Israel Matters! – December 2022

The Israeli Election: Aftermath

Well, the Israeli election of 2022 is in the books, and here we are at Israel Matters to address the aftermath. It is fair to say that among many American (and European and everywhere-elsean and even some Israeli) commentators, the results have been reported as a seismic shift of Israeli voters to the right with the return of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud, his ultra-orthodox supporters, and the extreme right-wing parties Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) with their former Kahanist leader Itamar Ben Gvir and the Religious Zionism party led by Bezalel Smotrich. There is no question that many of the policy positions taken by these latter parties, ranging from bringing the judicial system under Knesset control to anti-LGBT measures to anti-Reform Judaism measures all the way to annexation of the West Bank and possible deportation of Arab citizens deemed anti-Israel, fly in the face of what one should expect from a liberal democracy. BUT, hold on.

First, there is no guarantee that these extreme positions will actually take hold – it is Benjamin Netanyahu who will be calling the shots, albeit with Ben Gvir and Smotrich pressuring from the fringe.
Second, and we think very significantly, the idea that there was a sudden lurch to the right amongst Israeli voters is a misnomer. If one sums the number of votes for the “Netanyahu bloc” one discovers a total of 2,360,757. The vote total for the “anti-Netanyahu bloc” equals 2,330,464. Now you do the math – the “Netanyahu bloc” received 2,360,757 − 2,330,464 = 30,293 more votes than the “anti-Netanyahu bloc!” That amounts to only 0.6% of all votes cast! So, if indeed the raw voting results were so close, how did “Bloc Bibi” manage to win so many seats (64 of 120)?
Here one needs to review the nuances of Israel’s electoral system. This was a multiparty election. Any party could only gain seats in the Knesset by winning at least 3.25% of the vote. Parties gaining fewer votes than this threshold are out of the contest, along with their votes, leaving the rest of the Knesset seats to be divided up among those parties that did cross the threshold. Now all the parties know this fact, and the existence of this threshold invites election tactics that were implemented by the right but not by the left (or the Arab parties for that matter). Part of Netanyahu’s genius election strategy involved packaging the most extreme right-wing parties to run as a technical bloc. This bloc passed the threshold, and the seats allocated to that bloc are now available for redivision among the members of the bloc. Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid tried to convince Israel’s two most important left-wing parties, Labor and Meretz, to also run as a technical bloc. Meretz was willing, but Labor’s leader was not. The upshot is that this failure to unite the left saw Meretz fall below the threshold and fall out of the Knesset. A similar fate befell the Arab parties where admittedly the most extremist party – Balad – refused to form a technical bloc with the Hadash and Ta’al parties. These lost votes led to lost Knesset seats that were effectively reallocated to the right in the post-threshold-clearing seat assignment process. In a nutshell, we believe it was intransigent political leaders like Labor’s Merav Michaeli and Balad’s Sami Abu Shehadeh who bear responsibility for the result.
Third, if one looks at the votes by location, a familiar pattern arises. In Tel Aviv, Yesh Atid, Benny Gantz’s centrist National Unity, Labor and Meretz pulled in over 64% of the vote; similarly, in Haifa over 60% of the vote was anti-Bibi. By contrast, in Jerusalem over 75% of the voters were pro-Bibi. These are hardly surprising results.
So, while there is no question that the makeup of the next Knesset will indeed look different than its predecessor, it is due much less to a sudden shift in voting sentiment. It all comes down to election tactics and execution, and in this realm, the Left got played.
OK, this article was about the election’s aftermath, and aftermath I usually like to have a beer, but instead we give you:

Eating Like An Israeli or a TBS Morning Minyanaire

Seeing as it is almost Hannukah, we’d like to share a TBS Morning Minyan twist on a familiar recipe – latkes! However, we need to point out that while you can find latkes in Israel for Hannukah, they are not nearly as widespread there as here. In Israel, sufganiyot (jelly donuts) are all the rage come Hannukah. But that’s for another day. The Minyanaires decided to make healthy latkes. How so? By substituting broccoli and cauliflower for potatoes while adding protein-packed Kodiak mix to the batter. The results are fantastic, not to mention catabolic!
Ingredients (to serve 3-4; triple to serve a minyan!)
1 cup of Kodiak mix (buttermilk is best)
¾ cup of water
3 broccoli crowns
½ whole cauliflower
1 white onion
Optional – 2 eggs
Your favorite frying oil
Mix the Kodiak with the water until you have what looks like normal pancake batter (and whip in the eggs if desired). Set aside. Chop off the broccoli, cauliflower, and onion (after peeling of course) into coarse pieces and pulverize them in a food processor until you obtain broccoli/cauliflower/onion rice. If you don’t have a food processor, you can buy broccoli and cauliflower rice packets at Stop and Shop, plus you can get finely chopped onions too. Now, mix the pulverized broccoli/cauliflower/rice into the Kodiak batter and stir it up until it is all even. Then, put some oil in a frying pan, and put tablespoon-sized amounts of the mix into the pan to form pancakes. Fry on each side flipping once until crisp. Plunk on a paper-towel covered plate to absorb excess oil, add some salt, and you will be eating latkes like a TBS Minyanaire!! Happy Hannukah everyone!
Ma Yesh b’Telivisia? What’s on TV?
Last July, I was waiting for friends in the Lobby of a hotel in Ashdod (about an hour from Tel Aviv). As I looked around the lobby, I realized that all around me were tables where young ultra-Orthodox women (dressed in their nicest, ultra-orthodox clothes) were seated across the tables from young ultra-Orthodox men, (dressed in black hats, black jackets and pants, and white shirts). These young people were literally interviewing each other for their suitability as future spouses. Watching them, I felt like I was viewing a live scene from one of the most well-known and highly rated Israeli television shows, Shtisel.
Shtisel (Netflix)
Shtisel follows the lives of an ultra-Orthodox family living in Jerusalem in modern day. (The show first aired in 2013 in Israel, and in the USA in 2018 via Netflix.) The series focuses on many aspects of the different members of the Shtisel family and in particular, on the life of Akiva Shtisel, the family’s youngest son. In many episodes, you see Akiva meeting a potential wife in a hotel lobby, just like I witnessed in real-life at that hotel in Ashdod.

On the surface, life is simple for the Shtisels and everyone they know: Pray, study, marry an “appropriate” match, have as many children as you can, care for your nuclear and extended family and follow all the rules of being a devout Jew (as they see it). Male and female roles are clear: Men study and teach Talmud, and women take care of the home and children. Ze-Hu (that’s it)!

But behind this facade of a community where all live an obedient, righteous, and almost scripted life, Shtisel shows the imperfect, more human side of ultra-orthodox life and the challenges these Jews face. In the episodes, the viewer experiences the difficulty felt by members of the Shtisel family as they attempt to meet the expectations of family and their community, and the lengths that they go to in order to follow tradition, meet their personal needs and maintain their status and dignity.

Peer pressure, deception and manipulation, conflict between personal talents/aspirations and community norms – it’s all there in Shtisel. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch a few episodes and you’ll be hooked. If you have already seen it, watch again – you’ll appreciate it even more the second time around.