In view of the political drama surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure, a novum in Israeli politics almost faded into the background: For the first time in Israel’s history Mansour Abbas’ United Arab List (Ra’am) became part of a coalition government.
However, Ra’am faces the difficult task of walking a fine line between catering to its Palestinian voters and being a reasonable partner to Israel’s extreme right.
Even though Palestinians make up almost 20 percent of Israel’s population, a voice for the minority has traditionally been largely excluded from the political decision-making process.
Their representatives were personae non-gratae, undesirables, not only in ultra-orthodox and right-wing circles but also for secular left and liberal parties.
After the March 2020 elections, Ra’am offered to support a centre-left coalition under Benny Gantz. However, Gantz turned down the offer – for fear of being torn apart by the right-wing camp as an Arab fraterniser and instead entered a coalition with his rival Netanyahu – a choice he will have regretted by now.
Thanks to Netanyahu, who in the past was often inclined to politicise the Arab question ad nauseam and stir up antipathy against them, Ra’am is now a member of the Israeli government.
“A taboo was broken, ironically by the Netanyahu camp, which tried – and failed – to get Arab support for Netanyahu’s coalition. The methods used were quite despicable,” Benyamin Neuberger, professor emeritus of political science at The Open University of Israel, told Al Jazeera.
However, Netanyahu legitimised Ra’am, allowing the anti-Netanyahu camp – the Bloc for Change – to get Ra’am to join the coalition.
“From now on, any coalition with Arab parties has become legitimate – and this for the first time in Israeli history,” said Neuberger.
Within the system
However, it was not merely the political landscape that has witnessed a change but also Israel’s society. In February 2020, polls indicated only 23 percent of Jewish voters would support the idea that the country’s Arab parties support an Israeli government. In April 2021, a poll found now 48 percent of Jewish voters had warmed up to the idea.
Ra’am thus became increasingly cognizant that it can achieve more within the system.
Usually, the Palestine question would dominate the election programmes of the Arab parties, but turnout among the Arab community remained relatively low. This year’s turnout marked the worst in history, at 44.6 percent.
Nonetheless, this indifference to politics forced Arab parties to usher in a paradigm shift, away from prioritising Palestinians in the occupied territories and towards improving the living conditions of their voters, the Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is a strategy change that made sense, given that voting Palestinian citizens appear to be interested in their own fate, first and foremost.
The Arab parties are responding to the changing mood of their voters, who are increasingly interested in bread-and-butter issues: rising criminal violence in the Arab towns and villages; education; social services; discrimination in employment and municipal budgets, said Neuberger.
“Ra’am was successful in going with the trend.”
However, while Ra’am has benefitted from this new reality in Israel, the status quo will not necessarily represent the future. Fundamental concerns among Jews towards Ra’am remain regarding defence, public security, and foreign policy.
Ra’am naturally advocates for creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also supports equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel. However, Ra’am is also ideologically aligned with Egypt’s now-banned Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in Gaza. The latter, in particular, raises difficult questions the coalition will need to find an answer to, particularly if a conflict with Gaza would erupt again.
Ra’am walks a fine line, particularly regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.
However, Neuberger said the primary change in this matter will not be brought about by Ra’am, but by the fact the centre and, even more so, the left has become part of a coalition that agreed on a compromise with the rightist part of the coalition.
“This compromise has made it easier for Ra’am to join the coalition,” he said.
Nonetheless, having joined forces with Israel’s far-right will undoubtedly be seen as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause by some. In an attempt to negate this notion, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas has shown his proclivity for following a blueprint the ultra-Orthodox religious party SHAS previously advocated, said Neuberger.
“Abbas will make ideological concessions, such as acceptance of Zionism and recognition of the Jewish state, in exchange of support for its party interests, for example funding for its schools.”
However, given the reality that Ra’am only holds four seats in the Knesset, the coalition will still cater more to the Jewish majority, which seems natural.
The fundamental change seems to be that from now on, the Arab minority will matter more than it used to do in the past, said Neuberger.
For his party’s vote, Abbas demanded additional funds for the Arab sector. Co-Prime Ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid agreed and doubled the budget of the five-year plan for developing Israel’s Arab sector to 35bn shekels ($10.75bn).
