Thursday, May 31, 2012

Judge A Society By It's Reactions to Evil

I first wrote this earlier in 2012, but in light of a recent August 2012 lynch mob attack by Jewish youth on an Arab in Jerusalem I decided to rework the article:
About 15 or more years ago, I heard the American talk radio host Dennis Prager make the following comment:
"A community should not be judged by the actions of individuals from that community, but rather by the reaction of the community to those individuals".
A few years later, a small group of
Islamic terrorists would hijack and fly planes into the World Trade Center & Pentagon, and the world would finally fully understand just how rabid extreme elements in the Islamic world had become. I did not then and I do not now believe that all followers, or even the vast majority of followers of Islam in anyway support the Islamists, and the reaction of most Muslims was the same as the rest of us: horror and revulsion. However, I also remember that in the Palestinian Territories and Gaza the people danced on
the streets in celebration. Prager got it right,
and those images, (shown on the right) and watched around the world, said more about the Palestinian community than anything they had said or done previously.

A few days ago a group of Israeli youth, some as young as 13, attacked and almost beat to death a young Arab man. After their arrest, the young thugs have shown little or no remorse for their actions. The reaction from Israeli society however has been telling:

Israel's Prime minister Netanyahu said:"This is something that we cannot accept – not as Jews, not as Israelis. This is not our way; this goes against our way, and we condemn it in word and deed. We will quickly bring to justice those responsible for this reprehensible incident,"
he said. "We will be persistent in our complete opposition to racism and violence."

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the incident: "I fully condemn any form of violence, both physical and verbal, and I'm sure that the police will find the attackers. Barkat urged everyone to "sustain coexistence in the city, work towards appeasement and thwart violence
, along with Jerusalem's silent majority and everyone who seeks coexistence."

Judges, ministers, rabbis, opinion writers, educators have all loudly condemned the attack, and the Israeli 'street' seems in accord with the sentiment.

This reaction to such a depraved attack allows us the opportunity to see if the Palestinian people have moved forward since 9-11. How do they look on what Pres. G.W.Bush would call "evil doers" in their society in 2012? Have they rejected terror in their earnest desire to negotiate peace with Israel and join the family of nations? The Israeli govt. recently released the bodies of a number of Second Intifada Palestinian 'suicide' (or rather homicide!) bombers to the Palestinian Authority in one of a number of recent 'gestures' of good will. I could be wrong, but I am fairly confident based on recent history, that what we'll then see is a glorification of people whose last living act was walked into cafe's, restaurants, schools and hospitals, with bombs tied around their waists. These bombs were packed with nails and other shrapnel, designed to hurt as many people as possible. The terrorists chose their targets carefully, aiming for civilians, often with as many women and children involved as possible. Few if any attacks seemed to be aimed at The Israeli Defense Forces , or evil 'settler' Israeli's, who the Palestinians are today telling us are the real enemy of peace.

The effect of these mass murders on Israeli and Palestinian life is felt to this day: The security wall & check points that the Palestinians have sought so much international sympathy for having to endure, were erected as a defense against these terrorists, and they have been highly effective, ending the wave of bombings and therefore saving many hundreds of lives, but
there is no doubt they have made life harder for Palestinians. Israeli life now includes regularly standing in lines to be checked for bombs when we go to the cinema, shopping mall or even simply coffee shops.

The idea that the Palestinians can make heroes of people who blew up school kids at bus stops, teens & tourists in cafes, & old ladies with their shopping bags is so beyond abhorrent I don't have any clean adjectives to use here! The image above is taken directly from a recent prime time program on Palestinian TV . The terrorist pictured killed 37 Israelis including 13 children!

I know that people everywhere will be horrified by the glorification of these terrorists, but the problem is that beyond Israeli & Jewish press, I doubt anyone is going to hear about it, because it is very likely the international media is going to ignore it, as they have ignored the Palestinians naming streets, parks, squares and recently a football tournament after suicide bombers in the past.

