pa vezer o vageal e kreiz e klever a-wechoù un trouz iskis: kleier ur sinagogenn a zo o seniñ dindan ar mor...
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
You could be a minister too
Netanyahu's government had 18 ministers. Sharon's began with 25 and waxed on to 28. Ehud Olmert's administration is set to kick off the new season with a record 27-29 posts. Many people seem bothered by this, but I say, the more the merrier. There's plenty of important work to be done in this country, and why should any elected official be left feeling inconsequential? I would suggest increasing the number of ministers as much as possible. There's no reason why every member of the Knesset can't have his very own portfolio and a volvo to go with it.
I hereby present my own proposals for some new positions:
Minister of Deception and Policy Reversal: to aid the other MKs in increasing the distance between words and action, and remove the death-grip of accountability that binds our hapless public servants. Sharon's metamorphosis from a stark supporter of settlements to their uncompromising uprooter was a step in the right direction, but there is much more to be done.
Minister of Miseducation: because the minister of Education can only do so much on his own. We need more textbooks that divorce children from their roots, lesson plans that enable a greater sympathy with our enemies, and a firmer laxness in our disciplinary attitudes.
Minister of Unaesthetics, Unfunctionality, and Homogenization: It's not enough that 80% of the apartment complexes and public buildings in this country look like giant concrete dumpsters; I'm sure if the members of this ministry put their heads together we can achieve 100%. We also need more buildings like the main Haifa University building, 40 stories high and pencil-thin, in order to give our citizens greater exposure to the character-building world of elevator interiors. Finally, we should ensure that all private homes and villas remain faithful to our own homegrown Spanish-knockoff architectural idiom of cookie-cutter white blocks and plastic-red roofs.
Minister of Societal Breakdown: to facilitate our decline in cultural standards and civil order. This ministry will not rest until every child over the age of five spends his nights in a warm nightclub improving his mind, mini holographic television screens are attached to the inside of our eyelids, and gang violence can finally break through the bourgeois barriers that have impeded its spread to all our streets.
Minister of Party Proliferation: With only twelve parties in the current Knesset, the vast majority of citizens have no representative who can express all the nuances of their hopes, dreams, and grudges. This ministry will hold frequent party creation drives, and strive to lower the threshold for entrance to the Knesset from 2% to -%120, so that we can truly have a government capable of translating the will of the people into reality.
Minister of Media Bias: to disabuse the masses of the confusing, chaotic diversity of Israeli media by placing all newspapers, radio stations, and television stations under the direct control of the government.
Minister of the Euthanization of the Dead Sea: this famous and historic body of water has been in a transitory state for far too long. As its vital waters slowly evaporate and agonizing sinkholes form about its shores, none of its would-be saviors have been able to move past their own petty desires and divisive arguing. This ministry will see to it that the Dead Sea is buried as quickly as possible, and that an expensive museum dedicated to its memory is established in a prominent and relevant location in the center of the country.
Minister of Corruption: to assist the MKs to make the most of their high position and influence. Shady business deals and illegal rendering of free services will encourage political participation and stimulate the economy as the benefits of the elite trickle down to the common worker.
Perhaps the most notable of the great celebrity traps in the Holy Land are the Kabbalah Center, the Peres Center for Peace, and the Yitzhak Rabin Center. Much like the Borg, the members of this unholy triconsortium regularly snag celebrities and assimilate them into their collective blind worship of former prime ministers, appeasement, or little red strings. Now, they've got Will Smith (and his wife):
The couple visited the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, and watched a movie depicting Rabin's life and leadership. Both Jada and Will were moved by the film, which even caused Jada to shed a tear.
At the end of the screening, Smith stated: "I am inspired beyond my ability to articulate... and now I know what and who I want to be... a soldier for peace." Dalia Rabin granted the couple two copies of the Noble Peace Prize medal that was awarded to Yitzhak Rabin.
Smith, on his part, expressed interest in attending the event to mark the opening of the Center's museum later this year, and pledged to make a donation to the institute.
