Category Archives: Corruption

Can the Anti-Netanyahu Protests grow into a Larger Movement?

Israel is roiling with angry street protests that local observers have warned could erupt into open civil strife – a development Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be encouraging.

For weeks, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have been the scene of large, noisy demonstrations outside the official residences of Mr Netanyahu and his public security minister, Amir Ohana.

On Saturday night around 13,000 marched through Jerusalem shouting “Anyone but Bibi”, Netanyahu’s nickname. Their calls were echoed by tens of thousands more at locations across the country.

Turnout has been steadily growing, despite attacks on demonstrators from both the police and Netanyahu’s loyalists. The first protests abroad by Israeli expats have also been reported.

The protests, in defiance of physical distancing rules, are unprecedented by Israeli standards. They have bridged the gaping political divide between a small constituency of anti-occupation activists – disparagingly called “leftists” in Israel – and the much larger Israeli Jewish public that identifies politically as on the centre and the right.

For the first time, a section of Netanyahu’s natural supporters is out on the streets against him.

In contrast to earlier protests, such as a large social justice movement that occupied the streets in 2011 to oppose rising living costs, these demonstrations have not entirely eschewed political issues.

The target of the anger and frustration is decidedly personal at this stage – focused on the figure of Netanyahu, who is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Protesters have renamed him Israel’s “crime minister”.

But also fuelling the protests is a larger mood of disenchantment as doubts grow about the state’s competence to deal with multiple crises unfolding in Israel. The virus has caused untold social and economic misery for many, with as much as one fifth of the labour force out of work. Netanyahu’s supporters in the lower middle-classes have been hit hardest.

Now well into a second wave, Israel has a per capita rate of infection that outstrips even the US. The shadow of a renewed lockdown amid government mishandling of the virus has undermined Netanyahu’s claim to be “Mr Security”.

There are concerns too about police brutality – starkly highlighted by the killing in May of an autistic Palestinian, Eyad Hallaq, in Jerusalem.

Police crackdowns on the protests, using riot squads, undercover agents, mounted police and water cannon, have underlined not just Netanyahu’s growing authoritarianism. There is a sense too that the police may be ready to use violence on dissenting Israelis that was once reserved for Palestinians.

After manipulating his right-wing rival, the former military general Benny Gantz, into joining him in a unity government in April, Netanyahu has effectively crushed any meaningful political opposition.

The agreement shattered Gantz’s Blue and White party, with many of his legislators refusing to enter the government, and has widely discredited the ex-general.

Netanyahu is reportedly preparing for a winter election – the fourth in two years – both to cash in on his opponents’ disarray and to avoid honouring a rotation agreement in which Gantz is due to replace him late next year.

According to the Israeli media, Netanyahu may find a pretext for forcing new elections by further delaying approval of the national budget, despite Israel facing its worst financial crisis in decades.

And, of course, overshadowing all this is the matter of the corruption charges against Netanyahu. Not only is he the first sitting prime minister in Israel to stand trial, but he has been using his role and the pandemic to his advantage, including by delaying court hearings.

In a time of profound crisis and uncertainty, many Israelis are wondering which policies are being pursued for the national good and which for Netanyahu’s personal benefit.

The government’s months-long focus on the annexation of swaths of Palestinian territory in the West Bank has looked like pandering to his settler constituency, creating a dangerous distraction from dealing with the pandemic.

Similarly, a one-off handout this week to every Israeli – over the strenuous objections of finance officials – looks suspiciously like an electoral bribe. As a result, Netanyahu is facing a rapid decline in support. A recent survey shows trust in him has fallen by half – from 57 per cent in March and April, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, to 29 per cent today.

Many Israelis increasingly see Netanyahu less as a father figure and more as a parasite draining resources from the body politic. Capturing the popular mood is a new art work called the “Last Supper” that was covertly installed in central Tel Aviv. It shows Netanyahu alone, gorging on a vast banquet by stuffing his hand into an enormous cake decorated with the Israeli flag.

In another move designed to highlight Netanyahu’s corrupt politics, better-off Israelis have been publicly organising to donate this week’s state handout to those in need.

Netanyahu’s repeated incitement against the protesters – disparaging them as “leftists” and “anarchists”, and suggesting they are spreading disease – appears to have backfired. It has only rallied more people to the street.

But the incitement and Netanyahu’s claims that he is the true victim – and that in the current climate he faces assassination – have been interpreted as a call to arms by some on the right. Last week five protesters were injured when his loyalists used clubs and broken bottles on them, with police appearing to turn a blind eye. Further attacks were reported at the weekend. Protest organisers said they had begun arranging defence units to protect demonstrators.

Ohana, the public security minister, has called for a ban on the protests and urged a heavy hand from the police. He has delayed appointing a new police chief – a move seen as incentivising local commanders to crack down on the protests to win favour. Large numbers of protesters have been forcefully arrested, with reports that police have questioned some on their political views.

Observers have wondered whether the protests can transcend party political tribalism and develop into a grassroots movement demanding real change. That might widen their appeal to even more disadvantaged groups, not least the one fifth of Israel’s citizens who belong to its Palestinian minority.

But it would also require more of the protesters to start drawing a direct connection between Netanyahu’s personal abuses of office and the wider, systemic corruption of Israeli politics, with the occupation its beating heart.

That may yet prove a tall order, especially when Israel faces no significant external pressure for change, either from the US or from Europe.

• First published in The National

Why Palestinian-Israeli Prisoners Exchange Deal Could Happen Soon   

For the first time since the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is signaling its willingness to engage in negotiations regarding the release of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers believed to be held by resistance groups in Gaza. But will another prisoner exchange similar to that of October 2011 follow anytime soon?

On July 9, Palestinian and Israeli media reported on an Israeli government communication sent to the Palestinian group, Hamas, through an intermediary. It included an Israeli offer to swap the bodies of Palestinians held in Israel in exchange for the bodies of the two soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

Alternatively, Israel is offering the release of some Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, so long as they have “no blood on their hands”,  an Israeli reference to Palestinian prisoners who have not taken part in direct attacks that may have led to the killing of Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Hamas and others quickly dismissed the Israeli proposal as a non-starter for a serious negotiation. The Palestinian group had already indicated that it will not negotiate any prisoner exchange deal with Israel until the latter releases scores of Palestinian prisoners who were re-arrested in the months and years following the 2011 exchange.