Prager was absolutely correct, you can only judge a community by its reactions to the acts of evil and that is why we have to make certain that when the Palestinians, or anyone else, celebrates mass murderers, we make damn sure the world hears about it! We have to use social media to make sure people understand that the Palestinian Authority not only does not condemn Islamist terrorism, it actively supports it, publicly glorifying the terrorists, teaching their 'heroism' in the classroom, and encouraging a new crop of murderers to take up bomb belts, all the while supporting their pro-terror embryonic state with international aid. We must make as much noise as possible, so that the media cannot ignore what is about to occur. The only way people worldwide can understand the Arab Israeli conflict, is to understand the societal context of this conflict and turning terrorists to into saints is as contextual as it gets!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

reclaiming Zionism

Ever since UN resolution 3379 was passed in 1975 declaring Zionism to be racism, and despite the fact it was repealed in 1991, the image of Zionism has become increasingly tainted by the enemies of Israel and many Jews today are uncomfortable with the word. To those people I simply ask "are you guys for real???"! Are we really allowing our enemies to dictate to the Jewish people the definition of one of the cornerstones of Judaism, the concept of Jewish nationalism and our past, present and future connection with the land of Israel that dates back over 4000 years? By slandering Zionism, they take away our heritage, our connection to the land, and our crowning achievement. They

are trying to eradicate our pride in Israel and ourselves as Jews, and we can see this damage clearly in American Jewry's struggle with it's relationship to Israel.
I feel incredibly passionate about this for very personal reasons, because if I hadn't discovered Zionism as a young teenager, I very much doubt I would have any Jewish identity today. The raid on Entebe, lead the eleven year old secular version of me to start to learn about, and even identify with a group of incredible Jews and their dream. You see, I was the only Jew in my school, living in a big city with very few Jews, and I was on the receiving end of constant antisemitic taunts from students and sometimes teachers. Other than seder night and 2 visits to synagogue a year, my Jewish identity revolved around being bullied, and to be frank, I really couldn't see much point in being Jewish since it brought me only grief!

Then one day the talk of the school was the miraculous heroism of what Israel had achieved in Uganda. Movies came out, TV programs recreated the sacrifice of Yoni Netanya
hu and his band of commandos, and I felt the first glimmer of pride in being Jewish and to be in some way associated with these people. I headed to the school library to learn more about Israel and there during lunches and breaks, I found out about amazing people like Theodore Herzl, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Hannah Senesh and the others. 'Exodus' came on TV and I wanted to be like Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman's character), even referring to him in my Barmitzva speech.
As I went through school, these heroes gave me a new strength to respond to the bullies, and even once publicly arguing with a teacher who had made a nasty comment. I remember when I was about 14 one of my non Jewish friends parents remarked how wonderful it was that I had such pride in my Judaism. I hadn't realized that my learning about Zionism had brought me to a level of pride, but it was true, and the taunters had lost their power to hurt me.

As I explored further I wanted to know how the Jewish people had survived a 2000
year exile. I remember reading one of my Asterix The Gaul comics and thinking that the Gauls, like the Jews had come up against the Romans, but that their culture, language and history was all but gone, where as we had maintained ours and eventually returned to our homeland. Although from a totally secular Jewish home, I started attending a religious Zionist youth group called Bnei Akiva. I learnt how far back our roots in Israel go, and how once we had built a country based on Torah principles, including a social welfare system, excellent judiciary, & separation of church
and state functions when the ancestors of the British were still living in caves!
I remember one day realizing that although I could only trace my family tree back to 19 century Poland, I knew one thing, perhaps the most important thing, about all my ancestors going back to Roman times when they were forced out of Israel: They wanted me to be Jewish and to remember where I came from! How do I know this? Why else would the Judaism passed down to me have survived the hell of exile? The passion & determination that must have been involved in passing on Judaism to each new generation by these unknown people was to me as amazing a feat as the raid on Entebbe had been.