No, dear Jada Pinkett, I shed a tear, for this once-great man, who as recently as 1996 saved the world from hordes of ugly octopine aliens, but has now been reduced to an inarticulate, whining, lily-livered sap.
One of the things I find most offensive is when people talk to me in slogans. I'll cut Mr. Smith a little slack, because whether you take him at his word that he was overwhelmed with emotion after seeing a film about the legacy of Rabin (thousands upon thousands dead or wounded), or you think maybe Dalia done drugged him up good (note the vacant, unfocused eyes in his picture above), he clearly could not have been capable of any original or refined expression at the time he was quoted. But let's look at the phrase he chose: soldier for peace.
Huh? What is a soldier for peace?
After getting past the initial oxymoronic shock, I'd think it refers to someone who fights in dangerous battles, in the air, land, or sea, with guns, bombs, nifty camouflage, and expensive vehicles, in order to defeat violent aggressors and thereby achieve a state of tranquility. But Smith isn't enlisting in the IDF; he's going to attend a museum opening and throw cash at an organization that supports known genocidal maniacs. Where's the soldier, and where's the peace?
Come on Will, pull out those guns and blast 'em like you used to! Or donate your money to physical therapy programs for the victims of Rabin, or to a voluntary Arab-relocation program, or even to one of those little old ladies with the magic red strings. Otherwise, please just stay in Hollywood and pretend to save the world from afar, where you can't hurt us.
From Persia's Foaming Mouth To Israel's Plugged Ears
Sometimes the only ones willing to proclaim the truth are the ones who by all other counts should be put in a straitjacket and gagged. Consider the Madman of Iran, President Ahmadinejad—already a frequent subject of this blog. Amidst the foul, black bile that arose from his throat the other day, there were several shining pearls that we ought to pluck from the refuse and examine before we flush it all down the toilet of our memory. Here are some of them:
The existence of the Zionist regime is a threat to the dignity of the Muslim ummah, the believers and the faithful. In accordance with the noble verse from the Holy Koran, the domination of such a regime over the Muslim ummah that reside in the occupied territories and the region is contrary to the consent of the Almighty.
The mere existence of Israel is first and foremost an affront to Muslim dignity. The main motivators of anti-Israel Muslims are none other than the dubious emotions of pride and shame. Of course, I'd be humiliated too if a few scraggly Holocaust survivors managed to swipe back something I had taken from them and kept for centuries, and I couldn't get it back with all the soldiers and weapons in the world. And it's quite normal and understandable to make decisions based on pride; we'll tell jokes, dress smartly, choose or reject careers, buy cars, and write blogs in order (at least partly) to maintain or enlarge our own egos. We usually don't reflect on all the real reasons why we act as we do, but they ought to be recalled and put in their place when millions of lives stand to be snuffed out so that some Muslims can feel better about themselves.
It pains me to say this, but even many Zionists largely base their support for the state of Israel on pride (negatively referred to as גאוה/ga'ava in Hebrew ). Yes, it's nice to have your language be the official one, your religious holidays as national days off, your religious institutions supported by the state, a national anthem that reflects your own history and dreams, and an army you can call your own—whether you're Jewish, Kurdish, Basque, or Arab. But are any of these justification for independence and the painful processes that are necessary to bring it about? I don't think so. There are certainly other reasons for Israel, as well as many other nations, to be independent, but let's be careful to be honest about our motivations and try to keep them pure.
By its unending killings, destruction of homes and farms, encroaching upon sacred places, mosques and churches, unrelenting assaults on residential and non-residential places and targeted assassinations, this regime not only humiliates and disgraces Palestinian people, but also tramples upon the pride and dignity of all Muslims and freedom-loving people of the world.
Whatever justifications might lay behind these actions, the two can always be separated for propaganda purposes. There are people dying and buildings being destroyed, and it's only too easy to display the images and make up your own stories to go with them. Israel's going to look bad no matter what it does, so it might as do what it needs to and worry less about what people will think of it.
