo would surrender after consulting an attorney, but none was with him when he turned himself in, police said.

Acevedo told the Daily News that he was fleeing a gunman who was trying to shoot at him when his borrowed BMW slammed into a hired car carrying the couple. He told the newspaper he fled because he was worried he’d be killed. But police said there were no reports of shots fired in the area at the time of the wreck.

The couple belonged to a close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, which is home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000. They were members of the Satmar Hasidic sect. The couple’s son was buried Monday near his parents’ graves, according to a spokesman for the community. About a thousand community members turned out for the young couple’s funeral a day earlier.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

Suspect arrested in New York City crash that killed expectant parents, baby

A man wanted for a hit-and-run crash in New York City that killed a pregnant woman and her husband was arrested Wednesday, authorities said.

New York City police said they arrested the suspected driver Julio Acevedo at a mini-mart in Bethlehem, Pa.

Acevedo allegedly was speeding down a Brooklyn street in a BMW at 60 mph early Sunday when he collided with a car carrying Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21. They died Sunday, and their premature son died Monday.

It was not immediatedly known if the 44-year-old Acevedo had a lawyer.

Acevedo was arrested last month on a charge of driving while under the influence, and that case is pending. He served about a decade in prison in the 1990s for manslaughter.

No one answered the door at Acevedo’s last known address, in a public housing complex in Brooklyn. Neighbors said his mother lived in the same building, but she did not answer her door.

The Glauber’s close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was in mourning, only worsened following the baby’s death. He weighed only about 4 pounds when he was delivered, neighbors and friends said. He died of extreme prematurity, according to the city medical examiner’s office.

The infant was buried Monday near the fresh graves of his parents, according to Isaac Abraham, a spokesman for the Hasidic Jewish community. About a thousand community members turned out for the young couple’s funeral a day earlier.

“The mood in the neighborhood is very heavy,” said Oscar Sabel, a retired printer who lives near the scene of the accident. “We all hoped the baby would survive.”

Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000. The couple wed last year in a marriage arranged through a matchmaker and were living in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

They were members of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose men dress in dark coats and hats, wear long beards like their Eastern European ancestors and have limited dealings with the outside world. Raizy Glauber grew up in a prominent rabbinical family. Her husband was studying at a rabbinical college; his family founded a line of clothing for Orthodox Jews.

Sabel, dressed in the traditional long black coat of the Satmar, said it was a terrible tragedy.

“But it’s what God wants,” he said. “Maybe the baby’s death, and his parents’, is not for nothing; God doesn’t have to give us answers.”

Shortly after midnight Sunday, Raizy Glauber, who was seven months pregnant, wasn’t feeling well, so the couple decided to go to the hospital, said Sara Glauber, Nachman Glauber‘s cousin. They called a livery cab, a hired car that is arranged via telephone, not hailed off the street like a yellow cab.

The livery cab had a stop sign, but it’s not clear if the driver stopped. Police said the crash with the BMW reduced the cab to a crumpled heap, and Raizy Glauber was thrown from the wreck. The engine ended up in the back seat, Abraham said.

Police said the driver of the BMW ran away.

“We in the community are demanding that the …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

Suspect in hit-and-run crash that killed expectant couple has DWI, manslaughter past

Police say the suspect in a horrific hit-and-run crash that killed a young New York couple and their baby served time for manslaughter and was charged with DWI just last month.

Authorities are still searching for 44-year-old Julio Acevedo, who police say ran away from the crash that killed Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21, and their son, who died at a hospital after being delivered by caesarean section.

Police say Acevedo was barreling down a residential street in a BMW at 60 mph, twice the speed limit, early Sunday when he collided with a car hired to take the couple to the hospital.

The death of the newborn on Monday piled tragedy upon tragedy and compounded the community’s grief. The baby was buried near the fresh graves of his parents, according to Isaac Abraham, a spokesman for the Hasidic Jewish community. About a thousand community members turned out for the young couple’s funeral a day earlier.

“The mood in the neighborhood is very heavy,” said Oscar Sabel, a retired printer who lives near the scene of the accident. “We all hoped the baby would survive.”

Acevedo was arrested last month on a charge of driving while under the influence, and the case is pending. He served about a decade in prison in the 1990s for manslaughter.

“We in the community are demanding that the prosecutor charge the driver of BMW that caused the death of this couple and infant be charged with triple homicide, this coward left the scene of the accident not even bothering to check on the people of the other car,” Abraham said according to MyFoxNY.com.

Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000. The couple wed last year in a marriage arranged through a matchmaker and were living in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

They were members of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose men dress in dark coats and hats, wear long beards like their Eastern European ancestors and have limited dealings with the outside world. Raizy Glauber grew up in a prominent rabbinical family. Her husband was studying at a rabbinical college; his family founded a line of clothing for Orthodox Jews.

Sabel, dressed in the traditional long black coat of the Satmar, said it was a terrible tragedy.

“But it’s what God wants,” he said. “Maybe the baby’s death, and his parents’, is not for nothing; God doesn’t have to give us answers.”

Shortly after midnight Sunday, Raizy Glauber, who was seven months pregnant, wasn’t feeling well, so the couple decided to go to the hospital, said Sara Glauber, Nachman Glauber‘s cousin. They called a livery cab, a hired car that is arranged via telephone, not hailed off the street like a yellow cab.

The livery cab had a stop sign, but it’s not clear if the driver stopped. Police said the crash with the BMW reduced the cab to a crumpled heap, and Raizy Glauber was thrown from the wreck. The engine ended up in the back seat, Abraham said.

The baby weighed only about 4 pounds when he was …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

New York police seek driver in hit-and-run crash that killed expectant parents, seriously injured newborn

New York police say they are searching for the driver and a passenger in a BMW who fled the scene after slamming into a cab carrying a expectant couple.

Doctors were able to save Nachman and Raizy Glauber‘s newborn baby boy through a cesarean section but the couple, both 21, died at the hospital.

The driver of a BMW slammed into the livery cab carrying the Glaubers in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on Sunday as they headed to a hospital, said Isaac Abraham, a neighbor of Raizy Glauber‘s parents who lives two blocks from the scene of the crash.

The engine of the livery car ended up in the backseat, where Raizy Glauber, who was seven months pregnant, was sitting before she was ejected, Abraham said. Her body landed under a parked tractor-trailer, said witnesses who came to the scene after the crash. Nachman Glauber was pinned in the car, and emergency workers had to cut off the roof to get him out, witnesses said.

Both parents died of blunt-force trauma, the medical examiner said. Their son was in serious condition, Abraham said. Neighbors and friends said the boy weighed only about 4 pounds. The Glaubers’ livery cab driver was treated for minor injuries at the hospital and was later released.

Both the driver of the BMW and a passenger fled and were being sought, police said.

On Saturday, Raizy Glauber “was not feeling well, so they decided to go” to the hospital, said Sara Glauber, Nachman Glauber‘s cousin. Abraham said the Glaubers called a car service because they didn’t own a car, which is common for New Yorkers.

The Glaubers were married about a year ago and had begun a life together in Williamsburg, where Raizy Glauber grew up in a prominent Orthodox Jewish rabbinical family, Sara Glauber said.

“She was so excited and so very, very happy to be pregnant – and so was the entire family,” Carol Silverstein, the aunt of one of the victims told MyFoxNY.com.

Raised north of New York City and part of a family that founded a line of clothing for Orthodox Jews, Nachman Glauber was studying at a rabbinical college nearby, said his cousin.

Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000. The community has strict rules governing clothing, social customs and interaction with the outside world. Men wear dark clothing that includes a long coat and a fedora-type hat and often have long beards and ear locks.

Jewish law calls for burial of the dead as soon as possible, and hours after their deaths, the Glaubers were mourned by at least 1,000 people at a funeral outside the Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue. Men in black hats gathered around the coffins in the middle of the street, while women in bright headscarves stood on the sidewalk, in accordance with the Orthodox Jewish tradition of separating the sexes at religious services.

The sound of wailing filled the air as two coffins covered in black velvet with a silver trim were carried from a vehicle. A succession …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

Expectant parents die in NY crash; infant survives

A young couple who had taken a car service to a hospital for the birth of their first child were killed en route in a hit and run early Sunday, but their baby boy survived, born prematurely, authorities and a neighbor said.

The driver of a BMW slammed into the car carrying Nathan and Raizy Glauber, both 21, at an intersection in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, said Isaac Abraham, a neighbor of Raizy Glauber‘s parents who lives two blocks from the scene of the crash. Both of the Glaubers were pronounced dead at hospitals, police said.

Their infant son was in serious condition at a hospital, said Abraham, and the driver of their car was in stable condition, police said.