Moreover, Ra’am secured the subsequent recognition of three illegally established Bedouin villages in the Negev desert, a constituency that consists mainly of religious or nationalist Palestinian citizens of Israel. It marks a pivotal change in Israeli politics – Knesset representation with the power to move issues in Palestinian favour.
“This is the first time in Israel’s history that an Arab national party is part of the government and that the government is dependent on its vote for formation, survival and legislation. This is an unprecedented situation – unlike the Rabin’s coalition in 1992-95 when Arab parties supported the government from the opposition,” Sammy Smooha, professor of sociology at the University of Haifa, told Al Jazeera.
“Ra’am’s main purpose in this coalition is to serve as the main representative of the Arabs in Israel and to be more representative than other Arab leadership bodies such as the Joint List, the Council of Heads of Arab Local Councils, and the Higher Fellow-Up Committee.”
As such, Ra’am will likely insist on implementing other policies such as the allocation of land for Arab public needs and housing, the war against violence and crime in the Arab sector, and the building of an Arab university in the Galilee, said Smooha.
Particularly the crime issue is increasingly devastating the Arab communities, with homicide unwaveringly mounting.
However, the representation will not make up for the apparent encumbrances in Ra’am’s way.
Bennett, who once called Abbas a “terrorist supporter”, advocates Jewish settlement policy and is a vehement opponent of a Palestinian state. Indeed, most coalition partners are right-wing nationalists who may be critical of Netanyahu’s persona, but not necessarily of his policies.
How many concessions are conceivable in such an environment?
The political involvement of an Arab party alone is hence unlikely to lead to reconciliation between Jews and Muslims. The latest religious unrest has shown how fragile coexistence remains.
However, with the historic coalition agreement, Palestinian citizens of Israel are no longer pariahs. In the long run, some pundits say, it could bring Jewish and Arab citizens closer together – if this extremely heterogeneous coalition can be maintained.
Moreover, the involvement of Ra’am has the potential to contribute to a certain relaxation of the fronts, as radical steps such as annexation of occupied territories could mean the end of the coalition.
“The new dynamics is that the government cannot ignore the Arab minority’s needs and goals in the civic area and can endanger its survival if it crosses the red lines in the national area,” said Smooha.
These red lines will be omnipresent in Israel’s new government, namely the aforementioned civic and socioeconomic demands or a subsequent Israel war in Gaza, said Smooha.
However, the chances of both red lines being crossed were “not high”, he added.
Despite the promising change in Israeli politics, Ra’am now finds itself in a precarious position in which its leeway to manoeuvre between ideology and reality appears rather limited.
Its role and conduct in the coalition are likely to affect whether Arab parties in government will indeed be seen as legitimate moving forward, or whether it will be filed as a failed experiment and hinder any future progress.
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‘It’s 2021, it’s not 1950:’ Women politicians in N.S. show support for Robyn Ingraham – Global News
Pamela Lovelace is no stranger to the sexism encountered by women in politics.
She ran for Liberal nomination back in 2013, and is now a Halifax regional councillor for District 13 and says she’s encountered all sorts of comments — because she is a woman — while trying to get elected.
“I remember someone saying ‘why are you here? Why are you doing this, you have a family?’” said Lovelace. “I said, ‘well my opponent has a family too’ and the response was ‘yeah, he has a wife though.’”
While Lovelace says politics is still very much an old boys’ club and that it’s hard for women to get into office, she says parties should support diversity among their candidates.
She says it was discouraging to find out a Liberal candidate in this provincial election was kicked out of the party for posting and selling boudoir photos online.
“I was really disappointed to hear that the political landscape is talking about what a person has done with their body rather than the actual ideas that Nova Scotians care about,” Lovelace said.
Earlier this week Robyn Ingraham withdrew as the Liberal candidate for Dartmouth South. She originally posted online that it was due to mental health reasons, but then she later posted to her Instagram account that the party had taken issue with her boudoir photos and Only Fans account despite her having disclosed that during the nomination process.
A barber and small business owner, Ingraham also published an email she said she had sent to Rankin, which stated the party had made a mistake by forcing her out. “The misogynistic behaviour of those above you is not tolerable,” she wrote to the premier. “It’s not my job to make old white men comfortable.”