... there must be an opportunity for all genuine Palestinians; be they Muslims, Christians, or Jews, residing in Palestine or in Diaspora, to participate in a referendum to decide the political system of their choice and elect their leaders.
It's interesting that he admits here that there are Jews who can be considered as Palestinian as any Arab in Ramallah, but the more important point is that there is a serious problem in denying one segment of a population the right to vote. This injustice has largely been overcome now with the autonomous government that the Arabs in Yesha have. Israel does retain a certain control even over these areas though, to which the Arabs there have no input. Any viable solution will have to grant them full citizenship to some country, somewhere, and it must be done soon.
The young tree of resistance in Palestine is blooming and blooms of faith and desire for freedom are flowering.
The Zionist regime is a decaying and crumbling tree that will fall with a storm.
Yishai Fleisher mentioned the line about Zionism crumbling on Arutz Sheva Radio yesterday, and objected to Ahmadinejad's chutzpah. As rude as it is though, it's a valid point. The old ideals of Jewish unity and love of the land have been replaced in these modern times with hedonistic individualism and love of America (and India). How many Israelis these days are willing to be pioneers and go settle in the Negev or Golan, let alone Judea and Samaria? How many support the Jewish (-only) labor of former days? How many have a strong desire to hold on to any land outside the main population centers? How many can refrain from giving away land even as the negative effects daily explode in their faces? Crime is up, and schools are failing. Children don't respect their elders, and the elders elect a party that will win them money at the expense of their children's security. Religion is donned and shed at convenience by prime minister and peasant alike, and half the children haven't visited Jerusalem. The country has been de-Judaized with Christian immigrants from Russia, foreign workers, and reunified Arab families. The supreme court believes that the highest principle of morality is to go against tradition, and it legislates away distinctions between Jews and Arabs when it will bring the Arabs up, but discriminates against Jews when it will bring the Jews down.
Zionism is a shell of what it once was and of what it could be. Outside of the national-religious sector, it's supported only insofar as it overlaps with one's perceived immediate personal security and aesthetic needs. Muslim anti-Zionism, however, is fueled by a desire to recover from embarrassment, hunger for land and power, religious doctrine, and the confidence that comes from seeing repeated successes in the field. Ahmadinejad was only voicing the obvious disparity. Instead of rejecting his unfriendly words outright, we ought to glean what truth we can from them and take the steps necessary to improve our situation.
With Iran growing more isolated by the day, and the threats against it increasing, I thought it would be appropriate to say a few words in support of its much-maligned president, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Because, behind the venom and the arrogance, I mean way behind, I think there's a good-hearted little boy, who only wants to be loved and understood. And how awful can a guy who walks around with a green aura over his head really be? He may not be nice; he may even be downright mean, but if he were a little less shy, I'm sure he'd tell us ...
♫ It's not that easy being mean; Snarling at Jews, and bagging hostages at US embassies. When I think I'd rather be eloquent, or tactful, or improve the cinema of my country.
It's not easy being mean, Just another youthful spokesman for a senile oligarchy. And people tend to want to bomb you Cause you're not making sunny speeches, or locking lips With the right guys.
But mean's the pathway to peace! And mean can be brotherly, and Mohammed-like. And mean can be big like an H-bomb, Or important like a hidden imam, Or tall like a hanging tree!
When mean is all there is to be It could make you pause to reconsider If you want Bush to eat you for dinner, But, I am mean and it'll do fine, it's Revolutionary! And it's better than being Isra-e-li. ♫
In case you don't remember how the original goes, here it is:
It's not that easy being green; Having to spend each day the color of the leaves. When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold... or something much more colorful like that.
It's not easy being green. It seems you blend in with so many other ord'nary things. And people tend to pass you over Cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water Or stars in the sky.
But green's the color of Spring. And green can be cool and friendly-like. And green can be big like an ocean, Or important like a mountain, Or tall like a tree.
When green is all there is to be It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why? Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful! And I think it's what I want to be.
Now, I love Arutz Sheva Radio as much as the next hot-headed right-wing extremist settler wannabe, but some of the guests they invite on, well, make my orange ribbons pale.