Both the driver of the vehicle that hit the couple’s car and a passenger fled and are being sought, police said.

Photos taken after the accident showed both cars mangled and the front end of the BMW crumpled. Issac said the Glaubers called a car service because they didn’t own a car, which is common for New Yorkers.

The Glaubers were Orthodox Jews, and Abraham often speaks publicly for the different sects in the ultra-orthodox community, which has strict rules governing clothing, social customs and interaction with the outside world. Men wear dark clothing that includes a long coat and a fedora-type hat and often have long beards and ear locks.

Abraham called the couple’s death “a tragedy beyond (belief) just coming off a joyous holiday as Purim” as they were getting ready to welcome their first child.

A funeral for the Glaubers was planned for Sunday afternoon. Jewish law calls for burial of the dead as soon as possible.

Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

Israeli election casts ex-TV anchor as kingmaker

Israel‘s election has put a suave former TV news anchor and political novice in the role of kingmaker, and he has signaled he would use his power to try to move hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s next government to more centrist positions on Mideast peacemaking.

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) emerged as the second-largest party in Israel‘s parliament after the prime minister’s bloc, giving the 49-year-old former journalist unexpectedly strong leverage in upcoming coalition negotiations. A nearly complete vote count early Wednesday showed a deadlock between Netanyahu’s hawkish bloc and the center-left camp.

Lapid told cheering supporters after Tuesday’s election that he wants a broad alliance of moderates, suggesting he would try to prod Netanyahu to abandon his traditional right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.

But that might be tough in Israel‘s cluttered political landscape of small parties with sharp ideological differences. Veteran political commentators were left scratching their heads when trying to come up with scenarios for a stable Netanyahu-led coalition.

With 99.8 percent of votes counted, according to media reports, Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beitenu electoral bloc won 31 seats in the 120-member parliament, remaining the largest party, but down from 42 in the 2009 election. Lapid’s party won 19 seats, followed by 15 for the centrist Labor, 11 for the ultra-Orthodox Shas and 11 for the pro-settler Jewish Home.

Israeli voters do not directly elect the prime minister — that depends instead on post-election negotiations in which the party leader who has the best chance of putting together a majority coalition in the newly-chosen parliament is given an opportunity to do so, offering both Cabinet posts and policy concessions to other blocs.

That person will have up to six weeks to form a coalition. If successful, he or she becomes prime minister. In the unlikely scenario that he or she is not successful, another party is chosen to try.

Although the blocs appear evenly split, Netanyahu would likely get the first shot at trying to form a coalition government, because the center-left bloc draws 12 of its parliamentary seats from Arab parties that traditionally neither have been asked nor sought to join coalitions.

With the blocs tied, Netanyahu will need Lapid in any constellation.

Lapid, in turn, called for “as broad a government as possible” that would include “moderate forces from the left and right,” but leaving unclear which partners he prefers.

Lapid is a member of Tel Aviv’s secular elite, the son of a former Cabinet minister and one of Israel‘s best-known faces, yet has portrayed himself as an average Israeli and champion of a middle class struggling to make ends meet.

During the campaign, he largely focused on domestic concerns, such as improving the education system, offering more affordable housing and ending blanket military draft exemptions and government stipends for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

He has said little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for a resumption of peace talks that were frozen during Netanyahu’s term, but also insisting Israel keep war-won east Jerusalem. Palestinians claim the eastern sector for a future capital, and would be unlikely to agree to an accord without shared sovereignty in the holy city.

Ofer Shelah, a leading member in Lapid’s party, said easing the burden on the middle class is a key demand, but that resuming talks with the Palestinians is also important. “We will insist on this with the same determination,” Shelah said.

Such demands could place Netanyahu in a difficult bind. The Israeli leader’s Likud, traditionally hawkish, became even more hard-line and pro-settlement after party primaries earlier this year and would likely balk at a government it deems too centrist.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would only return to talks on the terms of a Palestinian state if Netanyahu freezes construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967, along with the Gaza Strip.

Some 560,000 Israelis already live in areas they Palestinians want for their state, and Netanyahu has refused to halt construction. Instead, construction began on nearly 6,900 settlement apartments during his term, and thousands more housing units are in various stages of construction.

Lapid noted Wednesday that “we are facing a world that is liable to ostracize us because of the deadlock in the peace process,” but it was not clear if he would insist on a construction freeze as a condition for joining the coalition.

