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The Right Fight, Split at the Seams, WM’s Israeli AI


American Israel Lobby Condemns Netanyahu Deal with Far-Right Party

Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, February 25th, 2019

Recap:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew fire from friends and foes alike after uniting Otzma Yehudit and two other right-wing parties, a technical move allowing the longtime Israeli leader to form a coalition if he is reelected in April.

The Context:

  • The leaders of Otzma Yehudit are disciples of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose original party, Kach, was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s and later listed as a terrorist organization by the US government. Kahane advocated a mass expulsion of Arabs and a ban on intermarriage between Jews and Arabs before being assassinated in 1990. Current party members are known to have held celebrations in honor of Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli who massacred 29 Palestinians at a mosque in Hebron in 1994, and post photos of Arab politicians with nooses around their necks [1].

  • Netanyahu’s move was predictably criticized by liberal Jewish groups although outrage was not limited to the left. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who rarely weighs in publicly on Israeli politics, declared Otzma Yehudit’s ideas “reprehensible [2],” while Rabbi Benny Lau, a prominent religious Zionist leader, vowed to “go to war” to prevent Kahane’s followers from “creating a hilul Hashem [3]” in the Knesset.

  • Otzma Yehudit party member Itamar Ben Gvir countered, saying critics are “bringing up things from more than 30 years ago, when it’s clear we’re not in the same place anymore [3].” Yisrael Harel, a prominent settler leader, advocated for Otzma Yehudit’s inclusion in the Knesset, saying “the hypocrisy on this matter is very, very large [since] those who demand that we disqualify them do not rule out the extreme left [5].”

  • Otzma Yehudit currently holds no seats in the Knesset [6]. With polls currently forecasting the Union of Right-Wing Parties to win 5-6 seats in the upcoming elections, Otzma Yehudit’s Michael Ben Ari would enter the Knesset as the fifth member of the joint list [7].

Conversation Points:

  • If extreme right parties are unable to run for Knesset seats, should that rule also apply to the extreme left?

  • What defines extreme and is there an objective standard that can be applied to both the right and left?

  • Is Netanyahu’s deal with Otzma Yehudit a last-ditch effort to secure a reelection?

As Joint List Splits, Israel’s Arab Voters Have More Choices, Less Power

Sam Sokol, Times of Israel, February 23rd, 2019

Recap:

Arab parties in Israel split into two competing factions following bitter arguments and internal dissension during the last Knesset cycle. The rupture raised worries amongst Israeli Arabs that they will lose what little clout they had left in the nation’s parliament.

The Context:

  • Nearly 1.9 million, or 20%, of Israel’s population are Arabs. During the 2015 elections, the newly formed Arab Joint List won 13 seats out of 120 in the Knesset. Israeli Arabs are expected to lose representation in the Knesset since votes will now divided amongst two Arab groups, Ta’al and Balad. Knesset seats are awarded based on each list’s percentage of the overall vote.

  • Arab voters have criticized their leaders for “causing great damage to the average Arab citizen who wants to integrate [8]" by “focusing the bulk of their attention on the Palestinian cause, rather than acting like representatives of a sector of the Israeli population.” 29% of Israeli Arabs view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a core issue.

  • 47 parties are running for the 21st Knesset. Arab and Haredi parties are expected to secure 12 seats [9]. Approximately 6,300,000 Israelis are eligible to vote [10].

Conversation Points:

  • Did the Arab Joint List fail to take advantage of a political system that depends on alliances?

  • Should Arab Israeli politicians focus on representing the Palestinian cause or integrating Israel’s Arab population into the Israeli nation?

Walmart Acquires Israel’s Aspectiva, Which Analyses UGC To Recommend Products to Shoppers

Ingrid Lunden, Tech Crunch, February 25th, 2019

Recap:

Walmart acquired Aspectiva, an Israeli startup whose AI-based technology combines customers’ product reviews and browsing behavior to make product suggestions both online and in stores.

The Context:

  • Aspectiva was founded in 2013 by Ezra Daya, Eyal Hurwitz & Yoad Arad [11] and raised $4 million in funding.

  • It is unclear whether Aspectiva will remain a standalone entity or fully integrate with Walmart however the company will remain in Tel Aviv.

  • Walmart has stretched its wings internationally in recent years. Last year, the company acquired most of Flipkart, also known as the “Amazon of India.”

Conversation Points:

  • Will international and tech investments be enough to keep Walmart growing in the 21st century and beyond?

Notes:

  1. Not Even Aipac Will Defend Netanyahu’s Latest Decision, Joshua Keating, Slate, February 25th, 2019

  2. Netanyahu Sparks Outrage Over Pact with Racist Party, David M. Halbfinger, New York Times, February 24th, 2019

  3. Liberal Modern-Orthodox Rabbis Slam Pm’s ‘Lamentable Failure’ Over Otzma Yehudit, Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, February 25th, 2019

  4. Otzma Yehudit Candidate: Critics Have to Go Back 30 Years in Order to Attack Us, Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, February 24th, 2019

  5. Yesha Council Founder: Unite with Otzma Yehudit, Benny Toker, Israel National News, February 17th, 2019

  6. Not Even Aipac Will Defend Netanyahu’s Latest Decision, Joshua Keating, Slate, February 25th, 2019

  7. Conservative Movement Rips ‘Dangerously Radical’ Otzma Yehudit Party, Times of Israel, February 25th, 2019

  8. For Whom Will Israel's Arab Voters Vote?, Israel Hayom, February 24, 2019

  9. Record Number of Parties Sign Up for Israel Election, Uri Bollag, Jerusalem Post, February 22nd, 2019.

  10. Arab, Religious Parties Last of Record-High 47 Slates to Register for Elections, Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel, February 22nd, 2019

  11. Walmart Buys Israeli Ai Co Aspectiva, Globes, February 26th, 2019