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August 25, 2016 / 21 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Report: Kerry Won Five-Week Unofficial Building Freeze from Bibi

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been quietly enforcing a de facto building freeze on all construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria and areas in Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

The Prime Minister promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to curtail construction for Jews until mid-June to give PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas time to fulfill his condition for a return to face-to-face negotiations with Israel.

Army Radio reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who lives in  the Judea and is a senior member of the Jewish Home party, to suspend publishing tenders for 3,000 residential housing units, including those to advance plans and construction of homes in the E-1 area of Maaleh Adumim.

Ariel insisted there has been no building freeze but added that the Prime Minister has delayed progress for new building, and he referred reporters to the Prime Minister, who arrived in China Sunday for a six-day visit.

Netanyahu’s reported agreement to a five-week freeze, much shorter than the 10-month freeze announced in September 2010, might be a gamble that Kerry will not be able to convince Abbas to resume direct talks with Israel.

There have been no real discussions since the 2010 building freeze, which Abbas demanded before resuming negotiations and then refused because it did not include a freeze in eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem, and did not cover public building in Judea and Samaria.

The E-1 area has become red line for both Abbas and Netanyahu. Any building activity there would infuriate Abbas and win him more support to continue to place the Palestinian Authority on various United Agencies.

If Israel were to even offer a hint to surrender the area, the Jewish Home party would probably pull out of the coalition, and it is doubtful if Likud-Beiteinu would agree to continue to rule with a new coalition that would include the Labor party.

However, Israel desperately needs an approved government budget for this year, and any party that forces new elections without a budget is liable to be severely punished at the polls.

Someone is going to have to climb down from the limb.

If Abbas misses another opportunity to miss an opportunity and starts demanding more conditions, Kerry and Netanyahu can walk away from the tree and leave him hanging there.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Lapid is Still on a Roll, Poll Says

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

As many of you have known for a long time, I’m as out of the box as they come. My opinions rarely are the popular ones. If the Smith poll, which IMRA wrote about here, had asked me my opinion wouldn’t be like most others.

The poll shows/indicates that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid political party is gaining in support and would receive as many seats as the combined Likud Beitenu (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu). Many of the new voters would be those who are abandoning Kadima and Tzipi Livni’s Movement.

Here are the poll’s results:

If elections held today (expressed in Knesset seats) Current Knesset seats in [brackets]. Please note: There are 120 seats in the Knesset. Parties must receive a minimum of 2% of the valid votes cast in the elections to be included in the Knesset – this comes to 2.4 seats. After elections are held the coalition forming a government must receive 61 votes in a vote of confidence in the Knesset. 30 [31] Likud Beiteinu (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu) 30 [19] Lapid “Yesh Atid” Party 13 [12] Bayit Yehudi 12 [15] Labor 10 [11] Shas 07 [07] Yahadut Hatorah 07 [06] Meretz 00 [06] Livni party “Hatnua” Party 00 [02] Kadima 11 [11] Arab parties

Of course this poll is just taking into account the political parties in today’s Knesset. Every time we have new elections, new parties sprout up like weeds. And to be super honest, I don’t see a party I’d vote for.

Actually, Lapid as Finance Minister, isn’t doing all that well. After campaigning to reduce the budget, he’s now raising it. Actually he had planned on increasing it much more but was taught that Israel would suffer in terms of its rating.

Following a downgrade to Israel’s S&P credit rating Thursday night, Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Friday backed down on his proposal to raise the 2013 deficit target to 4.9% of GDP from its current 3%, agreeing to set it at 4.65% instead. [Jerusalem Post]

Arutz 7 reports something very troubling about Lapid and how he’s functioning as Finance Minister.

“On Thursday it was reported that Lapid planned to increase the deficit target for 2013 to 4.9%. The move was met with anger because Lapid did not involve Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his deliberations.

Lapid’s decision surprised Bank of Israel head Stanley Fischer as well. Fischer reportedly first heard of the news on Thursday evening as he landed in the United States.”

It would be better if Lapid was more a team player. He’s not supposed to be making such policy decisions on his own. Of course this is my opinion, and not all Israelis seem to agree with me.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Batya Medad

The UN: When is Enough Enough?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

With regard to the U.N., when is enough enough?

The U.N. is supposed to promote peace and human rights. But since the Six-Day War, it has systematically abetted the efforts of the Arab nations to destroy the Jewish state.

