Quick Hits 2018

(1) As party of Zehava Galon’s campaign to bring open primaries to Meretz, she spoke recently to a kibbutz new site, which brought up the 170 kibbutz members on Meretz’s 1,000 strong central committee (as part of a question regarding the lack of a kibbutznik among Meretz’s Knesset Members). The number of kibbutz members on the party’s central committee is vastly disproportionate to the weight of the kibbutzim in the general Israeli population-of which they make up slightly over 1%-as well as their percentage of Meretz voters-about 10% in the last election. In the interview, Galon does not indicate that she thinks this overrepresentation of kibbutznim-which are heavily Ashkenazi and often very wealthy-and are in many cases merely glorified suburbs-is problematic in any way. Rather, she claimed that open primaries will help the kibbutzim obtain representation on Meretz’s Knesset list. If there is one segment of the population which Meretz-already perceived as a party of the Ashkenazi elite-does not need stronger ties to, however, it is the kibbutzim.

(2) The last month of 2017 saw 6 public polls released-the most since July of that year. They haven’t done much to clarify the situation, however-of the 10 parties in the Knesset, there was a difference of at least 5 seats between the best and worst showings of 5 of them. The Likud polled as high as 31 seats and as low as 24, the Zionist Union ranged from 20 to 12, Yesh Atid from 27 to 16, Kulanu from 11 to 6, and the Jewish Home from 20 to 12. The updated polling average, as computed by Jeremy Saltan, currently shows the opposition overall up 4-5 seats from the last election, possibly enough to bring Kulanu and Yisrael Beiteinu over to their side and form government. With the numbers in flux to such a great degree, however, no one should be counting their chickens just yet.

(3) The case of Francis Kimani Njugo, a Kenyan convert to Judaism who sought to study at a Conservative yeshiva in Jerusalem but was recently refused entry to Israel, has brought renewed attention to an issue I’ve discussed here several times in the past. The Director of the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry and Status Department seems to have finally made the government’s racist considerations in these cases clear, when he responded to criticism in the Knesset by asking “Do you want half of Africa coming here?” With the issue of discriminatory treatment of black Jews finally attracting attention from the parliamentary opposition as well as the Conservative movement, maybe the government will finally be forced to change its tune.

(4) I’ve written previously about the Transportation Ministry’s seeming aversion to transit oriented developed and preference for building parking lots on prime residential and commercial land. Well, in Rehovot someone seems to have finally seen the light, and Israeli Railways is planning to construct 4 new office towers (between 8-32 floors) surrounding the Rehovot train station. (The towers will also include a small amount of housing.) Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether the plans will ultimately come to fruition, due to last minute changes to the applicable zoning regulations.

In any case, Israel Railways looks set to continue another bad habit it has developed in recent years: constructing new train stations in the middle of nowhere. The Mazkeret Batya station, which will be completed this year, is set to be located about 4 kilometers outside the city, in an area which is currently totally undeveloped, and the Kiryat Malachi station, also set to enter service in 2018, will be approximately 11 kilometers from the city, in the middle of two small moshavim. One step forward, two steps back.


(5) A prime example of Yesh Atid’s balancing act vis a vis the haredi parties: suing to stop the Supermarkets Law while at the same time supporting haredi candidates for the committee which selects rabbinical court judges. His efforts to gain the support of secular Israelis seem to be working as the Zionist Union flounders; whether he’s simultaneously succeeded in convincing the haredim that he could be an acceptable coalition partner remains to be seen.

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