What was then termed by Israel as the ‘Gilad Shalit deal’, saw the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for securing the release of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Palestinian fighters near the Gaza-Israel fence in 2006.

However, even while Palestinians were still celebrating the return of hundreds of their loved ones, Israel began re-arresting many of the newly-released prisoners under various pretenses, rendering the entire exercise futile.

Moreover, Israel began quickly replenishing its prisons with new arrivals, from various Palestinian factions, genders, and age groups.

In the 2011 exchange, Israel also refused to release senior Palestinian political figures from Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Islamic Jihad and other groups. This decision had derailed negotiations for months, and was understood as Israel’s way of wanting to hold on to many prominent Palestinian figures as bargaining chips for future negotiations.

These figures include Fatah’s most popular leader, Marwan Barghouti, PFLP leader Ahmad Sa’adat, among others.

In 2014, Israel also re-arrested Nael Barghouti, from his home in Kobar, near Ramallah, making him the longest-held Palestinian prisoner in Israeli prisons. Barghouti is a particularly important bargaining chip for Israel.

It must be said that the reason that Israel is quite generous in these prisoner exchanges is not due, as some claim, to the notion that Israel values the lives of its citizens to the extent that it is willing to exchange them with a disproportionately large number of Palestinians.

If that logic was correct, why does Israel then transfer its own citizens, including children, to dangerous and highly-militarized illegal West Bank Jewish settlements?

If Israel truly values the lives of its citizens, it would have, long ago, dismantled the illegal settlements and tried, in earnest, to reach a just peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership.

Instead, Israeli leaders, who often trigger wars for their own political benefits, as Netanyahu has done repeatedly in the past, use prisoner exchanges also as a means to garner positive political capital and favorable media coverage.

Netanyahu, whose image has been significantly tarnished due to his ongoing corruption investigation and trial, is laboring to distract from his own personal woes by diverting attention elsewhere. Now that his illegal annexation of West Bank land scheme has been postponed, he is in desperate need of another battle that would present him as some kind of hero in the eyes of Israelis, especially his right-wing constituency.

Aside from the bodies of the two soldiers, two Israelis, Avram Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who had allegedly crossed the fence into Gaza by mistake, are also held in the Strip. Future TV footage of two coffins, draped by Israeli flags, along with two other Israelis being set free, would certainly prove to be a huge boost for the embattled Israeli leader.

Palestinian groups in Gaza understand this well. They also know that an opportunity of this nature might not present itself again for years. Therefore, they are keen to ensure a future prisoner exchange satisfies three major points: first, the release of all re-arrested prisoners since 2011; second, the release of as many Palestinians as possible out of the over 5,000 currently held in Israeli prisons; and, finally, the release of top Palestinian prisoners representing the various PLO and Islamic factions.

The latter point, in particular, is quite significant, because the traditional rivals, Hamas and Fatah, have been actively pursuing a politically united front in the face of the imminent Israeli annexation of nearly 30% of the West Bank. The release of top Fatah leaders, such as Marwan Barghouti, for example, shall have immense positive impact on Palestinian public mood, especially among Fatah supporters, boosting the unity talks like never before.

Israel, of course, will do its utmost to prevent Palestinians from unifying their political ranks but, considering the fact that Palestinians are holding four Israelis in Gaza, the cards are not entirely in Netanyahu’s hands.

This is not to suggest that Palestinian groups are not feeling the pressure as well. The families of thousands of imprisoned Palestinians are desperate for some good news regarding their loved ones, especially as health conditions among prisoners are deteriorating due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

On July 9, Saadi al-Gharably died at Kaplan Medical Center, due to what Palestinian prisoners advocacy groups describe as ‘medical neglect’. Later, prisoner Kamal Abu Wa’ar, a cancer patient from the Jenin area, tested positive for the COVID-19 disease.

Various signs indicate that a prisoner exchange between Israel and Palestinian groups is drawing near. The question is, will Netanyahu unleash his winning political card now, or will he wait till later, when he needs it most?

WE Charity Scandal and NGOs’ Role in Imperialism

Once again the media focuses on salacious details rather than the big picture.

While TV and newspapers have focused on the whiff of corruption surrounding the government’s $900 million contract with the WE Charity, some broader points have been ignored. Whatever the Trudeau and Morneau families have pocketed from WE, the deleterious impact that NGO has had on social services and young Canadians’ understanding of global inequities is much more significant.

In a series of poignant tweets Simon Black highlighted how WE has directed young people towards ineffective political actions and a narrow understanding of doing good in the world. He noted, “teaching kids that ‘breaking the cycle of poverty’ (WE’s words) involves travelling to a ‘developing’ country to build a school and not marching on the IMF, World Bank, White House or Parliament Hill to demand the cancellation of global South debts. That’s the real #WEscam.” In fact, a little discussed reason the federal government funds NGOs is to co-opt internationalist minded young people into aligning with Canadian foreign policy.

In another tweet Black mocks WE’s educational program. “Thanks to the Keilburgers and WE,” he writes, “a generation of kids have learned about ‘international development’ but still don’t know what an IMF structural adjustment program is.” Imposed by the Washington-based international financial institution, structural adjustment programs (SAPs) pushed indebted African, Asian and Latin American countries to privatize state assets, weaken labour regulations and liberalize trade and investment rules. Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s Canada channeled hundreds of millions of dollars in “aid” to support SAPs. Canadian mining companies greatly benefited from liberalized mining laws, but structural adjustment policies produced deep social and economic crises. Nutritional status, health, education and other social indicators declined in the wake of SAPs. For many African countries the structural adjustment period was worse than the Great Depression. International creditors argued that the flipside of this government downsizing would be increased aid, particularly to private sector NGOs. Ottawa asked the NGO sector to “undertake tasks previously performed by governments, such as the delivery of” health, sanitation and other services.

