In Israel, Political Fights Have Always Gotten Ugly

March 3 2020

On his way to cast his vote in Jerusalem yesterday, President Reuven Rivlin told reporters that he was “ashamed” that his country had to go through “another awful and grubby election campaign.” But, as Tevi Troy relates, the Jewish state has a long history of ferocious political rivalries, beginning with that between Chaim Weizmann, the first person to hold Rivlin’s position, and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. And the mutual hatred between that pair was no greater than that between the two great heroes of the Labor party, Yitzḥak Rabin and Shimon Peres:

Rabin and his nemesis Shimon Peres feuded for decades before Rabin’s tragic assassination in 1995. The two men had known each other since the 1940s, but their enmity reached a boiling point in 1974, when they both vied to replace [Golda] Meir as Labor leader and prime minister. Rabin won—with Meir’s behind-the-scenes help—but it was close, and their contest would have consequences. Peres [garnered] enough support to compel Rabin to appoint him defense minister, and the hardball tactics employed in the race deepened their mutual hatred.

While serving in government together, the two men had some significant disagreements. One was over the development of the first settlements on land Israel had won during the 1967 war. Another was over the risky but ultimately successful hostage-rescue operation of a hijacked Air France plane in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976. In both cases, Peres was for, and Rabin against, and they fought it out via their allies in the press.

Rabin maintained his feud with Peres after losing the premiership in 1977. [Four] years later, Rabin challenged Peres in an open primary for the Labor party leadership, and won. Once again, Peres joined the cabinet under his rival, as foreign minister. This time, it was Peres who was the more dovish one, pushing surreptitious peace talks with the Palestinians that ultimately became the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Three days before the signing of the accords, Peres could not stand the notion that Rabin was getting the credit, griping, “That man ruined my life. I’ve been working for him for over sixteen years, and he doesn’t say ‘thank you’ to me. He’s crazy, and now he wants to hijack my ceremony.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Israeli history, Reuven Rivlin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism