Friday, October 12, 2012

Meddling in Israeli Politics

The purported meddling of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyau in American politics has been much in the news lately. But what is equally, and perhaps more significant, has been the meddling of foreigners - mostly rich American Jews - in Israeli politics. Haaretz reports that "More than half of contributions to Israeli politicians come from foreign donors". The headline actually underplays the issue:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised 96.8 percent of his NIS 1.2 million in campaign contributions from foreign donors, according to the State Comptroller's Office, which published the candidates' campaign contribution reports for the last two years on its website on Thursday. ... 
Among political parties, Likud raised the highest percentage abroad - 67 percent - while Kadima raised 65 percent overseas. By contrast, Meretz raised zero percent overseas ... 
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, whose party members raised campaign funds only in Israel, said contributions from abroad could give foreign individuals or bodies improper influence on Israeli politics. 
"Politicians should be accountable to the public. As long as they raise money transparently, the public must be permitted to judge them in the elections," she says. ...
... Party leadership candidates may raise up to NIS 11,000 from a single donor, but the number of family relatives who may contribute is not restricted. Thus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received several donations from members of the Falic family of Miami, Florida. ...
Israeli politicians have two fundraising methods. The first, used by Labor leader Yacimovich and Moshe Feiglin of Likud, is to raise several small contributions, mainly from Israelis. The other way, favored by Netanyahu, is raising large sums from a small number of contributors, mostly from abroad. 
The latter method proves much more beneficial. A foreign donor contributes an average of NIS 12,565 - five-and-a-half times more than an Israeli one, whose average contribution is NIS 2,260. 
This means a relatively small group of about 550 foreign contributors are responsible for the big money behind Israel's politicians. 
The date for Likud's primaries has not been set, but party members have begun raising funds. At this stage, 261 foreign nationals have contributed NIS 2.72 million to Likud members - 67 percent of the contributions they have raised so far. ...
Kadima's candidates have raised 65 percent of their contributions from abroad. Dan Halutz, who has left the party, raised 93 percent of his NIS 72,000 from abroad. Avi Dichter raised 88 percent of his NIS 320,000 overseas. Shaul Mofaz raised 67 percent of his NIS 1.475 million abroad. Tzipi Livni raised 58% of her NIS 1.6 million from foreign sources. 
Yair Lapid has raised NIS 132,000 for his party from 38 donors, 40 percent of the money from overseas. 
Labor's members raised NIS 4.1 million in contributions for the primaries, 38.5 percent from abroad. Dr. Roby Nathanson raised 87 percent of his NIS 87,000 from overseas. Next, in terms of percentage, comes MK Isaac Herzog, who raised about half of his NIS 1.2 million from abroad, followed by Amir Peretz, who raised 42 percent of his NIS 1.3 million from overseas. 
Yacimovich, who won the [Labor] primary elections, raised NIS 603,000 from 1,756 donors, only two of them from abroad, who gave small sums each. 
Money talks, and in Israel too. And we shouldn't be so naive as to believe that big donors don't also have influence. So, it seems that Israeli politics is at least as much under the control of ideologically committed rich American Jews, as of its own citizens. And most of these American Jews, it seems, are ready to fight to the last drop of Israeli (and Palestinian) blood in order to maintain their fantasy Jewish State and their inspirational vacation homes.

Something to think about next time you are told that Israelis need to be allowed to make their own decisions about security matters, and that foreigners - whether foreign governments or diaspora Jews - should not meddle and should not press Israelis to take risks that the foreigners will not have to live with themselves. When it comes to Israel, it seems, everyone is meddling everywhere.

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