The NGO as replacement for government service is another side of the current WE scandal. On Facebook Matthew Behrens explained, “the real crime, which the media has utterly failed to mention, is that Trudeau was essentially privatizing a chunk of the Canada Summer Jobs program — which provides summer jobs at minimum wage — to a private corporation”, which then planned to pay them below the legal minimum. Charity as replacement for social services is what WE and Canadian-government-funded NGOs do all over the world. In a country like Haiti, for instance, social services are almost entirely privatized, run by “charities” often based in other countries who decide whether one qualifies for assistance. Foreign-funded NGOs have contributed to a process that has undermined Haitian governmental capacity.

This foisting of “charitable” international social services delivery systems on poor countries shouldn’t surprise Canadians since the same corporate interests that promote privatizations over there push similar efforts at home. In fact there have been hundreds of battles over many decades in every corner of the country against right wing efforts to dismantle public social services. Most Canadians understand what’s going on when pro-corporate forces argue for cutting social services. Yet when the federal government pushes similar policies elsewhere there has been little protest, mostly because the dominant media simply does not report what’s happening.

If the media were interested in telling the real story it would broaden the discussion about #WEscam. Ottawa, WE and other NGOs’ role in undercutting social services and confusing young people about global inequities is a far bigger scandal than however much one charity paid the Trudeau family.

Facebook: “serious setbacks for civil rights”

The Verge reports:

A team of civil rights auditors has delivered a scathing and unexpected indictment of Facebook’s recent moderation choices after a two-year examination of the platform’s practices and internal policies.

“While the audit process has been meaningful and has led to some significant improvements in the platform,” the report reads, “we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights.”

The Deep State’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy Is Working

In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless, we have a tyranny without a tyrant.

― Hannah Arendt, On Violence

What exactly is going on?

Is this revolution? Is this anarchy? Is this a spectacle engineered to distract us from the machinations of the police state? Is this a sociological means of re-setting our national equilibrium? Is this a Machiavellian scheme designed to further polarize the populace and undermine our efforts to stand unified against government tyranny? Is this so-called populist uprising actually a manufactured race war and election-year referendum on who should occupy the White House?

Whatever it is, this—the racial hypersensitivity without racial justice, the kowtowing to politically correct bullies with no regard for anyone else’s free speech rights, the violent blowback after years of government-sanctioned brutality, the mob mindset that is overwhelming the rights of the individual, the oppressive glowering of the Nanny State, the seemingly righteous indignation full of sound and fury that in the end signifies nothing, the partisan divide that grows more impassable with every passing day—is not leading us anywhere good.

Certainly it’s not leading to more freedom.

This draconian exercise in how to divide, conquer and subdue a nation is succeeding.

It must be said: the Black Lives Matter protests have not helped. Inadvertently or intentionally, these protests—tinged with mob violence, rampant incivility, intolerance, and an arrogant disdain for how an open marketplace of ideas can advance freedom—have politicized what should never have been politicized: police brutality and the government’s ongoing assaults on our freedoms.

For one brief moment in the wake of George Floyd’s death, it seemed as if finally “we the people” might put aside our differences long enough to stand united in outrage over the government’s brutality.

That sliver of unity didn’t last.

We may be worse off now than we were before.

Suddenly, no one seems to be talking about any of the egregious governmental abuses that are still wreaking havoc on our freedoms: police shootings of unarmed individuals, invasive surveillance, roadside blood draws, roadside strip searches, SWAT team raids gone awry, the military industrial complex’s costly wars, pork barrel spending, pre-crime laws, civil asset forfeiture, fusion centers, militarization, armed drones, smart policing carried out by AI robots, courts that march in lockstep with the police state, schools that function as indoctrination centers, bureaucrats that keep the Deep State in power.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.

This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-endowed people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time

The government’s overblown, extended wars on terrorism, drugs, violence, illegal immigration, and so-called domestic extremism have been convenient ruses used to terrorize the populace into relinquishing more of their freedoms in exchange for elusive promises of security.

Having allowed our fears to be codified and our actions criminalized, we now find ourselves in a strange new world where just about everything we do is criminalized, even our ability to choose whether or not to wear a mask in public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strangely enough, in the face of outright corruption and incompetency on the part of our elected officials, Americans in general remain relatively gullible, eager to be persuaded that the government can solve the problems that plague us, whether it be terrorism, an economic depression, an environmental disaster, or a global pandemic.

We have relinquished control over the most intimate aspects of our lives to government officials who, while they may occupy seats of authority, are neither wiser, smarter, more in tune with our needs, more knowledgeable about our problems, nor more aware of what is really in our best interests. Yet having bought into the false notion that the government does indeed know what’s best for us and can ensure not only our safety but our happiness and will take care of us from cradle to grave—that is, from daycare centers to nursing homes—we have in actuality allowed ourselves to be bridled and turned into slaves at the bidding of a government that cares little for our freedoms or our happiness.

The lesson is this: once a free people allows the government inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny.

Nor does it seem to matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm anymore. Indeed, the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government, whose priorities are to milk “we the people” of our hard-earned money (by way of taxes, fines and fees) and remain in control and in power.

Modern government in general—ranging from the militarized police in SWAT team gear crashing through our doors to the rash of innocent citizens being gunned down by police to the invasive spying on everything we do—is acting illogically, even psychopathically. (The characteristics of a psychopath include a “lack of remorse and empathy, a sense of grandiosity, superficial charm, conning and manipulative behavior, and refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, among others.”)

When our own government no longer sees us as human beings with dignity and worth but as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, conned into believing it has our best interests at heart, mistreated, and then jails us if we dare step out of line, punishes us unjustly without remorse, and refuses to own up to its failings, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.”

So where does that leave us?

Having allowed the government to expand and exceed our reach, we find ourselves on the losing end of a tug-of-war over control of our country and our lives. And for as long as we let them, government officials will continue to trample on our rights, always justifying their actions as being for the good of the people.