The perpetrator of the hour is one Jim Long, who came on the Tamar Yonah show as a representative of Isaac Mozeson, author of the new book The Origin of Speeches: Intelligent Design in Language, and an older one, The Word: The Dictionary That Reveals The Hebrew Source of English. Listen to the interview (ASX / MP3 / main audio page) [no longer available], if you want to be taken for fool. Otherwise, don't listen, unless you're definitely going to read the rest of this post. If you've already had the misfortune of hearing it, please read on.
Before I comment, I'll briefly disclaim: I have not read the new book, or even glanced at it. But I did hear the interview, and I did once or twice have the displeasure of perusing The Word, and I heard nothing in the interview that was qualitatively different from what I read there. And, for my own credibility, I'll mention here that I have a degree in linguistics.
Here is the essential background information you need to know:
Languages are constantly changing. Everyone learns a language and uses it in a way that's slightly different from the way the older generation spoke it, and the way his peers speak it. This happens naturally, even in the absence of conscious innovations or outside influences.
When speakers are split up geographically or even sociologically, their modes of speech will begin to diverge to a greater degree, because there's not enough communication to keep them in sync.
Once these varieties are different enough, we deem them separate languages and give them distinct names. We refer to the newer varieties as sisters of each other, and descendants or daughters of the earlier form.
Mozeson has set out to prove that all languages are descended from Hebrew, and so he points out one pair after another of Hebrew and English words (and occasionally words from other languages) that are similar in form and in meaning. Like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat, he produces Hebrew ארץ/eretz and English earth, שקל/shekel and scale, הר/har and hill. He's got tons of these, and we're supposed to gasp at the obvious correspondences, still intact after 6000 years.
If you talk to a linguist though, you'll get a very different picture. Hebrew is a member of the Semitic family, and by extension the larger Afroasiatic family. It's related as a sister or a cousin to languages like Aramaic, Arabic, and Amharic. Hebrew shares with these a common ancestor, and there's no other language that's said to be a descendant of Hebrew in the sense I described above (Yiddish, Ladino, etc. merely have loanwords from Hebrew). Then there are numerous other families of languages, with no known relationship to Semitic. English is part of Germanic, which itself belongs to a larger family called Indo-European.
Why the answer is no is largely explained in the classic article How likely are chance resemblances between languages? by Mark Rosenfelder. Chance resemblances between languages are very likely, and so Mozeson-type similarities don't really tell us anything. Read the article. Even if your eyes glaze over at some of the linguistic terminology as mine do at some of the math, he's a good writer and you'll get the point, and you'll learn a lesson in caution that can apply to many areas in life.
Exactly how likely chance resemblances are depends not only on the languages being compared, but also on how careful or lax the investigator is. And Mozeson takes all the shortcuts he can find:
Ignore vowels. Of course it's much easier to make a match when you only look at half of each word.
If a consonant gets in the way, drop that too!
Be flexible with the meanings of words. If hand doesn't sound right, try arm, finger, grip, give, etc. [NB: there are real cognates whose meanings have diverged much more than this, but they are bonuses to be claimed after the relationship is already established through firmer evidence.]
Pick English as one of your languages. It's got the largest vocabulary in the world, and so you don't even have to be so flexible with the meaning; you've probably already got 50 very close synonyms for whichever word you need. At least one of them will probably sound right.
Count loanwords, even though they show nothing about the origin of the language you're looking at.
Anyone one of these methods is liable to lead one's research astray. Employing all of them together, indiscriminately, is a surefire way to get a false positive.
But the carelessness and confusion run much deeper: not only is Mozeson too forgiving with his evidence, he is looking for the wrong kind of evidence, and in all the wrong places.
