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Israeli Election Update

As you can see I've been writing quite a bit of late about the intertwined matters of the Israeli election, the Netanyahu-Boehner speech to Congress and related matters. After some early signs that Prime Minister Netanyahu might finally meet his political undoing, it now looks considerably more likely that we will see a fourth Netanyahu government after the March elections, albeit likely with a narrower and more right-leaning coalition. Still, the story is not yet fully told.

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We Can't All Live in Interesting Times

There's another thread to the politics of moral histrionism, which I mentioned in my earlier post, which I want to take up. I read the Israeli press as closely as I can. And yesterday morning I was browsing the Times of Israel, an English language site, and found this article by Jeffrey Herf, a historian at the University of Maryland. (They have what I think is basically an open blogging forum, where individuals are selected to be able post but after that post at will without editorial vetting. They got in trouble when a contributor posted a column titled "When Genocide is Permissible" (removed after the fact) during the Gaza War. In any case, this is not meant as a criticism of the publication. We once had a similar set up.) The somewhat grand title of Herf's article is "Menendez and the Demise of Liberalism." And it caught my eye both because of the title and because it spurred a comic echo of memories from more than a decade ago.

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Bibi To Europe's Jews: Sucks To Be You

There's been a chorus of derision and criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu's call for a mass exodus of Europe's Jews to Israel in response to a wave of recent attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Western Europe. One comes from Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, who expressed regret that "after every anti-Semitic attack in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statements about the importance of aliyah [immigration to Israel], rather than employ every diplomatic and informational means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe. Every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are."

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Don't Miss This

I wanted to flag your attention to this deeply reported look at Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, the guy at the center, in some ways the chief instigator of the entire Netanyahu speech debacle. We published it last week. But if you haven't read it, you should. It gives a textured, critical background to everything that has happened over the last several weeks. And it's the kind of longer form, deeply reported piece we plan to be doing more of, both in our regular offerings and in Prime, this year. A must read, check it out.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Many taxes feature an exclusion or rebate for people at the bottom of the income scale. Payroll taxes are one of the very few that feature an exclusion for the wealthy, even the extremely wealthy. The more money you make the bigger your tax benefit. (This was the topic of one of the first articles I wrote when I was starting my journalism career.) In fact, if you make $30,000 a year you pay an effective 15% tax in payroll taxes, with no deductions at all - 7.5% that you pay directly out of your paycheck and 7.5% which your employer pays on your before, something which economists judge as effectively you paying it. But if you make millions of dollars a year your payroll tax rate can go down under 1%. Limiting or ditching that benefit could eliminate any longterm Social Security budget problems basically forever. Now Democrats are again pushing ditching this high income exclusion as their response to new Republicans plans for big cuts to the program.

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