Yet the government can only go as far as “we the people” allow. Therein lies the problem.

The pickle we find ourselves in speaks volumes about the nature of the government beast we have been saddled with and how it views the rights and sovereignty of “we the people.”

Now you don’t hear a lot about sovereignty anymore. Sovereignty is a dusty, antiquated term that harkens back to an age when kings and emperors ruled with absolute power over a populace that had no rights. Americans turned the idea of sovereignty on its head when they declared their independence from Great Britain and rejected the absolute authority of King George III. In doing so, Americans claimed for themselves the right to self-government and established themselves as the ultimate authority and power.

In other words, in America, “we the people”— sovereign citizens—call the shots.

So when the government acts, it is supposed to do so at our bidding and on our behalf, because we are the rulers.

That’s not exactly how it turned out, though, is it?

In the 200-plus years since we boldly embarked on this experiment in self-government, we have been steadily losing ground to the government’s brazen power grabs, foisted upon us in the so-called name of national security.

The government has knocked us off our rightful throne. It has usurped our rightful authority. It has staged the ultimate coup. Its agents no longer even pretend that they answer to “we the people.” Worst of all, “we the people” have become desensitized to this constant undermining of our freedoms.

How do we reconcile the Founders’ vision of the government as an entity whose only purpose is to serve the people with the police state’s insistence that the government is the supreme authority, that its power trumps that of the people themselves, and that it may exercise that power in any way it sees fit (that includes government agents crashing through doors, mass arrests, ethnic cleansing, racial profiling, indefinite detentions without due process, and internment camps)?

They cannot be reconciled. They are polar opposites.

We are fast approaching a moment of reckoning where we will be forced to choose between the vision of what America was intended to be (a model for self-governance where power is vested in the people) and the reality of what it has become (a police state where power is vested in the government).

This slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what happened in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

We are walking a dangerous path right now.

No matter who wins the presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people.

Despite what is taught in school and the propaganda that is peddled by the media, the 2020 presidential election is not a populist election for a representative. Rather, it’s a gathering of shareholders to select the next CEO, a fact reinforced by the nation’s archaic electoral college system.

Anyone who believes that this election will bring about any real change in how the American government does business is either incredibly naïve, woefully out-of-touch, or oblivious to the fact that as an in-depth Princeton University study shows, we now live in an oligarchy that is “of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.”

When a country spends close to $10 billion on elections to select what is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified homecoming king or queen to occupy the White House and fill other government seats, while more than 40 million of its people live in poverty, more than 40 million Americans are on unemployment, more than 500,000 Americans are homeless, and analysts forecast it will take a decade to work our way out of the current COVID-induced recession, that’s a country whose priorities are out of step with the needs of its people.

Be warned, however: the Establishment—the Deep State and its corporate partners that really run the show, pull the strings and dictate the policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—is not going to allow anyone to take office who will unravel their power structures. Those who have attempted to do so in the past have been effectively put out of commission.

Voting sustains the illusion that we have a democratic republic, but it is merely a dictatorship in disguise, or what political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately refer to as an “economic élite domination.”

In such an environment, the economic elite (lobbyists, corporations, monied special interest groups) dictate national policy. As the Princeton University oligarchy study indicates, our elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital, represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen. As such, the citizenry has little if any impact on the policies of government.

We have been saddled with a two-party system and fooled into believing that there’s a difference between the Republicans and Democrats, when in fact, the two parties are exactly the same. As one commentator noted, both parties support endless war, engage in out-of-control spending, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, have no respect for the rule of law, are bought and paid for by Big Business, care most about their own power, and have a long record of expanding government and shrinking liberty

We’re drowning under the weight of too much debt, too many wars, too much power in the hands of a centralized government run by a corporate elite, too many militarized police, too many laws, too many lobbyists, and generally too much bad news.

The powers-that-be want us to believe that our job as citizens begins and ends on Election Day. They want us to believe that we have no right to complain about the state of the nation unless we’ve cast our vote one way or the other. They want us to remain divided over politics, hostile to those with whom we disagree politically, and intolerant of anyone or anything whose solutions to what ails this country differ from our own.

What they don’t want us talking about is the fact that the government is corrupt, the system is rigged, the politicians don’t represent us, the electoral college is a joke, most of the candidates are frauds, and, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we as a nation are repeating the mistakes of history—namely, allowing a totalitarian state to reign over us.

Former concentration camp inmate Hannah Arendt warned against this when she wrote, “Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.”

As we once again find ourselves faced with the prospect of voting for the lesser of two evils, “we the people” have a decision to make: do we simply participate in the collapse of the American republic as it degenerates toward a totalitarian regime, or do we take a stand and reject the pathetic excuse for government that is being fobbed off on us?

Never forget that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

When Racist Old White Guys with too Much Money are Allowed to Employ People

Say what you will about corporate human-resources departments, but the one thing they effectively do is keep low-grade morons with a propensity for power trips in line. Though managers and owners with inherent tendencies to be upright prick machines will always invent ways to be walking fingernails against a chalkboard, at least the specter of employees reporting them to the HR Manager looms over them like the ultimate check and balance, preventing their asshole propensities from going fully hemorrhoidal at any given time.

I’ve seen and participated in more fucked up shit in restaurants and retail stores than I can possibly remember or even care to. My current mom and pop scenario, however, has elevated certain aspects of fucked-upness to heights I’ve yet to have scaled until now. And without the HR stopgap, the shitstorm is randomly raining turd drops on whoever’s head happens to get caught under the crap cloud at any given time.

I answered a Craigslist ad placed by a couple of self-proclaimed “two old dudes that don’t surf” for an upcoming Hawaiian-themed burger joint looking for an experienced general manager to help them get their vision off the ground. Turns out they had amassed enough money from their respective careers in banking and real estate – with the help of a few investor friends – to realize their lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. After a few interviews I was brought on board and promptly began the hiring process.