Former Liberal candidate says party ousted her over ‘boudoir photos’
On Friday, Rankin’s news conference in rural Cape Breton about tourism funding quickly turned into a barrage of questions from reporters about how the ousting of Ingraham occurred, what was said and who was responsible. He confirmed his team “assisted” Ingraham with her resignation statement and said he has been repeatedly trying to contact her to learn her version of events.
But in a brief interview with The Canadian Press at her barbershop in Dartmouth, N.S., Ingraham said she doesn’t plan to speak with Rankin.
“I haven’t spoken to him and I have no intention of speaking to him,” she said. “I just wanted my story to get out there.”
She also said she doesn’t want to run for any other party. “I just want to get back to running my business,” she said at her shop, called Devoted Barbers and Co.
Lovelace said what was done to Ingraham was an injustice.
“Let’s get her back on the ballot,” said Lovelace. “It’s 2021, it’s not 1950, so let’s move on to better politics in Nova Scotia.”
Claudia Chender is running as the NDP candidate for the same riding Ingraham has dropped out of and says this whole situation shows the double standard for men and women in politics.
“I think we are past the point where we should be embroiled in this type of situation as a scandal, but unfortunately we still have a lot of misogyny, frankly, in Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia politics.”
Chender says whether or not someone takes or sells revealing photos of themselves does not have an impact on how they can help the community.
Nova Scotia housing prices an election issue
“Political candidates should be judged on how are you going to make things better, how are you going to fix things?” said Chender.
“I think anything else that’s happening in their own personal lives that isn’t causing people harm is nobody’s business.”
Ingraham’s removal from the ballot has caught the attention of women across the country and many are showing her their support.
In a Twitter post, Mackenzie Kerr, a Green Party candidate in British Columbia posted her own boudoir image with the caption “It’s time we change the definition of professionalism.”
Back in Nova Scotia, a former PC candidate for Dartmouth South says she can’t believe women are still being judged for taking control of their own bodies.
“It’s horrible because Robyn is experiencing what I went through,” said Jad Crnogorac.
Crnogorac is a fitness instructor and says she herself has had professional boudoir photos done and hasn’t been shy of posting those photos or bikini photos of herself online.
She says when she was nominated as a PC candidate the party knew all of this but says just before the writ dropped she was approached and asked to remove some of her photos.
“I was really really angry,” said Crnogorac. “This is why strong women don’t go into politics because someone always finds a way to drag you through it and it’s just not appealing.”
Crnogorac was ultimately kicked out of the PC party as a candidate after tweets deemed racist surfaced but she maintains there’s a double standard for women in politics versus men.
“The leader of a party can do something illegal and have two DUIs and still be the leader of the party,” she said, referring to Iain Rankin’s recent admission to past impaired driving charges.
“Why do we have to have this picture-perfect female versus the men who can do whatever they want and still be a politician?” she asks.
–With files from The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Politics: The Minders and Mandarins of Capitalism – The Wall Street Journal
James R. Otteson’s “Seven Deadly Economic Sins” (Cambridge, 305 pages, $27.95) is a fine effort to introduce readers to the basic principles of market economics. The hamartiological framing—the “sins” are bad assumptions about how markets work—is part of the author’s effort to make the subject more engaging than a typical treatise on economics. It works. Mr. Otteson, a professor of business ethics at Notre Dame, writes with an apt combination of casual wit and rigorous logic.
I only regret that the book had to be written at all. There was a time in this country’s history—if the reader will allow a bit of declinist gloom—when America’s political class understood by instinct that wealth in a market economy comes about by voluntary exchanges in which all parties benefit. We do not live in such a time. About half of this country’s high-level elected officials appear to believe that some Americans have money because they took it from other Americans (the rich got rich “on the backs of workers” is a common trope). And so it is left to scholars such as Mr. Otteson to spell out the difference between zero-sum and positive-sum economic relationships.