When sounds in a language change, they change systematically (most of the time). For example, every [h] sound in Latin disappeared along the road to becoming Spanish (that it's still written is irrelevant); today in many varieties of Spanish [s] is turning into [h] whenever it occurs at the end of a syllable, but not at the beginning. If you find that a [g] sound in Language A corresponds randomly to a [k], [h], or [g] in Language B, you haven't proven anything. But if [g] corresponds to [k] at the end of a word, [h] before a vowel, and [g] elsewhere, then it's systematic and you may be on the way to establishing a relationship. From correspondences like that you can posit rules to describe the changes that likely took place between the source language and the daughters, e.g., "[g] becomes [k] at the end of a word."
Of course, the longer the time gap you're looking at, the more opportunity the languages have to change, and change again, until they look extremely different. Even the correspondences are obscured eventually, because the conditions that are necessary to accurately describe them (such as [g] corresponding to [h] only before a vowel) may themselves change or disappear (say, if some vowels are later dropped).
A couple of examples should suffice to illustrate this: Spanish hoja and French feuille ('leaf, sheet') have not one sound in common, but both come to us from the same Latin folium. Similarly, we have Spanish hecho and Romanian fapt ('done'), both from Latin factum. These forms can be derived through regular, language-wide changes, and though they're very different, this is just what we'd expect after two thousand years.
Finally, one mustn't forget that as sound changes are taking place, words are constantly being coined, borrowed, abandoned, and can easily change their meaning beyond recognition; thus the pool of words that we can use to prove relationships grows ever shallower. For all these reasons, historical linguists focus on the oldest varieties of language available, those least altered from the source in question.
Contrast them to Mozeson, who doesn't even deign to use Old English for his comparisons, let alone Greek, Latin, or Hittite, but chooses English as it is currently spoken. By comparing two languages so far apart in time, one of which is known to be singularly infested with loanwords and recent sound changes, Mozeson is setting himself up for failure.
Mozeson never posits any sound laws with which one could derive English from Hebrew, nor do his examples differ to the degree we'd expect after so many millennia. Neither do his linkages imply any sort of directionality; even if they were completely valid, they don't favor English as a descendant of Hebrew, or Hebrew as a descendant of English, or both as descendants of a common source. We can at least rule out the second option because we happen to know that English did not exist in anything like its current form until recent times, but he'd have no such luxury if he'd chosen an older tongue.
What Mozeson has done, then, is no more and no less than to tell us that 1 plus 1 equals 11. To the untrained eye it's compelling, but it's true only in the most cosmetic and uninteresting sense. Using the same methods he could have shown German to be descended from Hawaiian, Russian from Klingon, or Hebrew from !Kung. And it should surprise no one that claims like these are regularly made for many a language, by many a well-intentioned naif.
The reason I felt the need to write this post is that unlike math, science, music, or politics, very few people study even the most basic principles of linguistics. People are often not even aware that linguistics exists as a discipline distinct from language learning, or else fail to grasp the depth of it. Many will spin off pseudo-linguistic theories as a child would paint a scene, unaware of the importance of perspective or subtlety, and many others will swallow whatever linguistic tomfoolery they are told to, with neither question nor dissent.
It both offends and saddens me particularly when I see such erroneous thinking in a Jewish context, because my own and many other people's religiosity is the result of a long and taxing search for the truth, and so much of Judaism is the very process of rational thought and debate. Yet, theories like Mozeson's have few challengers within Judaism, not only because people are ignorant but because everyone wants them to be true, and when I see how easily and willingly people are misled it makes wonder how exceptional this really is.
Before I close, I want to make clear that I have no personal resentment towards Arutz Sheva, Tamar Yonah, Jim Long, or even Isaac Mozeson. I'm sure the latter has no intent to mislead or deceive, and he probably even thinks he's doing a great mitzvah. I believe, though, that he is unwittingly doing Jews a great disservice by enticing them to greater faith through falsehood, and it's that falsehood that I am opposing here, despite the repeated mentions of his name above.
Wars are won, the historical record shows, when one side feels compelled to give up on its goals. This is only logical, for so long as both sides hope to achieve their war ambitions, fighting either continues or potentially can resume.
He gives several examples to show that war is not necessarily won through a simple military defeat—in particular, the Arab-Israeli conflict persists even after a number of Israeli war successes. He says that most of the other strategies Israel has come up with, from retreat to transfer, are also bound to fail, because they do not address the root of the conflict: Arab rejection of Israel.
