BLOG Steve Kramer 1/17/20 – Aliyah Bet, March Israeli Election

Then and Now: European Jews and Elections    by Steve Kramer

Tragedy and Rebirth for European Jewish Survivors

I recently received this email about young Cameron Jessop’s National History Day 2019 Documentary. I watched his short video and highly recommend it.
Hi Mr. Greenfield,
This is Cameron Jessop.  Last year you helped me by letting me interview you for a documentary I was making for school about the American volunteers that helped Aliyah Bet.  I wanted to tell you that I won the school, district, regional, and state contests and was able to show my documentary, “Next Year in Jerusalem: How American Volunteers Helped Survivors Sail From the Tragedy of the Holocaust to the Jewish Triumph of the State of Israel,” at the national competition in Washington, D.C.  At the end of this month, I will be sharing it with state representatives and senators at the Utah State Capital in Salt Lake City. I could not have done any of this without your help.  I am sorry it took so long for me to get this to you, but here is a copy of our interview and a link to the documentary on
Murray Greenfield, a nonagenarian who is a fixture in the Israeli American community, has had a tremendous impact on life for Israel’s “Anglo” community. Besides being the  publisher of Gefen Books, Murray has pioneered many business and community efforts during his long residence here. This began with his service in Aliyah Bet, the naval effort which brought thousands of Jews on rickety “illegal” ships from  so-called Displaced Persons camps in Europe following WWII. Murray wrote about this in his excellent “The Jews’ Secret Fleet: Untold Story of North American Volunteers Who Smashed the British Blockade.”
For those who want more information on this subject, there is the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum in Haifa. (
One can also visit the Atlit Detainee Camp Museum, located on Israel’s northern seacoast south of Haifa. (

The Election Stalemate 

(for general information on Israeli elections, see my previous article: (

A total of 30 political parties have registered to run for the Knesset in Israel’s elections on March 2. What makes this election different from all other Israeli elections is that it’s the third election in one year! Worse, there’s a good chance that the result will fail, yet again, to produce a ruling coalition that is stable enough to rule. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has 120 members, necessitating a coalition of 60 or more members to form a new government. No party has ever been the majority winner in Israel’s elections; a coalition government has always been required. But uniquely this past year – twice – forming a coalition has failed.
All of the eight major parties (out of thirty on the ballot) are expected to gain the required four seats to enter the Knesset. The two biggest winners will almost certainly be the Likud and Blue & White parties. If so, either Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud or Benny Gantz of Blue & White will have the initial shot at forming a coalition. Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving premier, currently under the cloud of indictment on three serious charges. Gantz is a former IDF Chief of Staff with a pleasant demeanor but no political experience or charisma. 
For support, Likud has a bloc behind it of right wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Blue & White can count on the left wing Democratic Camp to support it. As in the previous two elections, the uncommitted party necessary to form a coalition is Israel Home, led by the mercurial Avigdor Liberman. 
Here are the parties on the right: Likud, Right Wing Union, Shas, United Torah Judaism
Israel Home is uncommitted, but leans to the right
Blue & White is a center-left, secular party
Parties on the left: Labour-Meretz and United [Arab] List
Israelis are sick of the election stalemate, which severely limits the government’s actions, especially financial. Nevertheless, it’s entirely possible that no majority coalition will emerge from the upcoming vote. If so, no one knows what would happen next. Even after the election results are announced it can take a few months to determine the final outcome, due to complicated coalition negotiations. We can just wait and see…