On Monday evening, the Knesset will host the swearing in ceremony for Israel’s 33rd government, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s third term—second consecutive—as prime minister (his first term ran from June 1996 to July 1999).
Immediately after the ceremony, Netanyahu will convene a brief cabinet meeting, with a toast. Then the bunch (22 ministers and 8 deputies) will travel to the presidential residence, for the traditional group picture.
The Knesset session will open with the selection of the Speaker of the House. It will likely be Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who will replace the former Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, who wanted very much to continue in his post but, unfortunately, had committed the ultimate sin of criticizing the Prime Minister’s anti-democratic tendencies, not the kind of slight which Netanyahu’s wife Sara easily forgives.
As usual, Netanyahu never shared with Rivlin his plan to depose him. In fact, as far back as a year ago, he assured the popular Speaker—who is also closely associated with the Settlement movement—that he’d have his support for the post of President when Shimon Peres completes his 7-year term, 2014.
Yuli Edelstein’s life’s story is fascinating: Born in the Soviet Union to Jewish parents who converted to Christianity (his father is a Russian Orthodox priest), Edelstein discovered his Jewish connection through his grandparents. He studied Hebrew back when that was considered a subversive act, for which, in 1984, he was sent to Siberia (the charges were drug related, but everybody knew it was the Hebrew thing). He made aliyah with his wife, Tanya, served in the army, and entered politics, ending up in the Knesset in 1996. He has switched between several parties, until finally landing in the Likud, and has held several ministerial portfolios. And if he doesn’t catch Sara’s ire, he could become as memorable a Speaker as Rubie Rivlin.
But the biggest losers, without a doubt, are the Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. They were almost literally kicked out by Yair Lapid, who stated openly that, should he be seen in the government group picture with the Haredim, his voters would abandon him. Surprisingly, Naftali Bennett, his newly found brother from a different father (Yair’s father, the late MK Tommy Lapid, was a true hater of the religion), supported the dubious position that, in order to truly help the Haredi public, government had to first be cleared of Haredi partners.
Shas, a party that depends completely on patronage for its very existence, is seething with anger over Bennett’s “betrayal.” It’s hard, however, to take seriously the victimized self-pity of Shas, whose spiritual father Rav Ovadia Yosef dubbed the Jewish Home party a “Goy Home.” Altogether, it appears that, perhaps counter intuitively, the National Religious leaders as well as the rank and file, have been harboring heaps of resentment against the Haredim. The Haredi slights of several decades, including their occupation of the Ministry of Religious Services and the Chief rabbinate, doling out jobs to Haredi officials who reigned over a population that looks nothing like them—those slighted chickens have been coming back to roost.
Take for instance Rabbi Hayim Drukman, who responded to both the Haredi pols and to Netanyahu, who accused the Lapid-Bennett axis of “boycotting” the Haredi parties. Rabbi Drukman Argued that “the Haredi public are the biggest boycotters, boycotting for years the Torah of the national religious public.”
“Any Haredi apparatchik who gets elected to the Knesset, immediately becomes a rabbi, while the real rabbis of the national religious public are noted in the Haredi press by their first names (without the title ‘Rabbi’). Is this not boycotting?” Rabbi Druckman wrote in the Saturday shul paper “Olam Katan.”
Inside Shas, the short knives have already been drawn and they’re aimed at MK Aryeh Deri, the former convict who came back from the cold to lead Shas into a glorious stalemate (11 seats before, 11 after).
“We were very disappointed in Deri,” a senior Shas pol told Ma’ariv. “He did not bring the votes he promised Rav Ovadia, there was no significant change in seats, and, in fact, Deri is responsible for our failure.”
In United Torah Judaism they also seem to regret their alliance with Shas, it’s highly likely that, in a few months, they’ll opt to enter the government without Shas.
Mind you, according to very reliable Jewish Home officials, most notably MK Uri Orbach, when Bennett proposed to Aryeh Deri going together, along with UTJ, in a religious front, even before the elections. According to them, Deri then made clear that Bibi told him he wasn’t letting Bennett into his government, and so Deri did the math and told the Bennett folks to try a different inn. Which, apparently, they did.
So, here’s the next Israeli government as it will surely be introduced to the Knesset and the nation, unless something goes bust at the last minute:
Benjamin Netanyahu is Prime Minister and also Foreign Minister (holding the foreign office portfolio until the completion of the Avigdor Liberman’s criminal trial—this with the approval of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who just made sure his wife was brought up on undocumented cleaning lady charges while he, Yehuda, went scot-free.)
MK Zeev Elkin is Deputy Foreign Minister, and, basically, acting Foreign Minister.
Defense Minister is Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon (likud), who—according to popular myth—resigned as IDF Chief of Staff because he didn’t want to uproot Jews from Gush Katif.
Finance Minister is Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who will be performing his duties without the benefit of a high school diploma.
Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beitenu) will continue to serve as Minister of Internal Security.
Gideon Saar (Likud), formerly Minister of Education, moves to Minister of the Interior.
Israel Katz (Likud) will continue as Minister of Transport, where he has done a bang up job, maintaining roads, cutting down highway accidents significantly, improving train service.
Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who used to be at Finance, where he kept the Israeli economy afloat while Europe was sinking in the tar pits, will now head the Ministry of International Relations, which combines the offices of Government Intelligence and Strategy. Makes sense, why keep a guy on who knows what he’s doing, when you can give the job to a high school dropout?
Gilad Erdan (Likud) is Minister of Communications and Home Front Defense.
Limor Livnat (Likud) will serve as Minister of Culture and Sport.
Silvan Shalom (Likud) will be Minister for Energy and Water, Development of the Negev and Galilee and Regional Cooperation (now, that’s a lot of responsibility).
Sofia Landver (Israel Beitenu) continues at her job as Absorption Minister.
Uzi Landau (Israel Beitenu) is Minister of Tourism. His predecessor, Stas Misezhnikov, same party, was ousted by Boss Liberman for drinking on the job. Not kidding you. It made no difference that Misezhnikov also increased tourism to Israel by huge numbers – you slur your speech in front of the camera – you go home (no stereotype intended).
Yair Shamir (Israel Beitenu) is Minister of Agriculture and possibly not long for the job after sounding off some notes regarding his availability to replace Liberman as soon as he’s shackled and taken off to prison. Didn’t go over well.
Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) is Minister of Economy and Trade, and in charge of Religious Affairs, Jerusalem and Diaspora.
MK Uri Orbach is Minister in charge of Retirees.
MK Uri Ariel is Minister of Housing, and he’s already made sure to allay the leftists’ fears that he isn’t planning a construction surge in the forbidden territories. What’s the magical thing that happenes to the most right wing politicians as soon as they get into government? Do they scrub the right wing out of them?
In addition to Finace Wizard Lapid, his Yesh Atid party will have four ministers in the new government:
MK Shai Piron, formerly a Rosh Yeshiva in Petach Tikva, is Education Minister. It’s all he was asking for.
MK Yael German is Health Minister. Good luck to her, the hospital system is pretty well broken, patients are sleeping in the hallways, any improvement would be appreciated.
MK Meir Cohen is Welfare Minister. Formerly the mayor of Dimona, Cohen is for real, one of the good guys, even if he’s left-leaning.
MK Yaakov Perry, formerly head of the GSS, is Minister of Science. I feel safer already.
Tzipi Livni’s party, The Movement, will have two ministers: for herself, Tzipi took the Justice portfolio, and MK Amir (closed binoculars) Peretz is in charge of the Environmental portfolio.
Have a good swearing in, and please don’t sell us out when my other president lands here, later this week.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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