From that realization, my Jewish identity still grows, leading me to Torah study & a religious Jewish lifestyle, but underpinning all that is my Zionism: my belief in building a Jewish nation state in the land of Israel. As a religious Zionist I still believe deeply in the motto of Bnei Akiva "Am Yisrael, b'Eretz Yisrael, al pi Torat Yisrael" (the people of Israel in the l
and of Israel living according to the Torah of Israel). It is that belief that brought me home, to live in Israel.

So how dare anyone suggest that my beliefs are racist! The Jews found no permanent home anywhere in the world for 2000 years and until 100 years ago had little or no hope of any form of self determination, until Herzl and others decided it was time to take the 'dream' of returning to Israel and make it a reality. 20 years before Herzl, Leo Pinsker in Russia had believed the future of the Jews was in building a Russia together with the Russian nationalists and that this partnership would cement the Jewish place in the new Russia. When the non Jewish intellectuals encouraged and applauded pogroms in towns like Odessa, Pinsker traveled to Germany. There he discovered there was a popular society of antisemitism and he realized the Jews of Europe were doomed. No longer could they hope for benevolent non Jewish leaders to protect them. At the end of his life he wrote of Jewish Auto-emancipation, which would later be known as Zionism. The following 50 years would prove Pinsker to have been almost prophetically right.

At the start of Herzl's Zionist Organization, prior to WW1, the land of Palestine was poor, supporting very few people, with little or no agriculture or industry. The Jews invested time, money and so much effort to drain swamps, plant forests and fields, and build cities. Had they not started this work I doubt the remnants of the Jewish people would have survived the Holocaust, for without hope it is hard to build a future, but survive we did, building a country that defied the odds, fighting war after war against aggressive enemies with vastly superior numbers, building an economy whose success beggars belief,and standing today proudly as a lone beacon of democratic values in the Middle East. That's Zionism. It isnt racism because it isn't about anyone else! It is about Jews finally, after a 2000 year history of abuse, exile and pogrom, taking their destiny into their own hands. It was never about about being better or worse than other nations, it's simply about building a future in this one tiny corner of the world. Nothing in Zionist ideology says or even hints at "Arab Bad, Jew Good", it simply says that Jews came from Israel, found no rest in any other land, and finally returned to their ancestral home, a place we never forgot during the long night of the 2000 year exile.

If you want racist ideology, then bear in mind that it isn't the Jews who wa
nt Arabs removed from their homes and land, it is the Palestinians who want every last Jew gone. Even the moderate Palestinian position, accepting a 2 state solution, does not want any Jews to have even the choice to remain in Palestine as citizens of that country. They want what Hitler called "Judenrein" (we call it ethnic cleansing today). If Zionist thinking was like that, then in 1967, after capturing the Judah & Samaria from Jordan, Israel could have emptied the residents of Hebron, Qalqilya, Ramallah etc, sending the residents to Jordan, but it didn't do that. Israel could have banned Muslim worship on Temple Mount, (as the Arabs had banned Jews from the Western Wall prior to '67), but Israel handed control to Palestinians, who today riot if a Jew so much as moves his lips in prayer in that area. The racism in Israel doesn't coming from the Zionists.

Let me end with a reminder of what Zionism has achieved: 60% of world Jewry lives in Israel, in cities we built despite wars, poverty, & holocaust. We have taken our language of Hebrew, used only for prayer and Torah study since Roman times, and we have resurrected it into a living language, replacing Yiddish as the "Jewish" language; This tiny country has a free press, a proactive and free Judiciary, and democratic rights enshrined into the fabric of the state. Zionisms technological achievements have changed the world for the bette
r. Arab & Jewish citizens of this country are represented in parliament, have both their languages recognized as official languages by the State, and benefit from its economic and technological successes. Zionism did that, and it something every Jew has to take pride in, and that the world should applaud.