So I’m sitting in a booth interviewing someone who appears to be a qualified candidate for a server position. Her resume includes several prior jobs at some well-known corporate chain restaurants who I know have great training programs and high standards, which is always something I look for. These are the individuals who usually bring to the table a high degree of maturity and experience regarding what the job entails and requires, meaning less potential drama out of the gate for me.

Oh yeah, she was also African-American. Like that or if she were blue or green or yellow should even fucking matter.

So as we’re sitting there interviewing, in walks Captain Curmudgeon, one of the owners. After giving us the once-over, he gives me the silent head nod toward the other end of the restaurant which is the universal non-verbal “get your ass over here” in owner/general manager speak. I excuse myself from the interview, and when I meet him in the kitchen the first words out of his mouth are, “You don’t plan to hire her, do you?”

“Uh…yeah, probably. She seems pretty qualified.”

“No. Absolutely not. You’re not hiring her.”

“Why not?”

“Because once you let those people in the door, you can’t get rid of them.”

And out the door he walked, smiling at my interviewee and wishing her a nice day as he left while leaving the sort of slimy trail that would make any snail jealous.

Cut to: the following day. A dude came in applying for a line cook position. Again, his last couple of jobs had included stints at what I considered to be reputable multi-unit restaurants that are known for high volume business levels. As a manager, you’re always on the lookout for workers, especially in the kitchen, who are used to orders rapid-firing at them and can kick the food out without getting all freaky-deaky in the heat of battle. Those are really valuable people to have in the trenches with you when the shit is hitting the fan on a Saturday night and the prick on table two is screaming because the chicken he ordered three minutes ago isn’t sitting in front of him yet, and you know you can run to the kitchen and ask the guy behind the line to kick it out quickly and he’s able to do it unfazed while keeping the rest of the 50 orders he’s working on moving out like clockwork as well. I was getting the vibe from him that he was that guy, and I was getting ready to make him a job offer.

When in walks Colonel Crustacean. I get the nod, and the next thing you know we’re huddled in the kitchen again.

“That’s an interesting one. You aren’t seriously thinking about hiring him, are you?”

“Uh…yeah. He’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

“No way. Absolutely not.”

“Why not?”

“You can’t tell? He looks like a Deadhead! The next thing you know, this place will be crawling with drugs.”

He shook the Deadhead’s hand on his way out, leaving me there to finish with the obligatory “we’ll give you a call if we’re interested.”

After that, I began scheduling interviews when I knew Sergeant Shitbag wouldn’t be showing up and was effectively able to bypass his inflammatory contributions and staff the restaurant with qualified individuals in spite of his efforts to otherwise prevent it. Once staff training began, however, he made his presence known and readily gave me his feedback regarding my hiring judgments.

“What am I running here, a Third World Country?”

“I sure hope that Chink doesn’t think we’re gonna be doin’ eggrolls.”

“Keep an eye on that Limey you hired…he might not be right in the head. They’re always a little on edge anyway.”

“I like that one waiter. You know, The Gay. He’s good regardless.”

“I can tell you right now that fat chick isn’t gonna work out. I don’t know what you were thinking with that one – damn, she’s frugly.”

“Keep an eye on that Sand Nigger. Make sure he doesn’t take anything. You know how they are.”

“Make sure the patio furniture is chained together every night, because if you don’t the Armenians will steal it. That’s what they do around here.”

“I expected more of you. From now on, I want to approve anyone you’re thinking about bringing on.”

And so it went. By the time he was through disapproving of and refusing to pay anyone who didn’t resemble his Anglo-prurient sensibilities, our turnover ratio during the first couple of months ran right at 70 percent. Like most racist fucks, his propensity to selectively target and pick on those he sensed were the least likely to fight back has thus far kept him from being sued or prohibited from employing anyone at all – as he should be.

Having a front seat as a witness to workplace discrimination and being able to prove it are two entirely different things, as navigating the law has often made discrimination the norm rather than the exception. Unfortunately, any pale-balled sploogewaffle with a sizable enough bank account can open a business and effectively abuse the people they employ as long as a lack of empiricism exists to put these fucktards out of business where they belong. There are situations that can happen in the workplace that are unfair, unjustified, demeaning and unpleasant. This however, does not make it unlawful discrimination. Discrimination in the workplace can be in your face and it can be hidden in the shadows. That’s what makes it so subtle, destructive and insidious.

Oh, fuck…I have an opening for a busboy and a qualified Buddaheaded-Chingchonged-Cameljockey just handed me his application. You’d think these people would learn…

Political ABCs: Maybe the Difference between a “Cop” and a “Crook” is Just a Badge

Not the only “finest” but the ones with the biggest TV and movie coverage

While it may be common knowledge that fire departments originated as private organisations to defend the interests of property insurers, it has probably been forgotten that in the US police were originally the hired gangs of landowners and merchant-industrialists. As urban conurbations like New York City grew, the police were the action arm of the political machines that served to dominate native and immigrant workers. A job in the police department was a patronage post; i.e., one either bought a job or by demonstrated willingness to act for the political boss(es) could be given a shield, a license to use violence and commit crimes on behalf of the machine or for personal gain as long as it did not conflict with the interests of the former.

In the expanding continental empire that became the USA, the rural police were either the auxiliaries of the slave patrols or the “deputised” vigilantes in the service of big landowners, railroads, mining companies or ranchers. Community policing, let alone “democratic” policing was never a meaningful part of the US political system. What has recently been condemned as corrupt and brutal policing is actually consistent with historical tradition of localised repression.

When in the so-called Progressive Era corporate cartels realised it was necessary to counter emergent mass democratic movements, the ruling elite began a process of “professionalisation”. This trend actually covered most of the West. Ideological catalyst for “progressivism” was the adoption of the ideas of Auguste Comte, best illustrated in the case of Brazil whose flag today is adorned with the motto of Positivism (and the Positivist Church) “Order and Progress”. The emphasis was on technocratic order, embodied in the military as an emerging scientific bureaucracy. Progress meant resisting democratic demands with gradual technocratic solutions.

