Tag Archives: Isaac Herzog

Careful what you wish for, Israel

In the civilized Kingdom from whence I came (up, I was always told), one’s voting preferences were very much a private matter. Indeed, any inquiry as to the identity of the political party for which even a close friend or relative intended to exercise his or her democratic right would have been as welcome as asking them whether their style was more missionary or doggy (currently, I’d take either).

Not so, however, in the jungle I now inhabit. On a par with every Israeli’s entitlement to know how much you forked out or received for your home is his right to be informed as to whether you will be assisting to put in place his government of choice. And not possessing the Briton’s finesse for small talk – NW4’s and 11’s “Who are you eating/davening byyy?”, for familiar instance – the native has no inhibition accosting even a virtual stranger with “Who are you voting for?”

My stock four-letter response these past months, “Bibi”, has raised quite a few eyebrows in my midweek Tel Aviv stomping grounds (though rather fewer in those of the Jerusalem of my long weekends).

Polling day for the 20th Knesset is this Tuesday, but I have taken little or no interest in the campaign . . . a sign, I am sure, of my (still) having one foot out the door, but also of having been relaxed in the knowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would still be in Residence at the top of Rechov Aza when I return, at the start of May (coalition building in the jungle can take a good month and a half), from watching England lose its Test series in the Caribbean.

Yonit LeviBut, getting my thrice-weekly Yonit (right) fix a few evenings ago, I was rudely interrupted by her lead item: it seems that my having taken for granted a Likud victory has been more than a little misplaced, with the centre-left Zionist Union alliance now two or three seats ahead in the polls . . .

Well, I almost spilt my box of Kleenex! The thought of that spineless runt Isaac Herzog – co-leader of the alliance, but who has only been in charge of Labour for 15 months and possesses all the charisma of a lentil seed – running the country is a terrifying one, and a sure sign (if the polls are correct) that many of the natives are losing all reason. Although our late fathers were friends, the sole encounter between their sons left this one somewhat less than enamoured: see Curbing My (Irish) Enthusiasm – in just a few seconds, I had seen the ‘man’ (and my instincts in such matters are generally reliable).

In the interests of even-handedness, the following is the most flattering English-language interview with Herzog I could find . . .

“You wanna know something . . .” Dear, oh dear! Just the drone of those adenoids is enough to make one lose the will to hear. Should Herzog, heaven forfend, become Prime Minister, the ch’nun (nerd) will be exposed to non-stop media scrutiny (and bias), with every non-hearing-impaired person who cares about this country begging for their Bibi back.

Netanyahu is running for his fourth term (third consecutive). It is not difficult to see how familiarity has bred contempt (or merely boredom). And it has become über-trendy to bash him. Of course he could have done some things better. But, if you believe Israel to be “broke” merely because many of its citizens cannot afford to buy apartments in its financial and cultural capital, or that the way to go is to be more conciliatory to the Arabs, then perhaps – like the “idiots” and “lunatics” proscribed by UK legislation – you should not be allowed to vote at all.

So, come Tuesday, I will be voting along “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” lines. Bibi has steered a remarkably steady ship through extremely turbulent waters and years, during which for much of the world – cowed by and cowering before Islamofascism, or influenced by its all-pervading disdain for the Jew – Israel could do no right.

With Islamic State now on our borders and – thanks to that jug-eared nob in the White House – a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, the security situation will get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. And, if Herzog becomes Prime Minister, Hamas and Hizbollah will be laughing all the way to their tunnels. It is not difficult to imagine the next war in Gaza. It is, however, to imagine Isaac Herzog leading us through it.

Changes, as Dovid Bowie once proclaimed (“I still don’t know what I was waiting for . . . and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet”), are not always for the better. And those now pining for Bibi’s demise may, with a limp dick like Herzog in his place, have plenty of time to repent their naivety in having fussed over who owns what in and around Rothschild Boulevard. Bibi and Buji (November 2013)


Curbing My (Irish) Enthusiasm

I have recently started to feel a real kinship with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David. I keep finding myself in awkward situations (and not only with T.A. Woman), and am regularly asking myself “Is it them, or me?!”

Now, funerals are generally a pretty safe bet. You turn up (on time), affect suitable solemnity (modulated to the age of the deceased and circumstances of death), wish the mourners “Long life” (even though you have never really understood what it means), and spend the rest of the time looking for the appropriate moment to piss off.

Safe for other people perhaps. Not for me. Not on recent form, at any rate.

Last week, I attended the funeral of my cousin’s late husband. As co-founder of Israel’s largest law firm, many of Israel’s (supposed) great and good were present.

As I approached the entrance to the grounds, in Herzliya, I recognized Isaac Herzog, a Labor MK (member of Knesset, Israel’s parliament) and a minister in Bibi’s new coalition government. By his side was a woman who I correctly presumed to be his mother, Aura, widow of the late, former President Chaim Herzog, another co-founder of the firm.
With the big boys: Herzog (far left) with Barak, Obama

With the big boys: Isaac Herzog (far left) with Barak, Obama

Now, Chaim and my late father were pals, in the twenties and thirties, in Dublin’s small and extremely tight-knit Jewish community. On one occasion, when he learned that my folks were in Israel, Chaim had his driver bring them over to his residence for dinner. And, in 1996, the two Irishmen, then in their eighties, had an emotional reunion at a book-signing for Chaim’s new autobiography. He passed away a year later.

Even though I was born in London, the Isaacson Dublin connection has always brought me into warm contact with other Irish Jews. It is very much a club.

Quite apart from my father’s distinguished academic achievements at Wesley and Trinity Colleges (he tutored Chaim in maths), my grandfather Joe was shammes (beadle) at Adelaide Road Synagogue and a well-known communal character, while my uncle Percy was considered amongst the finest Jewish sportsmen to come out of the “Emerald Isle”. Moreover, their cousin, solicitor Michael Noyk famously defended many Sinn Féin Nationalists, and was a close friend and legal adviser to Republican leader Michael Collins (whose widow used to visit my grandparents’ home, following his murder in 1922).

So, being the friendly and enthusiastic soul that I sometimes am, I decided to introduce myself to Mrs. Herzog. And, on mentioning “Harold Isaacson”, I received an immediate and warm response until, in mid-sentence, she was dragged away by Isaac – perhaps slighted that I should be more interested in his mother – who proceeded to parade her (though really, and self-importantly, himself) around those he considered more shaveh (worth it).

Isaac Herzog has the bearing of what is known in Yiddish as a shnip (the closest English equivalent is probably my favoured “mook”). He is short and weasel-like in appearance – perhaps, as I discovered last week, in character too (he was also investigated, in 1999, in relation to allegations of party-funding violations, but chose to maintain his silence) – and his nickname, “Buji”, for me says everything.

Perhaps this post smacks of the snubbed. Indeed, the experience was not pleasant. Herzog’s rudeness, however, spoke volumes for the nature of Israel’s new generation of ‘leaders’ – arrogant, unremarkable, self-interested, unconnected to the past, and owing their positions to protexia (patronage/connections). The nature of Israel’s electoral system does not help, either, as MKs have no constituents to answer to.

If we wouldn’t have been at a funeral, and my rather more phlegmatic cousin, Danny, hadn’t been there to stop me, then – never a respecter of title or position – I would have said something to the Shnip.

As it was, I just drove home understanding why so many Israelis despair at what they consider Israel’s biggest problem (even more than the Palestinians and our lovely Arab neighbours): the dearth of principled young politicians, who have got where they have on the back of their own talent, charisma and achievements . . . not of who their father was.