Lets all say it loud and let nobody dare denigrate this incredible achievement of the Jewish people: Zionism gave Jews back their self esteem, their future and most of it gave them a home where I now live: I AM PROUD TO BE A ZIONIST !!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Truly Antisemites

A few months ago I had the privilege of interviewing Prof. Robert S Wistrich, one of the world's top experts in antisemitism { listen to interview }. He discusses the massive evidence of widespread, crude, almost medieval levels of antisemitism in the Arab world, and argues, backing his claims with well researched facts and anecdotal evidence, that the international community is ignoring the vicious and rampant antisemitism throughout the Arab world. This arab antisemitism, he argues, is the context within which the Arab / Israel conflict has to be viewed if it is to be understood. For example, knowing that Palestinian President Abbas did academic research 'proving' the holocaust never happened (a view widely shared in the Arab world, not to mention Iran), surely raises questions about his ability to one day negotiate and accept a permanent resolution for the Palestinians.  Why then is it totally ignored by the world media, and the international community of democratic states?

Perhaps there is no simple answer for this, but I'm going to take a plunge and offer the non-politically correct line, by arguing that this ignoring of the obvious, is in and of itself fueled by underlying antisemitism in the western world. Of course as soon as one talks about antisemitism in this context the pro Palestinian movement attempt to undermine the debate, claiming they are not antisemites, simply against the policy of Israel or 'anti-zionists' , and many of the pro-Israel lobby buy into that line, avoiding accusations of antisemitism as much as possible. I believe this avoidance adds to the silence when it comes to Arab antisemitism. We are allowing our enemies to dictate the use of the antisemitism label, in effect taking it away from the Jews, so that we are once again not being allowed to name and shame antisemites. Everyone has a right to confront his or her accuser, and we as Jews have the absolute right to name and shame the antisemites out there.

Lets be very careful however, not to call anyone who debates Israeli policy as antisemitic, so when does valid debate and argument with Israel cross the line? How can we know whether overt or covert hatred of Jews is the motivation for a pro-Palestinian politician or journalist? Ask yourself a simple question: does the argument cross the boundaries of logic? For example, what motivates a feminist group or gay rights group to support Hamas? They share no values: Hamas is a totalitarian violent group with no respect for the rights of anyone: women under Hamas are suppressed, gays are in fear of their lives. Compare that with Israel, a state whose democracy is enshrined in the very fabric of it's society, where women stand alongside men in every profession and where the gay community finds itself accepted and supported by the state. Why then does Hamas enjoy the unwavering support of these groups? Obviously propaganda sows the seeds, but those seeds land in soil already fertilized by  antisemitism.

Still not convinced? Only recently the 'global march on Jerusalem' & flytilla 2 were  organized amidst the backdrop of the Syrian regime's genocide against its own citizens, occurring a few hundred miles north of Jerusalem. If people truly were motivated by a desire to support human rights in the Arab world, rather than hatred of Israel, then surely their energies would have been focused on Syria. Such single minded hatred by non Palestinians crosses all lines of logic.

I've encountered people in the UK who have argued that 'the Palestinian genocide' by Israel is the motivation. In fact, far from a genocide, since 1967 the Palestinians continue to live in their cities, worship at their holy places, something they deny Jews the same rights in Palestinian areas, and their population grows. In a world where we can see what real genocide looks like, a world that can see it in Rwanda, Sudan, Syria etc, to accuse Israel of doing the same is absurd. The fact that countries, NGOs, and the media accepts this lie can again only be because of a readiness to accept the worst about the Jewish state. No amount of evidence or logical argument would sway this person's view. He wanted to believe it, because he was primed to believe the worst in a state run by Jews.