And how does one solve that problem? Pipes doesn't spell anything out himself, but we can find Solution A in a Q&A feature with Uzi Landau that he links to. Landau advocates a combination of military defeat, democratization and reeducation of the Arabs, and finally some good old mutual concessions.
Bradley Burston responds to Pipes in Haaretz, and draws out a Solution B from a speech Pipes gave in 2003:
Arabs will not truly accept Israel's existence until Israel "punishes violence so hard that its enemies will eventually feel so deep a sense of futility that they will despair of further conflict."
While that may not be the only way, and it's not what Pipes is advocating in his current article, the idea is nothing to sneeze at. Germany and Japan have certainly kept quiet since getting beaten into a stupor in WWII. But Burston protests, convinced that this solution has already been attempted:
[Pipes] notes, by way of inference, that the wars in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 failed to persuade them. I guess we didn't fight hard enough, or well enough.
The truth is, the IDF never did fight hard enough or well enough to bring the Arab world to the brink of utter ruin and despair. It wasn't trying to either; it only meant to repel immediate threats, and that's all it accomplished. Solution B has not been tested yet, so Burston's criticism is baseless. (There are other possibilities for criticism though, such as rejection of Israel being too rooted in Islam to ever permit widespread acceptance [at least without more extensive secularization of Muslims], and the Arab world being too large to damage it adequately.)
Another point is that, despite Burston's assumptions, "punishing violence" does not have to take the form of more violence. Sanctions, restrictions on personal liberties, psychological warfare, expulsions, etc. can all be devastating.
Burston's next question is this:
Does Dr. Pipes really believe that people who crave a violent, Jew-murdering death are really going to accept Israel if only enough military force is applied?
Is Dr. Pipes telling us that people who celebrate the sacrament of suicide are going to think differently of us if we send in more tanks, bigger bombs, more F-16s, more Apaches, more infantry brigades, more commandos, demolish more homes, demolish more olive trees, demolish what little is left of the Palestinian Authority?
What Burston surely knows but doesn't acknowledge here is that the goal of a suicide bomber is not merely to kill Jews (or himself), but to pressure the remaining Jews into giving up their land. And all the military pressure Israel could put on the Arabs is worthless as long as it's handing out property deeds at the same time. Clearly, many Arabs are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice if it means that their larger goal will materialize.
But imagine for a moment, if your mind can stretch so far, that Israel were to steadfastly refuse to make any withdrawals (and maybe even annex land after each attack), thereby neutralizing this motivation. Now imagine further, and I'm speaking purely theoretically, that the IDF had a policy of leveling an Arab town for every act of Arab aggression against Jews. Such a tradeoff would hardly be worthwhile, and I think most Arabs would agree.
Burston must have felt that his other arguments were sorely lacking, because not once, but twice, he pulls out the nuclear bomb of Israeli debate, capable of reducing any enemy to a puddle of radioactive goo: the Israeli identity card. Unfortunately, Pipes doesn't have one. And what can an American really say about Israel, from his armchair 6000 miles away? Funny though, that Burston can judge Pipes from 6000 miles away. Maybe he stole his driver's license?
If you're going to criticize someone for being too distant from a situation to properly understand it, then for your own credibility, you have to back it up by pointing out some bit of information that the commentator is lacking. Burston makes no attempt to do that, because he wasn't being serious in the first place and his comment was empty of content; he was only engaging in the adult equivalent of calling someone a poopy-head. In fact, many who do live in Israel agree with Pipes. And many Americans agree with Burston. The facts are not in question here, only how to logically put them together, and reason has no borders. Writers who appeal to this fallacy (is there a name for it?) should not even be dignified with publication in major newspapers like Haaretz. Then again, it is Haaretz ... never mind.
Burston may be completely wrong, but Pipes is not completely correct either, and I'll talk about that be"H in Part Two.
