It’s been a long gestation period, but at last the Labor Party primaries are becoming a reality on Tuesday, July 4. The date is more widely associated with American Independence Day, but several other historical events took place on July 4.
A short list includes: 1829 –The first London “Omnibus,” operated by George Shillibeer, began service between Marylebone Road and Bank Junction.
1845 – Texas Congress voted for annexation to the United States.
1865 – First edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, the nom de plume of Charles Dodgson, was published.
1884 – The Statue of Liberty was presented to the United States at a ceremony in Paris.
1944 – First Japanese kamikaze attack on the US fleet near Iwo Jima.
1950 – First broadcast by Radio Free Europe.
1976 – Operation Entebbe, the rescue operation headed by Lt.-Col.
Yonatan Netanyahu – the elder brother of the prime minister – in which he lost his life.
The primaries are less likely to be included in such a list, especially as most pundits believe that there will be a second round on July 13 between the two candidates who poll the most votes, given that there are too many candidates for any one of them to cross the 40% threshold that would qualify any of them as the outright winner.
The three leading candidates are former party chairman Amir Peretz, Erel Margalit, and Avi Gabbay, but that does not necessarily mean that any of them will triumph over incumbent Isaac Herzog. Campaign workers for the three have been driving party members mad with constant phone calls, to check whom they are voting for, along with social media messages and invitations to parlor meetings and rallies. The leadership race has been marred by mutually acrimonious exchanges between Margalit and Gabbay on personal rather than ideological grounds.
According to veteran political commentator Hanan Kristal, who on Tuesday will join Reshet Bet current affairs anchor Aryeh Golan and political correspondent Yoav Krakowsky in covering the primaries, none of the candidates has the ability to return Labor to its former glory. None can win back the seats that went to Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.
Hopes were pinned on former chiefs of staff Ehud Barak, Gabi Ashkenazi and Benny Gantz, who it was widely thought could lead Labor to victory against Benjamin Netanyahu, but for the time being, the three are sitting on the sidelines, commenting here and there on the situation but not getting involved.
■ EVEN HIS greatest detractors, who previously called for his blood, sided with former prime minister Ehud Olmert over the attempt by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan to brand him a traitor. The electronic media on Thursday of last week interviewed numerous legal and political figures as well as journalists who, although during Olmert’s corruption case had condemned him day after day and week after week, said that enough was enough, and in some cases accused Nitzan of a mindless witch-hunt.
Some of the people interviewed were of the opinion that Olmert had been given too light a sentence, in view of the corruption charges against him, but opinion was almost unanimous that he had suffered sufficient humiliation, and that to infer that he was a traitor when everything in his autobiography has to be approved by the censor was ludicrous, especially in view of what he had contributed to Israel’s security during his period as prime minister. Most people were pleased at the thought that he would receive an early release from prison.
It would be extremely naive to believe that Nitzan acted as he did in an exercise of reverse psychology, precisely to propel Olmert back into public favor. After all, Olmert is not allowed to hold public office for at least another seven years, and if the law becomes more stringent in the interim, he may never be able to hold public office again. Olmert will turn 72 in September, which means that the earliest age at which Olmert can return to the political arena is 79.
True, Shimon Peres was somewhat older when he assumed the presidency of the state, but Peres had not been out of the loop before transferring from the Knesset to the President’s Residence. Olmert left the Prime Minister’s Residence nine years ago.
■ NOW THAT El Al’s largely outdated fleet is being considerably updated by the acquisition of 16 Dreamliner aircraft, El Al president and CEO David Maimon could hardly wait for the scheduled August delivery, and flew to Seattle, Washington, to see for himself how Boeing is assembling the state-of-the-art 787 air carrier.
Considered to be the world’s most advanced aircraft to date, the Dreamliner is scheduled to begin flights from Tel Aviv to Europe in September, after which it will gradually begin long-haul flights to the United States and the Far East. All 16 Dreamliners are expected to be integrated into the El Al fleet by 2020, and will replace existing planes that are almost but not quite obsolete.
In the course of his visit to Seattle, Maimon met with Boeing president and CEO Kevin McAllister, who could well understand Maimon’s eagerness to see the Dreamliner fly into Ben-Gurion Airport.
■ DOMESTIC VIOLENCE is one of the scourges of modern society. It isn’t limited to a certain religion, race or nationality. It takes its toll of the rich and the poor, the most highly educated and the illiterate, the old and the young.
It is the predominant subject occupying the attention of participants in the Israel National Council for the Child’s Negev Conference, which opens on Monday, July 3, at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The keynote speaker at the opening session, devoted to youth at risk, will be Rosie Batty, who has been brought to Israel by the Australian-headquartered Pratt Foundation, which supports many Israel projects.
Batty was named Australian of the Year in 2015 in recognition of her passionate and influential campaign against domestic violence, of which she is a survivor, but her 11-year-old son Luke was not. Luke was murdered by his father, and Batty decided that she had to protect other women and children from similar situations, and began to do this by raising public awareness and advocating for change in police responses, support services and government involvement. Similar steps are being taken by various organizations in Israel. The Pratt Foundation has sought for some time to bring Batty to Israel, and Monday’s conference seemed to be the perfect vehicle.
Other sessions at the conference will focus on the absorption of immigrant children – how they relate to Israelis, and how Israelis relate to them; the welfare of the child; protection of children in boarding schools; children and road safety; preschool children; children and internal security – namely, is it the role of the state or the community to protect children from harm?; special needs children; and children and media. Is exposure of children by the media harmful or beneficial? All these issues will of course expand into other issues, all of which will express the concern of participants in trying to ensure that Israel’s children, regardless of background, have a physically and mentally happy and healthy childhood.
■ THE RELATIVELY new dairy restaurant in the lounge of the Tel Aviv Hilton is well patronized, so much so that visiting celebrities can sometimes maintain a degree of anonymity in the crowd.
But that was not the case with Barcelona soccer star Sergi Roberto, who for the past three years has been dating Israeli model and designer Coral Simanovich. As yet, there are no wedding bells, but if they decide to get married, they should do so quietly and make the announcement afterward.
Another famous Israeli model, who had a long relationship with a basketball star, ignored all the attempts to dissuade her from marrying him.
The marriage didn’t work out, after which she went in the opposite direction, and today is Orthodox, is married, with children, and swapped her bikini for long-sleeved, high-necked and long-skirted outfits, and as a married woman, keeps her head covered.
Roberto and Simanovich were spotted by the Hilton’s head of operations, Yossi Biton, who made sure that they were served the best of the best and, as a keepsake, had himself photographed with them and their dog, Baloo.
■ AFTER MONTHS of renovating a store in Dizengoff Center on the corner of Dizengoff and Tchernichowsky streets in Tel Aviv, Adidas opened its two-story Israeli flagship store, in accordance with the concept of its New York store. The facility covers an area of 1,200 sq.m.
The colorful opening was attended by numerous celebrities, among them Dushi Leitersdorf, Rotem Sela, Guy Pines, Yarden Harel, Keren Mor, Itai Turgeman, Michal Ansky and scores of others. Also present was Dizengoff Center owner, radio personality and former MK Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, who at 87 is still going strong, and who spent time chatting to Dizengoff Center general manager Dan Piltz. Flatto-Sharon has an office in the Dizengoff Center complex, and can often be seen strolling through the corridors.