The Apartheid Israel argument is equally as idiotic, and yet even South African civil rights leader Desmond Tutu has accused Israel of apartheid, pointing at the security fence erected at the height of of the intifada which successfully halted the wave of bus, and restaurant bombings that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians. Equally the check points in and out of Palestinian controlled areas have saved uncountable Jewish lives, admittedly at a cost to the ease of movement of Palestinians, but when weighed against the alternative, surely it is a legitimate argument to say it is the price the Palestinians have to pay for harboring terror in their community? Bear in mind that the barrier and check points are a defensive response to terror attacks and not punitive.  In any case check points do not equal apartheid: denial of medical rights, transport, education, judicial services etc were the hallmarks of apartheid S.Africa, all of which the Palestinians share with the Jews. Israeli Arabs are a significant minority in Israel, who enjoy a level of democratic rights the rest of the Arab world has always been denied. This is easy to verify by any visitor to Israel and yet vast numbers of people the world over believe the apartheid myth. The reason has to be that they want to accept it. They are primed to believe it by prejudice.

Antisemitism is not new, and it isn't going away, so lets not kid ourselves any longer that things out there have improved over the years, or that we can separate antizionism from antisemitism. In 'nice' countries like The UK & US people are not generally 'Protoculs' type antisemites, but rather the polite 'some of my best friends' antisemites. In fact I believe that many of the people who feel so vehemently and strongly against Israel, do not realize how much antisemitism fuels their passion. We aren't going to make it disappear, but lets not be afraid to call a spade a spade. They won't like it, but let them know that we know the truth: they are truly antisemites!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Peace with Israel: Not In The Best Interest of Palestinian Leaders.

It's been a LONG time since Oslo, and the Israeli Palestinian situation is no closer to resolution than it was the day Arafat launched the 2nd intifada in 2000. Some blame can always be laid at Israeli leaders feet of course, although when you consider what we now know that former PM's Olmert & Barak were prepared to offer for a solution, it's hard to understand why peace couldn't be achieved.

To this day Palestinians make plenty of noises about peace and negotiations, but always manage to find a reason to not even meet with Israel, imposing shifting conditions on participation, knowing that at best Israel will want to negotiate on those very points, not agree before reaching the table. Recent Jordanian attempts were scuppered when the Palestinian delegation simply refused to turn up. Meanwhile their propoganda machine churns out story after story creating an image of gun wielding settlers stealing land in the night, and apartheid era images from S. Africa that bare no relationship to the real situation on the ground. These stories make Israel's position weaker, and serve to encourage international aid, despite clear Palestinian Authority human rights violations occurring under the noses of the family of nations. Combine that with the high levels of corruption that means much of the aid disappears, the constant Nazi style antisemitism on aid funded PA media, and the recent clamp down on Palestinian press freedoms, and it is unlikely the PA would get these levels of international aid without the negative propaganda about Israel.

The question remains therefore, why the PA doesn't devote more energy to genuinely seeking peace with Israel? Why on earth would the Palestinians leaders not want peace? The answer is clear: it isn't in their interest! Not for the same pure hatred reasons of the Hamas led Gaza Palestinians, but because peace with Israel would probably lead to an end to their personal gravy train & perhaps their downfall! Does anyone believe that it was only Arafat who got rich off the conflict, with a personal wealth of $1.3 BILLION when he died, with at least $900,000,000 'diverted' from foreign aid according to the IMF?

The aid from the UN, the EU and the US is on shaky ground as I explain above, with the PA doing so many things that in other circumstances would cause nations to think twice in these difficult economic times, and if Palestine becomes a country and continues (as it almost certainly will) with the blatant human rights violations, anti-democratic practices & rabid corruption, then aid will dry up. Couple that to the fact that a future Palestine would be a tiny place, with few resources (thanks to the fact that the vast majority of what should have been Palestinian land under the 1947 UN plan is not The West Bank, but rather Jordan, and nobody is even suggesting they be part of a land deal for the new Palestine) and the Palestinian leaders (and defacto their people) would be in afar more difficult position than they are today. They would still be totally dependent on Israel for water, and power (as Israel is about to become a net exporter of natural gas & electricity, and the Egyptian supplies are totally unreliable thanks to Islamist sabotage). Meanwhile Israel (not to mention Jordan & other Arab states) would be unlikely to supply this new state with resources for free, and one can imagine that with the corruption levels we can expect , Palestine is unlikely to mirror Israel's success story.