Most people have heard of resolution 3379, passed in 1975, which equated Zionism with racism (and which was finally repealed in 1991). But look at resolution 3236 (1974) which asserts that the PLO — a terrorist organization which had not even pretended to renounce violence — is the “representative of the Palestinian people,” and which, among other things,

Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return;

Then there is Resolution 3376 (1975) which

2. Expresses its grave concern that no progress has been achieved towards:
(a) The exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights in Palestine, including the right to self-determination without external interference and the right to national independence and sovereignty;

(b) The exercise by Palestinians of their inalienable right to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted;

3. Decides to establish a Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) composed of twenty member States to be appointed by the General Assembly at the current session;

Similar resolutions calling for “return” of “refugees” and Palestinian sovereignty have been passed on an annual basis.

In addition to the CEIRPP, the U.N. has established several other bodies to prosecute its diplomatic war against the Jewish state. In 1968, UNGA resolution 2443 established the “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People” (SCIIHRP), and In 1977, resolution 32/40 created yet another U.N. body dedicated to the Palestinian cause, the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR).

So what do these agencies do, besides soak up huge amounts of money and scarce parking spaces in New York and Geneva? Here is one explanation (2005):

CEIRPP and SCIIHRP are committees of the General Assembly but it is DPR that does the work. Lodged within the U.N. Department of Political Affairs, which is headed by an Under the Secretary General and two Assistant Secretaries General, the DPR is on the same level as regional bureaus which, in theory, track major developments all over the world. The DPR is equivalent to two regional bureaus for Africa, one for the Americas and Europe, and one for Asia Pacific. One might have difficulty understanding how the DPR merits the same status, staff and budget as the aforementioned regional offices.

The DPR’s website explains its functions: The Division provides support and services to CEIRPP, planning and organizing its programs, including a round-robin of international conferences such as those discussed below. It maintains relations with a network of “more than 1000 NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) from all regions active on the question of Palestine.” It organizes the annual “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” mourning the U.N. resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the Palestinian Mandate to be divided between a Jewish and an Arab state. (At this annual event, Israel is routinely denounced and the Palestinian “right of return” is highlighted as a sacred principle.) The DPR prepares reports and publications “on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People” and, in cooperation with the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, promotes their worldwide distribution. The DPR also develops and maintains the Web-based United Nations Information System on “the question of Palestine,” UNISPAL, which, in collaboration with the UN Department of Public Information, sends out anti-Israel press releases, funnels television footage to international broadcasters friendly to the Palestinians and hostile to the Israelis, and circulates news stories favorable to the Palestinians via email to 27,000 subscribers.

In the past three years, the DPR has arranged and staffed 10 international conferences – officially sponsored by CEIRPP – at which “information” about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is disseminated to an audience of diplomats, NGO’s and representatives of other U.N. agencies. These conferences are sponsored and paid for by the U.N. The most recent meeting, held at UNESCO in Paris on July 11-12, 2005, called for a campaign of divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel, consciously modeled on the effort to end the system of apartheid in South Africa. The previous session in Geneva on March 8-9, 2005, was devoted to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice denouncing Israel’s security barrier. As might be expected, no one on the program questioned the legality of the ICJ opinion or provided information about revisions in the fence’s route ordered by Israel’s High Court.

It is almost impossible to determine the amount of money that goes into these activities. Ami Isseroff wrote this in 2005:

Together, [DPR, CEIRPP and SCIIHRP] receive an annual budget of about $5.5 Million. In addition, over half a million dollars are spent on “Information Activities on the Question of Palestine,” which has been in the budget of the UN Department of Public Information since 1977, separate from the budget of the DPR. There is also a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. That function was created in 1993, apparently to torpedo the Oslo accords signed in the same year.  The special rapporteur on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is its only expert mandate with no year of expiry. The post was renewed even after the U.N.  Human Rights Council was reorganized because of absurdities such as election of Libya as chairperson. However,  it is impossible to trace all the money spent on anti-Israel propaganda, because the funding is hidden in bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council [today called ‘commission’], which spends an inordinate effort on “Palestine” and in UNRWA, which diverts funds that are supposed to be spent on supporting Palestinian refugees.

I presume the amount is much greater today. And what about UNRWA itself, the agency set up to provide “emergency” aid for refugees, which has since morphed into a huge enterprise with a budget of $1.2 billion (2011), and whose function is to pay “Palestinian refugees” to have children and to prevent their resettlement anywhere except Israel?

Vic Rosenthal

Deputy Minister Calls Haredim ‘Parasites’ on Radio

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Yesh Atid’s Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy said on a Haredi radio station Wednesday that Haredim are “parasites.” He immediately apologized, but the damage was done.

Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party and now Finance Minister, is widely hated by the Haredi community for his position that everyone in Israel, Haredi or not, should serve in the army or at least spend would-be army time doing national service

He angered the Haredi community even more this week with his proposed two-year budget that  would cut payments for child support, a move that would be felt in the Haredi community, where families have a higher than average number of children. Money for yeshivas also would disappear.

