Daily Archives: December 4, 2014

Who will replace Netanyahu as prime minister?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives for a Likud party meeting at the parliament in Jerusalem, Dec. 3, 2014.

For one brief moment during Yair Lapid’s news conference Dec. 3, the newly fired finance minister shifted tone slightly as he read the carefully crafted text from his teleprompter. It happened when one of the journalists asked him whether, given all the harsh criticism he hurled at Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu during his speech, he was also prepared to make a commitment not to join a Netanyahu government after the elections.

“Look at me,” Lapid said directly to a reporter. “Benjamin Netanyahu will not be prime minister after these elections. He made a mistake, and the cost of that mistake is that he will no longer be prime minister.” As he uttered this momentous prediction, he suddenly sounded passionate and excited.

Lapid has a reputation as a courteous politician. Even in the tensest moments, he always made a point of showing respect for Netanyahu. It seems, however, that the orchestrated humiliation that the prime minister put him through this week — culminating in Lapid suddenly being fired from the government — whetted his appetite for vengeance.

The question is how far Lapid is willing to go with an “Anyone but Bibi” tactic. Would he be willing to sit in a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, whom he disqualified as coalition partners after the last elections? At this news conference, Lapid avoided rejecting the ultra-Orthodox categorically, leaving the door open.

Among many of the parties competing for votes, including Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, the agenda leading this election will not revolve around security issues or the economy. Instead, it will focus on removing Netanyahu from the premier’s residence on Balfour Street, much like the atmosphere that dominated the 1999 election. What will make this campaign difficult is the absence of any single candidate considered a natural alternative to Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office.

When asked at the news conference if he considered himself a candidate for prime minister, Lapid was quick to say “yes.” However, Lapid’s statement hardly corresponds with reality. The latest polls show that his party will lose almost half of its seats, and making matters even worse is that Lapid himself has earned very low marks in surveys gauging his suitability to serve as prime minister.

But Lapid isn’t the only candidate who is not considered an alternative as prime minister. Chairman of the Labor Party Isaac Herzog, Chairman of Yisrael Beitenu Avigdor Liberman, Chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi Naftali Bennett and former Minister Moshe Kahlon with his new party all trail far behind Netanyahu in polls examining who is most suited for the premiership. Even now that Netanyahu is worn down and losing strength, the distance between him and all the other candidates is vast and thus constitutes his main asset.

And yet, given the division trend of the political system, the predominant assessment is that after the next election, there will be only small and mid-sized parties in the Knesset, without a single large party. These elements, combined with the emerging anti-Netanyahu coalition, make the upcoming elections entirely unpredictable. Ostensibly, even the head of a mid-sized party could cobble together a coalition and be appointed prime minister if that person can put all the pieces together. For instance, even with just 10 seats, Liberman can bring together Lapid, Herzog from the Labor Party and the ultra-Orthodox, and become prime minister.

Another possible scenario is a rotation agreement over the premier’s seat between the heads of two mid-sized parties, who manage to put together enough seats to block Netanyahu from forming a coalition. Two potential party heads to do this are Herzog and Liberman, with the latter signaling of late that he is moving from the right to the political center. What is certain, however, is that both Liberman and Herzog believe that becoming prime minister lies within the realm of possibility for them — and they have good reason to believe that, too.

Netanyahu took an enormous gamble when he decided to advance the elections. He only did that after reaching the conclusion that time was not on his side. As opposed to the 2013 elections, his public stature has eroded considerably. His opponents are organizing, and they could well surprise him with an alternative government and remove him from office without elections. Netanyahu’s use of the element of surprise proved itself, at least in this very early stage, by catching the leaders of the center-left parties off guard.

Until recently, Tzipi Livni, the justice minister fired by Netanyahu, used the illusion of a diplomatic process to justify clinging to her seat at the Cabinet table. Very soon, she will be forced to decide which side she will join. Her party, Hatnua, has been getting no more than four seats in the polls, indicating that it has apparently reached the end of the road. This leaves her with two options. She can either join Herzog and the Labor Party or Lapid and Yesh Atid. Both men believe that she can bring them another two or three seats, and in negotiations with them she can demand — and apparently receive — the No. 2 spot on their Knesset list.