This failure would probably open the door for the fall of the PA and the reunification of the Palestinian people under Hamas. A Hamas Palestine would once more look to Israel as the source of all it's problems and only a fool (like British MP George Galloway) can imagine they would honor any settlement with Israel reached with the PA. We'd be back to square one, with the real losers being once more the Palestinian people, who in all this will not have had their voices heard or their needs addressed, just as their are not addressed today by either the PA or Hamas who use the Palestinians as their ticket to power and riches.

Therefore Palestinian leaders avoid true negotiations, because for the fat cat Palestinian leadership successful negotiations would be a disaster. The status quo means they can continue to get rich on aid, and they can vilify Israel as an obvious scapegoat, while aiming crude Nazi levels of antisemitic propaganda at their people to keep them angry, as well as killing anyone who dares sell land to Jews (the first law the Palestinian Authority enacted!), and arresting Palestinian journalists who dare to criticize. It all leads to the clear conclusion that they don't want peace, not for the good of Palestinians, but because the status quo is good for them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yair Lapid: Part of The Problem

Yair Lapid left his successful Israeli TV journalist career behind to enter politics, promising to be something different from the career politicians we are so weary of here, a new type of option for a frustrated voting population, but to be honest Lapid has so far proven he is exactly the same as the others, and in his short (and so far unelected career as a politician) become part of the problem, not a solution.

The main sign of this is that he set up a new party, 'Yesh Atid' ('There is a future'). Perhaps this should have been called 'Yesh Lapid', but anyway one thing Israel has no shortage of is political parties & factions, many of which come and go over the life of a single Knesset, promising to change the face of Israeli politics and leaving behind a trail of 'more of the same'. Lapid, if he continues to enjoy his honeymoon period as a politician, would probably get a handful of seats in the next Knesset (despite Facebook polls suggesting he'd get as many as 20 MKs in a 2012 election) and then he would bargain away his principles to join a new unstable coalition, where he could wield far more power than his vote count or experience should give him. This might explain his current angry statements aimed at PM Bibi Netanyahu & Shaul Mofaz for forming the new unity government, because as I said in my remarkably prescient blog a few days ago, if they succeed in changing our electoral system, Lapid's bid for power is down the drain, and even this outbreak of political unity has delayed elections and put his nascent political career in jeopardy.

The result of a change in our system would be a more stable political stage, comprising of 3 or 4 strong broad parties. Lapid may well find a home in one of those, perhaps a revitalized Labour Party, but then he'll have to put in years as a working politician, representing ordinary people's problems, gaining respect and hopefully a reputation for honesty and hard work, while his high profile as a TV anchor will dim in the public mind. If he's lucky then at some point he may get to serve his country as a minister and we can all judge his worthiness to be a leader of Israel. What he won't be able to do is enter the Knesset and immediately barter his way to a position of power he does not have the experience or mandate to fill.

I for one am hoping that Bibi & Mofaz succeed.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Starting a Campaign for Public Holidays in Israel

I started writing this piece the day before Bibi surprised us all by canceling elections, that he had originally surprised us by almost announcing ! I know Israel faces existential threats to it's existence; divisions in society between Jew & Arab, ultra orthodox & secular (Tal Law); a flawed education system and harsh cost of living costs for our income levels, but I'd like to add a vital item to the list of priority issues facing the next Israeli government: public holidays ! One virtually universal reaction I've heard to Bibi's new unity government is "oh no...what about our election day public holiday???" !!

Trivial? Perhaps not life & death, but in terms of quality of life I'd say essential! We must be one of the only western countries that does not have a true weekend, with with many people working 5.5 to 6 days per week (not to mention several weeks reserve army duty each year as well). This long working week is tough for everyone, particularly for religious Jews such as myself, because Friday (if we even have it off work, which my wife for example does not) is about preparing for Shabbat, and Shabbat itself while a wonderful experience, doesn't readily allow us to do leisure activity or even spend the kind of quality time with our kids we'd like to enjoy, because Shabbat & erev Shabbat is all about cooking, cleaning, guests, synagogue, etc.