In the US this meant professionalisation of local government and integration of the private/ partisan police forces into a permanent civil service. Thus the gangs of capitalists acquired protected status as part of the new, modern, professional government apparatus which rationally could counter the “irrationality” attributed to democracy, not least of which the horror of communists and anarchists among the immigrant population. In many US cities, this meant that the ethnic hierarchy became entrenched in the forces of “law and order”.  Irish came to dominate East Coast urban armies — later Italians were allowed to join. Blacks were excluded– also because one of the jobs of the police was control over Blacks and other racial inferiors in the labour force. Even today the major urban armies of the US Eastern seaboard; e.g., Boston, New York, Philadelphia, are dominated by Irish and Italian dynasties for whom the police force is also a cult.

Tourist trap, New York City

Not only was the struggle for democratic and socialist government subverted by imposing “progressive” public administration, these professional governments were equipped with private armies which were then given a badge and virtual immunity from any form of civil or criminal prosecution. Although some may know the history, it is important to recall that these policies were developed, supported and ultimately imposed by the plutocrats of the 19th century, Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, later Ford and others both directly and through philanthropic foundations — established to evade taxes and distribute bribery — and make public policy at arm’s length.

Under Woodrow Wilson, that South Carolina racist and Princeton professor promoted to POTUS, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was essentially moved from its role as private and mercenary political hammer to a State apparatus.  Under A. Mitchell Palmer, who installed them under a fascist bureaucrat named John Edgar Hoover — who then turned it into the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US equivalent of what Hitler established as the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (the controlling office for all Nazi political and criminal police forces).

The US Constitution does not provide explicitly for police powers — except in the Second Amendment. That infamous addition is usually interpreted as the right for anyone in the US to own and bear firearms. However, that is incorrect. The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the slave states from federal interference in their “slave patrols”, the militias organised under state authority to hunt runaway slaves, discipline slaves and prevent resp. suppress slave rebellions. In other words, the implied police power of the Second Amendment was conceived as an instrument for controlling slaves and later Blacks after slavery was abolished. This is the license that the Constitution gives to the thugs clothed in municipal or state uniforms as professional armies for the oligarchy that owns the United States.

After World War I those owners sought means to establish federal jurisdiction over political dissent, especially given the enormous numbers of urban immigrants from inferior European stock. People like Henry Ford realised that suppressing the consumption of alcohol would create a nationwide pretext for social control without openly contravening the supposed constitutional liberties; e.g., the First Amendment or those forbidding unreasonable search and seizure or denial of due process. The Volstead Act was adopted and the Prohibition amendment entered into force. For the first time since the Civil War, the federal government had a mandate to coordinate policing throughout the US and to mobilise the corporate machine police forces for political control. This not only made families like the Kennedys and Bronfmans fabulously rich, it helped establish the corporate form of crime of which Meyer Lansky became the paragon (although popular culture focuses on Italians rather than Jews).

The federal prohibition of alcoholic beverages did not end drink but created the context for a massive expansion of corporate and state police power. Now the taxpayer — obviously not corporations or their plutocratic owners — could pay the bill for their own repression. This would not have been possible were the US not historically saturated with the hypocritical theocratic culture of Oliver Cromwell’s puritan republic. Since “white” American politics — even abolitionism — has always been dominated by the theocratic tradition of the colonial era, prohibition of alcohol could be promoted as a necessary imposition of moral conduct upon inferior European stock — where wine and beer were ordinary food — and as a purification of the body politic. In fact, it was an alibi for political policing of immigrants, socialists, and any other “un-American” activities.

When it became clear that Prohibition’s days were numbered and an enormous army of uniformed thugs would suddenly be unemployed, people like Harry Anslinger, wed to the Mellon dynasty and a former head of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s private army, lobbied for the prohibition of narcotic drugs. One of his barely valid reasons was that policing narcotics would also preserve an instrument for policing Blacks. So the Federal Bureau of Narcotics became the primary national race police while the its senior rival the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the US secret political police (what was called under Hitler the Gestapo — abbreviation for Geheime Staatspolizei, as opposed to the Schutzpolizei or protective police).

Together these two federal agencies began the process of shaping disparate and independent warlords with their municipal armies into forces that could be mobilised either for political or racialist purposes. The so-called New Deal not only introduced a vast array of federal interventions in the economy and social organisation, some of which were barely socialist but most of which were proto-fascist/corporatist, it nationalised the police powers (and overseas subversion). This meant the corporations were no longer directly liable for the actions of their gangs; e.g., the Pinkertons, Ford Service or the numerous railway and factory police forces deployed to control workers and their communities. The uniforms and badges were exchanged and now these private armies were agents of state repression. The fiction of civilian control was preserved in part due to corporate and jurisdictional jealousies. However, these armies became entrenched parts of the civilian bureaucracy, unionised, and established legacies that made many forces virtually hereditary castes.

It is against this background that one needs to understand the decades of opposition to police in the US, mainly from non-white and poor communities in the US. This opposition is not based on occasional abuse or failures in training. It is based on the intuitively recognised fact that the police in the US — as in the rest of the US Empire — are an army of occupation. They are, individual police officers of good faith notwithstanding, the daily terror and threat of terror which is the complement to Hollywood propaganda and the dictatorship of the workplace. It is no accident that someone like Dan Mitreone, an Indiana police chief, became a notorious trainer of torturers in Latin American police forces before he was kidnapped and executed. Michigan State University ran, or served as a conduit for, programs throughout the US war against Vietnam which brought members of these municipal terror organisations to Southeast Asia to torture Vietnamese.

Of course, policing in Britain and throughout Europe is also derived from state terror policies. Yet only in Britain and the US does one have such an enormous investment in the myth of good police officers. The late journalist Alexander Cockburn once wrote that Britain had the only police department that was treated as a global tourist attraction. Hollywood has done everything possible to give the NYPD that reputation too — although even less deserved. FBI and DEA have become “brands” for leisure attire. Have you seen anyone wearing a “GESTAPO” tee shirt?