What is clear now is that the center-left bloc will not consolidate its forces before the elections. Yesh Atid, the Labor Party and Kahlon’s new party will each run separately and any possible merger will take place only later. Even if the desire to overthrow Netanyahu is the glue that holds them together, feelers and initial meetings held between the parties this week indicate that these parties will run as separate lists, and only join forces after the election. The problem with them running as independent lists is that the center-left parties will end up also investing efforts and resources on competing against each other for the same electorate, which could ultimately harm them in the larger battle against Likud and Netanyahu.

This is just the beginning of one of the strangest election campaigns that Israel has ever seen. Unlike the previous election, in which it was obvious that Netanyahu would continue to serve as prime minister, and unlike all the other, earlier elections — in which two outstanding candidates competed with each other over the post — this time around there is a real chance that after March 17, Netanyahu could find himself out of office. At this point, it remains unclear as to who will take his place. Such a situation has never been seen before.

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Survey: Official Corruption Worsens in Turkey, Improves in Egypt

Turkey’s ratings on “perceived corruption” have increased sharply, according to a new report published by a global watchdog for government transparency.

The report identifying the most and least corrupt countries in the world was published Wednesday by Transparency International. It uses a scale on which 100 represents the cleanest states and 0 the most corrupt.

The report indicates Turkey’s record had deteriorated the most precipitously this year, falling by five points to 45.

The drop reflects not only the exposing of various incidents of corruption in the Turkish governmental system, but also the rising number (Arabic link) of journalists arrested by the authorities after condemning the regime.

Earlier this year, the government of then-prime minister (now president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked access to Twitter to prevent discussion of a massive corruption scandal embroiling the ruling party. Instead of addressing the scandal in a transparent fashion, Erdogan appointed cronies to the panel investigating government corruption.

On the other side, Egypt and Jordan were described in the report as countries where corruption has decreased during the last year.

Ranked the 94th least corrupt country out of 175 states, Egypt’s integrity score improved by five points in 2014. The organization said that Egypt “achieved one of the highest levels of improvement in its fight against corruption this year.”

According to this ranking, Arab Gulf countries are still the least corrupt states in the Arab world.

 The Tower.

How Abu Dhabi Police Took Down American Teacher’s Accused Killer

United Arab Emirates police released a remarkable video that shows how a suspect in an American woman’s stabbing death arrived at the mall where the crime took place, and later planted a bomb at the home of an American doctor, before fleeing in a white SUV. The video also follows police as they raid the suspect’s home and arrest her. The suspect, covered from head to toe in a black abayah, was caught on multiple surveillance tapes. The clip was posted on the Abu Dhabi police department’s YouTube page. Here’s how it all happened: The suspect, whose face is covered, enters the Abu Dhabi shopping mall and takes the elevator.

After allegedly stabbing Ibolya Ryan, a kindergarten teacher from Colorado, the suspect flees the building. The tape shows blood splattered on the floor at the scene of the stabbing, and a large, bloodied kitchen knife.

The culprit, still in her abayah, arrives at an apartment building with a rolling suitcase.

The suspect planted a makeshift bomb at the home of another victim, an American doctor, police said.

The accused killer then got into a white SUV whose plates are covered by a United Arab Emirates flag.

Police later dismantled the explosive device:

The clip shows police ambushing a mansion, where they arrest a woman they say is the suspect.

Obama Administration Releases Illegal Aliens with Terror Ties, Blames It on a ‘Judge’

Homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson on Capitol Hill.

By Andrew C. McCarthy:

10 police killed, 28 injured in Grozny anti-terror operation (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Ten police officers were killed and 28 injured during an anti-terrorist operation in the Chechen capital, Grozny, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee has reported. The operation prevented major terrorist attacks planned in the city, the committee said. “In the course of the counter-terrorist operation 10 local police officers were killed and 28 were wounded, having shown bravery while on civilian and military duty,” the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in a statement. RT’s video agency RUPTLY has obtained exclusive video of the last hours of the operation. The footage from the location shows a building on fire, with emergency services trying to put out the flames.