To be honest, my long term goal is not a fewextra public holidays, but to see a Sunday weekend law passed in Israel, however being realistic, that's probably a few years off, so what about quarterly public holidays? Yom Haatsmaut in the Spring is the sole one that exists now, so I'm talking adding just 3 days a year! Three days when parents can have some quality time with their kids, when families can enjoy a long weekend, and when leisure enterprises from hotels to garden centers can do some bumper business! Make them a Thursday or Sunday and we can have a long weekend option. These days would not be a drain on the economy, far from it, as they provide a boost to local tourism, and business such as garden centers, BBQ suppliers, and so on.

At this point you might be agreeing with me in principle, thinking to yourself that this is a very nice idea, but not exactly the necessity I described in the opening sentences. Well I disagree: The stress levels in this country are palpable and families are suffering. I know very few Israelis that don't struggle to make ends meet with both parents working long hard weeks, and for what? To not have time to be with their kids? Lets make this a priority for our new unity government, lets write to Knesset members, set up Facebook groups, and contact the media. So come on Bibi - give us a Ben Gurion day or make Herzl day (which already exists on the calendar) into a real holiday, for the sake of our national mental health and our families!

democratic change

Israel is about to once again express the ultimate manifestation of a democracy: general elections. As soon as he ends the Jewish mourning period for his late father, incumbent prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to call elections early in September. For all of Israel's neighbors this basic act of democracy would be something of huge import, with elections in the Mid East a rare, and generally tainted exercise. Not in Israel however, where regular elections, combined with a free press and a court system, are symbolic of this young country's genuine democratic nature. All Israeli's over 18 have the vote: male & female, Jew & Arab, religious & secular. Israel's often raucous Knesset is a collection of small parties with the largest holding around 30 of the 120 seats.

Israels government is therefore by necessity always a broad coalition, often (as in the outgoing Netanyahu government) made of strange bedfellows from right and left.This is, of course to Israel's credit and is a level of democracy seen as natural in Europe & The US, but unheard of in the Mid East, it is however a democratic system that for the good of Israel needs reform. In our current system too many small parties have inflated influence, because of the need to include them in coalitions. At the same time, ordinary citizens lack local representation. Knesset members represent their parties, but not geographic areas and therefore I have no MK of my own to call when issues occur locally. Parties are often formed to represent demographic groups such as Shas (representing poorer Sefardi Israelis) or the Ultra Orthodox groups & arab parties. This representation has been important over the past few years, forcing governments to listen to the needs of these communities, but at the same time, it has allowed tiny parties, representing a small percentage of Israelis to have the ability to hold coalitions to ransom: "build here or we walk.... propose that bill and we are out".
The solution (and I have heard is that Bibi himself wants this) is to reform the system, but these very small parties will block any moves to do that, in order to protect their power base. In simple terms, any proposal would lead to the collapse of a coalition, because Shas and the others will walk out. What has been needed is a coalition of the major parties (and again I've heard in off the record discussions with people 'inside' is that of all the larger party leaders only Tzippi Livni would not 'play ball'). Such a coalition of Likud, Labor, Yisrael Biteinu, & Kadima would not need the tiny parties and would be able to pass the difficult reforms needed and then call fresh elections.
I believe as a result of this, political figures, instead of constantly setting up yet another party or Knesset list, would be forced to either form power block within the larger parties or non governmental pressure groups as happens in other democratic states. The type of system they create is open for debate: a two tier Knesset perhaps, with half the member representing geographic areas and half elected as they are today is one idea that I have heard, but whatever system is chosen, it has to happen, because the present system, while it is excellent for dealing with security and foreign policy issues, does not create governments able to tackle the various social problems that plague Israeli society.
It is incumbent on all of us to put pressure on the parties during this election cycle to work together to make this change, because this is the period when they are most open to being influenced by the electorate. This is perhaps the single most important thing any future Israeli government might achieve