Tourist trap, London (1981)

The current wave of demonstrations and demands for an end to police repression and even an end to the police force as such may shock some who think that it would be enough to end racialist abuse by the police, to finally convict police of the capital crimes they commit and punish them accordingly. In a country which is proud of its death penalty, the number of police condemned for murder and punished accordingly can certainly be counted on one hand — or less! The number of people wrongly convicted and/or executed for allegedly killing police gangsters is enormous. The City of Brotherly Love is infamous here.

The problem, of which the murder of George Floyd is only one example among thousands (or perhaps millions throughout US history), is complex. First of all, the warlords — the corporate owners of municipalities and their armies called police — have to be restrained. These armies, like the paramilitary units that same US corporate oligarchy maintains in its overseas protectorates, have independent means; e.g., through their control of drug, gambling and other cash flows. They can buy, blackmail or otherwise suborn politicians and judiciary. They are organised in powerful unions with cult-like loyalty through generations. They are supplied by the covert internal security apparatus established since Hoover’s ascent and enriched after the war on Vietnam and 9-11 — officially the Department of Homeland Security. They can rely on a perverse criminal code, both at local and federal level, which legitimates their functions. Last but not least they are integrated in the penal value chain since the privatisation of prisons and other disciplinary operations. There is so much money involved that it is mind boggling.

Although I remain sceptical as to the actual organisation(s) behind the wave of demonstrations and actions aimed at police forces and their crimes, the issues are real. An adequate and dialectically developing movement to address these long suppressed issues will need to deal with the complexity of police history and especially the powerful financial and political interests behind this municipal militarism that plagues the US and constitutes one of the main obstacles to democratic struggle there.

Netanyahu’s Coalition Deal paves the Way to Annexation

Only weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was a hair’s breadth from being ousted from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office in disgrace, after 11 years of continuous rule. But after a dramatic turnaround in fortunes last week – that saw him signing a pact with Benny Gantz, his chief political rival – Netanyahu has begun to rapidly consolidate his power.

In what many critics claim amounts to a power grab, he began pushing through changes on Thursday to Israel’s basic laws, the equivalent of a constitution. The move was described as “terrifying” by Elyakim Rubinstein, a conservative former supreme court judge.

Another commentator warned that, under cover of forming an “emergency government” to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, Netanyahu had driven Israel into the early stages of totalitarianism.

What has especially alarmed observers is the apparent ease with which Netanyahu has manoeuvred Gantz, a former general, into rubber-stamping the new arrangements.

Gantz led a bloc of parties whose anti-corruption platform expressly promised to bring down Netanyahu, who is due to stand trial on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges in a month’s time. After an election in March, the third in a year, Gantz vowed to use his bloc’s 62-seat majority to pass a law making it impossible for a criminal defendant to serve as prime minister.

Netanyahu was on the backfoot, too, fearful of a fourth election in the late summer when he risks being blamed for the expected collapse of the Israeli economy after more than a month of lockdowns.

Instead, Gantz has caved. He has not only secured Netahyahu at least another 18 months in office but, in the words of one Israeli commentator, has offered to serve as his “bodyguard”.

The coalition agreement means Gantz cannot dislodge Netanyahu during the government’s three-year term. The two stand or fall together. That gives Netanyahu a solid advantage in his court proceedings, as he fights the case not only with the authority of a prime minister but with Gantz’s complicit silence.

Even if Netanyahu is found guilty, Gantz’s faction is barred from ousting him or voting to bring down the coalition, leaving Netanyahu free to launch an appeal from within the government. Likewise, under a rotation agreement, Gantz must let Netanyahu serve out the second 18-month period as his deputy. Assuming, that is, that Netanyahu steps back.

Despite some two-thirds of Israelis supporting the emergency government, a poll shows more than 40 per cent doubt Netanyahu will honour his commitment to hand over power. In any case, even as Gantz’s deputy, Netanyahu will enjoy the allegiance of the vast majority of the governing coalition’s legislators. He could still be in the driving seat.

Most expect him to use his position to intensify his long-running campaign to demonise the courts, accusing them of overseeing an undemocratic, “leftist” plot to unseat him.

To an increasing number of Israelis, the country’s political system looks broken. Several thousand of Gantz’s former supporters defied Israel’s lockdown at the weekend – as they did the week before – to attend a rally in central Tel Aviv.

Standing on marked positions to maintain two metres’ distance, they protested Netanyahu’s increasing accumulation of powers. Carmi Gillon, a former head of Israel’s domestic spy agency, the Shin Bet, told the crowd the courts were now all that was left to “defend Israeli democracy before it is finally crushed”.

Critics note that the Shin Bet have already been given an unprecedented right – previously available for use only against Palestinians – to track Israeli citizens. Combined with anti-coronavirus restrictions, opponents fear Netanyahu is establishing a security regime at home that can be used to oppress dissenters.

They point to his imminent trial, noting that most of the charges relate to his alleged efforts to intimidate or bribe major Israeli media outlets into becoming little more than his personal cheerleaders.

Meanwhile, other checks on the executive branch he heads are being sacrificed on the altar of the emergency government.

Despite being a criminal defendant, Netanyahu will have a veto on the appointment of the two most senior law-enforcement officials – the state prosecutor and attorney general – who are supposed to oversee the case against him at trial.

Netanyahu has already installed an acting prosecutor considered loyal to him who, according to the coalition agreement, cannot be removed for many months. Israeli commentators have expressed little faith that he will prosecute Netanyahu with full vigour.

Netanyahu will also continue to wield control over the appointment of judges to the supreme court, which has been drifting ever further rightwards after more than a decade of Netanyahu’s influence.

In these circumstances, the courts may baulk at the prospect of inflaming a constitutional crisis – and possibly civil war – by trying to remove a sitting prime minister.

With the judicial and legal branches increasingly enfeebled, the coalition agreement also strips the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, of any meaningful oversight. The government will be able to strangle legislative proposals at birth, before they can be debated. Unusually the main parliamentary committees will be under the governing parties’ control, too. And a Netanyahu loyalist will be the Knesset Speaker.