The cameraman is at the scene of the fierce shootout between the security forces and the assailants. The close-up shows the shots hitting the building, and then intensifying. Later, shoulder rockets are used in the violent fighting, with people ducking and wincing at the sounds of incessant shooting.   The incident started after midnight when a group of armed men traveling in three cars attacked a police checkpoint outside Grozny. Then the gang proceeded into the city and occupied the Press House building in the city center. At 8 am, the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, wrote on his Instagram page that he was personally supervising the anti-terrorist operation and that it was “entering its final phase.”

Security forces immediately arrived at the scene and blockaded the Press House. An anti-terrorist curfew was imposed in the city. Also, additional measures were taken to liquidate terrorists who besieged a school building, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee spokesman said. The committee reports that the operation has now ended. Interfax reports that the body of a civilian has been found among the rubble of the Press House in Grozny. The civilian was an employee of a furniture store located in the building, according to a representative of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee.

Dozens arrested as NYC protests Eric Garner decision

Demonstrators block the West Side Highway during a protest against the grand jury decision on the death of Eric Garner, in New York December 3, 2014.

At least 30 people were arrested by the New York Police Department on Wednesday evening, as thousands of protesters flooded city streets after a grand jury declined to indict an officer for killing a Staten Island man via chokehold.

Following the decision, demonstrations began popping up throughout the city. Protesters disrupted traffic by blocking numerous streets – including the West Side Highway – marching into Times Square, and taking over the area near Rockefeller Center, where the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony was taking place. Streets and sidewalks were blocked, with police telling people they could only pass if they had passes to the ceremony.

Protestors gather in New York Grand Central Station on December 3, 2014.

Demonstrators also poured into Grand Central Station by the hundreds, where they staged a “die-in” and spread their bodies across the floor. Numerous protesters told RT they wanted to “shut down” the city as a result of the decision, and traffic jams were subsequently reported at Lincoln Tunnel and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, as well as other areas.

Approximately 30 people were arrested, according to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, though more have been reported since he spoke around 10 p.m. So far, police have not reported any violent incidents or injuries.

While the protests were not previously planned, momentum for them began building soon after the grand jury’s decision was reported. The case involved 43-year-old African American Eric Garner of Staten Island, who was placed in a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner was taken to the ground with the help of several others. Despite repeatedly complaining that he couldn’t breathe, Garner ended up going into cardiac arrest and dying.

People take part in a protest against the grand jury decision on the death of Eric Garner in midtown Manhattan in New York December 3, 2014.(

The July incident was caught on video by a civilian bystander and ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner, but the grand jury did not indict Pantaleo on any charges.

The decision was met with fierce criticism immediately after it was revealed, drawing condemnation from all over the political spectrum. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was “a very emotional day for our city,” adding that Garner was “a man who should be with us, and now isn’t.”

Soon afterwards, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights investigation into the incident, one that would include a “complete review” of the evidence collected during the local investigation.

However, this news didn’t quell outrage among residents, many of whom also protested last week’s decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict a white officer for killing a black teenager. People marched through the streets chanting slogans such as “I can’t breathe,” referring to Garner’s last words. They also yelled, “No Justice, no peace.”

Following the decision, Pantaleo issued an apology for what occurred back in July.

“It is never my intention to hurt anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner,” Pantaleo said. “My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”

Speaking alongside Rev. Al Sharpton, Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said she did not accept Pantaleo’s apology.

“I couldn’t care less about his condolences,” she said. “He’s still working, he’s still feeding his kids. And my husband is six feet under and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now. Who’s going to play Santa Claus for my grandkids this year? Who’s going to do that now?”

“I am determined to get justice for my husband because he shouldn’t have been killed in that way,” said Esaw Garner.“My husband’s death will not be in vain. As long as I have breathe in my body I will fight the fight.”

Meanwhile, Sharpton announced that there will be a march against police brutality in Washington, DC, on December 13.