Instead, he could try to promote his domestic agenda, such as ending special privileges — notably draft exemptions — for the ultra-Orthodox. This could mean keeping ultra-Orthodox parties out of the coalition, but bringing in the pro-settler Jewish Home, which surged in Tuesday’s vote and draws much of its strength from the modern Orthodox community.

Jewish Home, led by former army commando and high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, like Lapid seeks a more equitable military draft. Yet Jewish Home‘s call to annex 60 percent of the West Bank and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state appears to clash with Lapid’s position.

In a sign of Lapid’s new rock star status, TV stations opted for split screens when both he and Netanyahu began addressing their supporters at the same time in different locations early Wednesday. The stations switched back and forth, torn over whose words were more important, and only after a while settled on Netanyahu and his claim of victory.

Lapid’s new political leverage could produce a more moderate Israeli government, but it’s not clear if that would be enough to end the paralysis in Mideast peace efforts.

In an interview last week, Lapid told The Associated Press he would not be a fig leaf in an extremist government and would make firm demands for joining, including returning to peace talks.

“I think it is crucial that we take the path of being part of the Western, civilized world and the international community,” he said at the time.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has become more isolated internationally, and President Barack Obama has signaled increasing displeasure with the prime minister’s settlement policies.

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Weakened Netanyahu likely to remain Israeli leader

Key questions following Israel‘s parliamentary election:

— WHO WON?

Exit polls indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to retain his job, but he emerged politically weakened. His hard-line Likud-Yisrael Beitenu electoral bloc dropped from 42 to 31 seats, but remains the largest faction in the 120-member parliament. Together with other hard-line parties, he appears to command a slight majority.

The balance between the two political camps — religious-hawkish and center-left — could change as actual votes are counted.

The biggest surprise was the strong showing of “Yesh Atid,” or “There is a future,” a new centrist party that exit polls suggest won 19 seats. The party, led by former TV anchor Yair Lapid, demands an end to blanket military draft exemptions and government stipends for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The centrist Labor, which focused on domestic issues, won 17 seats. The pro-settler Jewish Home, a small fringe party in the outgoing parliament, jumped to 12 seats, according to exit polls.

— HOW WILL THIS AFFECT PEACE EFFORTS WITH THE PALESTINIANS?

In trying to piece together a majority coalition government, a weakened Netanyahu might be forced to offer concessions to the Palestinians to restart peace negotiations, namely, a freeze in settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

— WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Traditionally, the leader of the largest party gets the first shot at trying to form a coalition government, but party leaders could also ask Israel‘s president to assign the job another candidate they agree on. The politician given the task would have six weeks to form a coalition.

— WHAT KIND OF GOVERNMENT WILL BE FORMED?

Netanyahu says he wants to form a broad-based government, but Lapid will have considerable say over the make-up of the new coalition. It’s not clear whether Lapid would lobby for a more centrist government or accept rightist partners, such as the Jewish Home. In any scenario, ideological disagreements between potential coalition partners will make it difficult to form a stable government.

— HOW WILL THIS AFFECT ISRAEL’S RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.?

Netanyahu will likely come under growing U.S. and European pressure in his next term to resume meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians and halt settlement expansion.

Talks have been frozen for the past four years, in part because Netanyahu’s outgoing right-wing government rejected a Palestinian demand for a construction freeze.

President Barack Obama has signaled growing displeasure with Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians, including the continued settlement building. A possible change in those policies depends on the type of coalition Netanyahu puts together.

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Israel's Labor head poised to be Netanyahu gadfly

Just seven years after quitting her job as a high-profile media commentator, the leader of Israel‘s Labor Party appears to be on track to become head of the country’s second-largest parliamentary faction and the leading voice against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And if Netanyahu’s coalition somehow falls short of a majority in next week’s election, Shelly Yachimovich would likely wind up with a far more important job: prime minister of Israel.

Yachimovich, 52, took over Labor, the once-storied movement that led Israel to independence, in late 2011 at one of its lowest points. Buoyed by a social protest movement, she revitalized the party by veering away from its traditional dovish platform of promoting peace with the Arabs and focusing almost entirely on the economy, jobs and the country’s various social ills.

Her political ascent, along with the strength of the Israeli right wing, underscores that pursuing peace with the Palestinians is not a winning campaign issue among Israelis, who appear to have lost faith that West Bank lands can be traded for peace.