Yesterday I wrote about how Labor might steal the rug from under Kadima and form a coalition itself. But today is a new day, and it looks once again like it's Kadima that's going places. Shas and UTJ, by order of their respective rabbinical leaders, have come out in support of Olmert (why? I haven't seen any explanation), as have the Pensioners and Meretz. Peretz is being criticized from within his own party, for being egotistical and going against the will of his own voters, who never could have meant for him to give a platform to the likes of Shas, UTJ, NU-NRP, and Likud.
I wouldn't bury the thought of a Labor-led government just yet, though. Should Olmert's coalition begin to falter at some point—and that's not unlikely—the Knesset may have to give Peretz another chance, if it wants to save itself from new elections. I just hope that happens before Olmert's planned expulsion and not after.
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Monday, April 03, 2006
קדימה, אחורה / Kadima, Achora / Forwards, Backwards / A Lua e a Mulata*
שקדין–דין, קדימה שקדין–דין, אחורה זה קצת דומה להורה אבל קצת יותר מסובך
Shkedin-din, forwards Shkedin-din, backwards It's a little like a hora, But a little more complicated
Not only is this a great song (number 13), but it may soon be reality.
I first read about this possibility on JoeSettler (here and here). And now we're seeing news reports on it (A7, J Post). Could the Kadima party (meaning forward in Hebrew) actually be heading backwards? Backwards, off a steep cliff?
As the articles and posts explain, if no party in the Knesset emerges from elections with a 61-seat majority, the president chooses a party to form a coalition with other parties. Kadima may have more seats than anyone else, but it's still only got 29. Labor is next with 19 (down from 20).
So how does the president decide which party to pick? After meeting with each, he picks the one that looks like it can form the most stable coalition. Historically, this has always been the largest party—but it doesn't have to be. Why should things be any different now? Because what Labor lacks in seats, it may be able to make for in tolerability as compared to Kadima. Let's look at what's going on in some of the collective party minds right now:
Labor (19 seats): Steal from the rich and give to the poor! Pensioners (7): אל תשליכני לעת זקנה / Don't cast me off in old age! Shas (12): Fund the yeshivas! UTJ (6): Fund our yeshivas too! Likud (12): Will anyone even remember us by the next elections? Yisrael Beitenu (11): Coa-what? We've still got the celebratory vodka to finish, and then there's the post-celebratory vodka.... NU-NRP (9): Save the settlements, save the settlements, save the settlements.... Meretz (5): Peretz is cool, but why do those stinking settlers and haredim have to get in the way? Kadima (29): Hmm, maybe this isn't as easy as we thought it would be.
Clearly, the first four parties have a certain commonality of purpose. Likud will not join with Kadima out of principle, but might go with Labor to prevent another unilateral explusion, to salvage some measure of power, and to spite Kadima, even if Peretz will undo Netanyahu's economic reforms. YB has already said it will go with either Kadima or Labor. NU-NRP may disagree with Labor on which way the earth turns and who's buried in Hertzl's tomb, but they're still better than Kadima. Meretz has a conflict of interests and will probably recommend Kadima, just to avoid sitting in a coalition with the right-wing.
I don't know if it will happen, and I'm not a big fan of Labor, but it would be a beautiful thing to see Kadima tumble from the sparkling throne it built for itself. Who woulda thunk it—invite all the most overconfident, opportunistic, corrupt, morally- and ideologically-bankrupt scum to a big bloated pool party, and then pull the plug. Voters may have supported Kadima more than they did the other parties, but the other parties can't possibly have any affection for Kadima. At best they're jealous of its success, at worst they feel betrayed by their own members who ditched them for it.
Read the Arutz Sheva article if you haven't already. It points out a lot of good things about Labor—at least relatively good things. Well ... we're at the point now where we have to take what we can get. Like how people say that even if Peretz is a reincarnation of Stalin naive socialist who can't speak English, at least he's honest. That counts for something, right? And I have to say, not that it matters, but if this goes through, it will not only be the first time the second-largest party was asked to form a coalition, but also the first time Israel had a Sefardi prime minister.