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Why Likud Lost By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 30, 2006

Likud and Israel’s National Union/National Religious Party lost because they gave the impression to the Israeli public that they cared only about themselves. The results of the Israeli elections conveyed a clear message to the people associated with Israel's conservative and religious parties that "You are arrogant and you have isolated yourselves from the people of Israel."

The outreach campaign of the “national union/national religious camp” articulately addressed the suffering of Israelis who were evicted from their homes in Katif in Gaza and the Shomron in the West Bank, yet offered no words about the suffering endured by economically depressed Israeli development towns that border Gaza in the Negev. People there now live under daily artillery bombardment as a direct result of Israel’s hasty retreat from Gaza six months ago.

The direction of this campaign was handed to Yehoshua Mor Yosef, who had steered the Yesha Council, the organization of West Bank Israeli settlers, to isolating itself as a parochial cause, and then went on to help the Israel Foreign Ministry market the destruction of Jewish communities as an integral part of any road to peace. Such was expressed in the pamphlet that the Israeli foreign ministry’s information department issued under Mor Yosef’s tutelage.

Pleas with the leadership of the Likud and the National Union/National Religious Party to hold public meetings with the victims of artillery attacks in the area of Sderot in the Negev fell on deaf ears.

Instead, the stated policy of the National Union/National Religious Party was to reach out only to the “right wing” of Israeli politics, and not to reach out to all the people of Israel, nor to reach out to people with integrity on the Israeli left who became frustrated with the fallacies of Israel’s so-called “peace process.”

As far as the Likud is concerned, its fate was sealed in the spring of 2003 when Benyamin Netanyahu, as the Minister of Finance, slashed special public fund allocations for pensioners, handicapped people and children.

When Netanyahu’s director general was confronted with how the cut in child allowances would cause working families to lose vital income they need for basic sustenance, his answer was that “they should go out to work.” When confronted with the fact that the cutback of the child allowances affects people who are working class, his answer, once again, was that “they should go out to work” even more.

A few weeks after Bibi’s economic plan was announced, I forwarded a professional proposal to Netanyahu’s chief social affairs advisor suggesting that for every program that Netanyahu would cut in health, education and social service, he should ask corporations and philanthropists from Israel and from abroad to sponsor new health, education and social services to replace those that had been cut.

The precedent for such an idea occurred during the tenure of Israel’s former finance minister, Avrhaham Shochat, who had arranged with UJC (United Jewish Communities) philanthropists in the USA to sponsor security guard services in all of Israel’s public schools, since Shochat was cutting this vital service.

To this day, “UJC” plaques are posted at the guardhouse of schools throughout the country to remind everyone that this vital security service, which the Israeli government could not afford, had been secured with private philanthropic funds.

Yet while Netanyahu’s social affairs advisor liked the idea of seeking private sponsors for every service that Netanyahu would slash, Netanyahu would not hear of any such idea, and simply fired his social affairs advisor.

So there you have it: The Likud and the National Union/National Religious Party presented a clear, strong security program to the Israeli voter, yet both parties neglected to address the vital health, economic and social disaster of the indigent sector of Israeli society. And they paid the price.

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David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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