Skeptical Israelis point to the rising strength of Hamas militants in Gaza Strip, the uncertainty roiling the region as the Arab Spring unfolds, and the wide gaps with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that have kept negotiations deadlocked the past four years. Even when Israeli leaders proposed what they considered far-reaching offers, during the 2000-2001 negotiations and again in 2008, no deal was reached.

Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu bloc remains far ahead in the polls before the Jan. 22 vote, and Yachimovich has vowed not to serve in a Netanyahu government. As a result, she looks likely to become the country’s new opposition leader, a forum that could allow the articulate populist to further burnish her credentials for any future race for prime minister.

Yachimovich appears set nearly to double Labor’s presence from eight to as many as 18 seats in the 120-seat parliament. That would leave it well behind Likud-Beitenu but still the second-largest party in parliament.

Although Labor‘s roots were socialist, Yachimovich’s economy-focused approach has alienated some of Labor’s traditional supporters. Critics accuse her of turning Labor — which dominated Israeli politics for the country’s first 30 years and produced prime ministers like David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin — into a niche party that ignores Israel‘s diplomatic and security challenges and fails to present a viable alternative to the security-obsessed right.

Last week, acclaimed Israeli author Amos Oz attacked Yachimovich for neglecting the Palestinian issue, saying she was worse than former Labor leader Ehud Barak, who serves as Netanyahu’s defense minister. Barak’s defection from the party in 2011 opened the way for Yachimovich to take the helm.

“He (Barak) says there is no solution. She (Yachimovich) says there is no problem,” said Oz, one of the most eloquent voices of Israel‘s left.

Yachimovich has also tiptoed around some of the traditional targets of the left — the huge government outlays on West Bank settlers and ultra-Orthodox Jews — in an effort to appeal to working-class voters who like Netanyahu’s hard line on security but have been hurt by his economic policies.

Israel Radio political analyst Hanan Kristal gave Yachimovich high marks for making the party younger, more dynamic and “changing its DNA.” But he said she was not a strong prime ministerial candidate like Netanyahu, or Barak and Ehud Olmert before him, because of her narrow focus.

“She’s channeled the Labor Party into a one-issue party,” he said. “That’s her ideology, but it’s also her strong suit. She’s not as strong when it comes to diplomacy and security.”

Public opinion polls confirm that most Israelis do not see her as prime ministerial material, and overwhelmingly see Netanyahu as best suited for the job. But if pre-election polls prove dramatically wrong and Netanyahu and his allies don’t win enough support to form the next government, that task could fall to her.

Yachimovich’s one-time mentor-turned-rival, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, abruptly left Labor last month to team up with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in a new party whose focus is resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peretz, a former Labor leader, assailed Yachimovich for avoiding the conflict with the Palestinians.

“Labor gave up its historic role as the leader of the peace movement,” he charged.

Yachimovich told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper website recently that Labor “is not a leftist party and never was. … It strived for peace out of pragmatism and not out of some romantic dream of peace.”

“It is much harder to deal with the socio-economic agenda,” she added.

As a journalist, author and radio show host, Yachimovich made her name as a passionate advocate for the downtrodden. She has acknowledged voting in the past for Hadash, a party which has communist leanings. The daughter of Holocaust survivors from Poland, Yachimovich often invokes her working-class roots by mentioning that her father worked in construction. She has two children and lives in Tel Aviv.

In politics, she has been an energetic lawmaker, passing legislation on behalf of the poor and promoting woman’s rights. But it was the mass grassroots protests against Israel‘s high cost of living that erupted in the summer of 2011, drawing hundreds of thousands into the streets, that provided her tail wind.

Taking aim at Netanyahu, she has depicted him as a cold capitalist out of touch with the average Israeli.

While the country has a per capita income approaching Western Europe’s, the gaps between rich and poor are wide, and many people have trouble making ends meet. Few seem to have benefited from the country’s impressive economic growth while many have suffered from the erosion of social welfare safeguards.

Unlike Netanyahu, Yachimovich tends to favor a strong government safety net.

Netanyahu’s campaign has focused on how he has fought Palestinian militants and stood strong against Iran’s suspected nuclear program. But this week’s news that Israel‘s 2012 national deficit ballooned to twice its initial projection, roughly $10.5 billion, played right into Yachimovich’s hands.

“Netanyahu is leading the Israeli economy to total collapse,” she said. “Four more years with him, and the damage will be irreversible.”

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News