A transaction based on extraction or theft is zero-sum (1 – 1 = 0). A transaction based on a mutual exchange is positive-sum (1 + 1 = 2). Wealth in most societies before about 1800, he reminds us, was based on the former model; wealth in market economies is based on the latter. What we need is someone able to explain to our well-intentioned politicos that the wealth they want to reallocate came about from mutually beneficial positive-sum transactions and not from zero-sum extraction. The way to diminish poverty and aid the disadvantaged is therefore not to punish positive-sum exchanges by taxation, but to allow more of them.
Other chapters in the book treat the “Good Is Good Enough Fallacy,” or the idea that every beneficial end is worth pursuing by all available means; the “Progress Is Inevitable Fallacy,” or the idea that a certain level of prosperity is guaranteed no matter what we do; and the “Great Mind Fallacy,” or the idea “that there is some person or group that possesses the relevant knowledge to know how others should allocate their scarce time or treasure.”
This latter point isn’t new—you can read the gist of it in Friedrich Hayek’s essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945) or Thomas Sowell’s book “Knowledge and Decisions” (1980)—but Mr. Otteson helpfully elucidates it in terms of individual experience. The experts may know that high-sugar carbonated drinks are on balance bad for your health, but they cannot know if you, in your circumstances, should or shouldn’t have a Coke. Most people would agree with that observation, but it is remarkable how many government policies are premised on its antithesis. City bans on unhealthy habits, state subsidies for favored industries, tax breaks meant to encourage virtuous behavior—these and a thousand other state-backed strategems assume the authorities and their experts understand immeasurably complex circumstances that they can’t possibly understand. But the alternative—allowing the people who do understand them to make their own decisions, even if they’re wrong—isn’t so satisfying to our governmental minders.
“The Power of Creative Destruction” (Belknap/Harvard, 389 pages, $35), translated by Jodie Cohen-Tanugi, is a full expression of the Great Mind outlook. Not that the authors—Philippe Aghion, Céline Antonin and Simon Bunel, all associated with the Collège de France—are socialists or militant redistributionists. They are mandarins. They recognize that you can’t pay for the modern welfare state or enjoy high levels of prosperity without robust economic growth. But capitalism, in their view, is constantly menacing itself and requires the aid of sage policy makers to prevent its collapse.
The authors are heavily influenced by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. In “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” (1942), Schumpeter contended that capitalism was doomed by its own logic. The capitalist system depends on a constant succession of entrepreneurs dislodging established firms—a process he called “creative destruction.” But eventually, he saw, yesterday’s innovators become today’s monopolists and learn to use the levers of power to prevent further innovation. Growth diminishes; a dissatisfied public demands welfare-state protections and restrictions on entrepreneurial activity; and capitalism, deprived of growth, slowly transmutes into socialism.
Clearly some parts of that analysis are valid, although Schumpeter was mistaken, in my view, to think of capitalism as a “structure” that can’t adapt to the demands placed on it by an intermittently irrational public. Mr. Aghion, Ms. Antonin and Mr. Bunel share Schumpeter’s overdefined understanding of capitalism. “Capitalism must reward innovation,” they write, “but it must be regulated to prevent innovation rents”—rents meaning profits accruing to incumbent firms—“from stifling competition and thus jeopardizing future innovation.”
And what sort of regulations do they think will encourage innovation, foster competition and save capitalism from itself? You may have guessed already. Industrial policy: tariffs and other protections, subsidies to viable industries and firms, “investments” in R&D and higher education, and so on. What capitalism needs, if I may put their argument in my own words, is more public officials ready to heed the advice of centrist academic economists.
The book is rife with charts and graphs, and the authors cite a bewildering array of highly specialized studies. Much of this technical argumentation strikes me as overdone. I appreciate, for instance, the conclusion that lobbying and barriers to entry are likelier than innovation and competition to aggravate inequality. But people who think markets worsen inequality are committed to an unfalsifiable ideology and won’t be moved by any combination of graph-packed quantitative studies.
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“The Power of Creative Destruction” is an impressive book in its way, but the authors don’t acknowledge the—to me—obvious objection. Once you afford governmental bodies the power to manage the economy, you also give established firms the tools with which to insulate themselves from competition. Wouldn’t it be easier and more effective to deprive incumbent firms of any special privileges and let them figure out how to survive? Then again, if we did that, we wouldn’t need so many mandarins.
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