Likud MK Michael Kleiner tea party 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
On Sunday night, only two days before Americans take to the polls in the midterm congressional elections, activists from the Likud held the inaugural rally in Israel for a movement that has spooked the media and politicians across the United States over the past year and a half; the Tea Party.
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The inauguration of the “Israeli Tea Party” was held at the Zionist Organization of America house in Tel Aviv and was attended by several dozen supporters.
Though there were large piles of tea bags outside the door to the conference hall, the rally hardly resembled its counterparts in the States. No country music was heard, there were no Moshes in US Revolutionary War-era garb, and no Ya’acovs in powdered wigs with faux muskets hollering, “No taxation without representation.”
The event also lacked the Barack Obama as the Joker/Karl Marx/witchdoctor posters commonly seen at such events in the United States. In fact, while there were many signs reading “Say no to Obama!” in Hebrew, English and Russian (no Arabic), nary a one had “Hussein” on it, and there were no depictions of the former Illinois senator wearing Islamic garb.
The event had an altogether quiet, middle-class Likudnik vibe to it, complete with good but not extravagant catering and a well-behaved crowd that kept quiet during the speeches.
The attendees included very few English speakers or protesters eligible to vote in Tuesday’s election, and few present seemed concerned with Obamacare, taxation, gun rights and other breadand- butter issues that form so much of the American Tea Party’s call to arms.
The Israeli version was the brainchild of former Likud MK Michael Kleiner, and refers to itself as “The Tea Party of the Likud.”
Organizers said the event was not officially endorsed by the Likud party, but it was attended by a number of supporters from the party, including MKs Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely and Ayoub Kara, and one-time contender for the Likud crown Moshe Feiglin, all of whom gave speeches at the event.
Speaking to reporters before the event, Kleiner said the message of the Likud Tea Party is that “Israel is a democracy and in a democracy you don’t deny the will of the people. In Israel, the people voted against the two-state solution and the settlement freeze. Obama is not respecting our democratic elections and this is why we are saying no to him.”
When asked whom he hopes Americans will vote for on Tuesday, Kleiner said, “We don’t want to involve ourselves in American politics, what we are against is foreign pressure. American voters should vote as they see fit, I won’t give them my advice.”
For the most part, speakers avoided focusing on the personage of Obama. Instead they spoke of his policies “pushing” Israel to make concessions despite the lack of a reliable Palestinian partner.
One exception was Kara, who said the discovery of two letter bombs sent from Yemen to Jewish communities in America on Friday showed “that the policies of Obama are helping Osama.”
Hotovely also took issue with Obama’s policies.
“You [Obama] are confused, you don’t understand who your friends are and
who your enemies area. We are your friends, not the Islamic radicals.
We know what happens to people who don’t know who their friends are,
just look at World War II and those who held their hand out to Hitler,”
Hotovely advocated a unilateral Israeli declaration of sovereignty over
the West Bank, to stave off any Palestinian efforts to unilaterally
declare a state in the same territory.
Danon took the stage, and in a message delivered in English, said, “We
are here today to send a very clear message to Mr. Obama: Stop bullying
our prime minister, we will not be the scapegoat for your wishful
“Take your hands from Jerusalem, take your hands from Judea and Samaria,” Danon said.