But the coalition agreement does allow for one emergency legislative move unrelated to tackling the virus: annexation of swaths of the West Bank in violation of international law but under licence from the “vision for peace” published earlier in the year by US President Donald Trump.

The government can set forth an annexation plan from July – well before Trump faces a re-election contest in the US in November. Mike Pompeo, his Secretary of State, offered what appeared to be Washington’s blessing for fast-track annexation last week.

While Gantz headed the opposition bloc, he refused to rule out annexation, expressing concern only that it would prove unpalatable to some western allies.

But aside from formulaic denunciations from a few European states, Israel fears little in the way of repercussions. And Gantz now appears on board.

As defence minister, he will be responsible for crushing any Palestinian resistance to Israel’s annexation moves, while Gabi Ashkenazi, his political ally and another former general, will be responsible as foreign minister for putting a respectable face on the annexation drive in overseas capitals.

Netanyahu appears to have the wind behind him, and three more years in which to meddle in ways that could see him maintaining his grip on the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office well beyond that.

• First published in The National

A Machiavellian Fiasco: How ‘Centrist’ Gantz Resurrected Netanyahu, Israel’s Right

It was intended to be a Machiavellian move, but the decision by Benny Gantz, leader of Israel’s Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) coalition, to join a Benjamin Netanyahu-led government is likely to destabilize the political fabric of Israeli society for years to come.

In a surprising move, Gantz has entered into precarious political compromises, whereby he would become the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), as a prelude to the formation of a national unity government which will include the ruling Likud party and Blue and White.

The move, however, proved disastrous.

As soon as Gantz declared his intentions to join hands with Netanyahu, thus throwing the discredited Prime Minister a lifeline, the Blue and White coalition quickly disintegrated.

Blue and White has stood on shaky ground since its formation to contest the April 2019 general elections. The leaders of the coalition, Gantz (Israeli Resilience Party), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), and Moshe Ya’alon (Telem) seem largely unified, not by a common ideological foundation, but by their sheer hatred of Netanyahu and burning desire to oust him.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, with his terms in office linked to an era of nepotism and corruption. Over time, Netanyahu has turned whatever semblance of democracy his country enjoyed into a personal and family affair. In his constant readiness to concede to his extreme right-wing government coalition partners to ensure his own political survival, Netanyahu offered his country little by way of a viable political vision.

For many years, Netanyahu’s enemies did little to counterbalance the Prime Minister’s excesses. While Netanyahu succeeded in wooing Israel’s right-wing constituency, Israel’s so-called left dwindled to represent, at times, a mere margin of error in Israeli elections and opinion polls.

A telling example is the most recent poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 12 earlier this month. According to the results, if Israelis were to vote in a general election on the day of the polling, the country’s historic Labour Party (which founded Israel in 1948) would fail to garner a single seat at the Knesset.

In retrospect, Gantz and his allies had no other option but to brand themselves as ‘centrists’. On forming their coalition a year ago, they aimed to appeal to various groups of disgruntled Israelis: right-wing voters disenchanted with the political deadlock and economic inequality; leftists, who have lost faith in the traditional left’s ability to resurrect itself as a strong oppositional force and the remnants of independent and centrist voters.

Gantz and his allies’ calculations proved to have merit, as Israeli voters came out on three different elections in less than one year to breathe life into what once seemed like an impossible mission: ousting Netanyahu.

In the last March elections, Blue and White has won 33 seats in the Knesset, certainly not enough to form a coalition on their own, but enough to build a relatively stable coalition that would seize control of the Knesset and, ultimately, form a government.

For the first time in years, it seemed that Netanyahu’s political career was over, and that the Prime Minister, who is facing serious corruption charges, will see his day in court, if not prison.

But Gantz faced a dilemma, which eventually resulted into his seemingly erratic decision to form a national unity government with Netanyahu.

To form a government that excludes the Likud, Blue and White would have been forced to include the third-largest political force in the Knesset, the Arab parties which are united under the umbrella of the Joint List.

Despite the Joint List’s willingness to join Gantz’s precarious coalition (which would have included some of the most notorious anti-Arab and racist political figures in Israel, like Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman), Gantz did everything in his power to avoid that possibility.

Racism in Israel is at its worst, and any political concessions made to Arab parties would have been considered by many Israelis as a betrayal to the ‘Jewish identity of the State’ as enshrined in the chauvinistic ‘Nation-State Law’ of July 2018.

Masquerading his decision as a concession that is compelled by the coronavirus pandemic, Gantz agreed to form an emergency national government with Netanyahu, which excludes the Arab Joint List.

On March 26, Gantz nominated himself for the position of the Speaker of the Knesset, replacing the abruptly resigned former Likud Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, setting the stage for negotiations with Netanyahu’s Likud regarding the structure of the new government.

Whether Gantz had anticipated the fallout of his decision or not is irrelevant because, consciously, he opted to make a deal with the devil rather than being the Israeli Jewish politician who has paved the road for Israel’s Arab community to be part of the country’s decision-making.

Everything that Gantz has worked for – three consecutive elections and the desperate attempt at carving up a centrist political narrative in a country inclining more to the right – have all come crashing down. Yesh Atid and Telem, two of the three main pillars in the Blue and White, officially filed for, and were granted, permission from the Knesset Arrangement Committee to break away from Gantz’s faction.

Unsurprisingly, if elections were to be held in Israel now, Gantz’s party would win a measly 19 seats – compared with the Likud’s growing popularity of 40 seats.

With the balance of power finally shifting in his favour, Netanyahu has toughened his political stance, insisting on playing a role in the appointment of judges (thus protecting himself from future prosecution), and on his right to block any High Court of Justice decision of disqualifying him from serving as a Prime Minister.

After failing to reach an agreement, the task of forming the government has been transferred to the Knesset. A failure to do so within 21 days would take the country to a fourth election, one that the Likud and their allies are sure to win, and this time decisively so.

It is ironic that the person who resurrected Israel’s political ‘center’ is the same one who eventually destroyed it. By doing so, Gantz has granted Netanyahu a new lease on life and, consequently, strengthened the Israeli right’s grip on power for years to come.