Levy said on the Kol BaRama radio program that Haredim “should share in the burden, to integrate into the job market, stop being parasites drawing on the Israeli public’s resources… You can’t keep leaning on those who pay taxes, who enlist to the army, who serve the country.”

He immediately apologized for the use of the word “parasites” and then defended himself with a routine of “some of my best friends are Haredim.”

“I still visit the rabbis and pay them respect. I hold great respect for tradition and culture, and I come from a religious home,” he said.

Levy said that regardless of the faux pas, his point stands. “You are citizens of equal rights, thus you should be equal in your obligations as well.”

Haredi Knesset Members lost no time in criticizing Levy and Lapid, who irritated them even more in the Knesset on Monday when he told Haredim, “I understand you’re going through tough times. Weren’t you sitting in the government which created the deficit? Were you on Mars?”

He said the Haredi MKs are partly to blame for a bloated government deficit because of funding for yeshivas and other funding for the Haredi community.

Lapid came in for across-the-board criticism, even for posting Facebook messages on the Sabbath Haredi MK Moshe Gafni of Yehudat HaTorah said Lapid posts on the Sabbath because he loves it and wants a fight.”

“I suggest to my fellow hareidi MKs not to play into his hands,” he added. “He comes and says, ‘We’ll deal with the Haredi Jews.’”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Sequester Cuts Military Aid to Israel by Small Amount

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

The United States told Israel the sequester axe fell lightly on Israel and that the cut in military aid will amount to $144 million or 5 percent, instead of the originally planned 8 percent of the $3.1 billion aid program.

Finance Ministry sources told the Globes business newspaper that “reliable sources” notified Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of the decision.

The ministry said that despite the reaction, Israel actually will receive more in this year than it 2012. Mush of the aid is funneled back to the United States for American equipment and technology.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told visiting Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week that the sequester cut would not affect the Arrow and David’s Sling anti-missile programs.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Israel, the Republicans and Obama’s PR Strategy

Monday, February 25th, 2013

A correspondent of mine expressed some surprise when it was announced yesterday that the new secretary of state, John Kerry, would not be visiting Israel prior to the visit next month of President Obama.

What this means to foreign-service hands is that there won’t be a ministerial-level sit-down in advance of the president’s trip.  The army of foreign-service specialists who negotiate for the U.S. and Israel won’t come up with serious negotiating points (or at least statements of common objectives) on topics like talks with the Palestinian Arabs, or the Iranian nuclear threat.  The president’s itinerary and official events will no doubt be planned thoroughly, but there is a big hole where the normal process of policy preparation would be.

The prospect of Obama’s visit producing a tangible Middle East-policy outcome is thus nil.  Appearances now suggest that the trip will basically be

an extended photo op.  The president will have photo ops with the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank as well.  One of the bigger photo ops will be the award to Obama of Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction, by President Shimon Peres.

Appearances as to the kind of trip we can look forward to are probably not deceiving, but they must be understood in the context of Obama’s political style.  This is a president who believes that a photo purporting to show him shooting skeet at Camp David will establish his bona fides as a supporter of the Second Amendment – enough so, at any rate, to neutralize political opposition to the increased gun restrictions he favors.  For Obama, photo ops are the execution of policy: they build a narrative that gives him leverage by undermining his opponent’s position.

CERTAINLY, HE has approached the federal budget stand-off this way.  It makes an excellent case study.  As numerous pundits have pointed out in the last week, the “sequester” of funds, in the absence of a budget agreement, was Obama’s idea.  He has played the sequester to the media on both sides, however, attributing it entirely to the Republicans in Congress when it suits him to.

In February 2013, he is decrying a set of exaggerated effects which he claims will result from the sequester kicking in on 1 March.  (As Jennifer Rubin notes, even the New York Times detected exaggeration in Obama’s dire predictions.)

But in the thick of the negotiations that produced the sequester threat, back in 2011, Obama threatened to veto any attempt to avert the sequesterwithout a full budget deal.  The same consequences have always been in prospect; what has changed is the position Obama proclaims to the public.

Writers at Politico – hardly a hotbed of right-wing perspective – quote administration officials identifying Obama’s sequester strategy as “shame.”

Certain that the political winds are in their favor, [the White House is]forgoing serious negotiations for a high-risk public offensive, banking almost entirely on the president’s ability to persuade. They believe that the GOP will be scared of taking the blame from an angry public — and the White House says this is just the kind of thing that gave them the victory they claimed in the fiscal cliff fight and the most recent standoff over the debt limit.

The aim is to force Republicans to submit to new revenue as part of a deal to avert the $1.2 trillion in potential cuts — and the only way to get there, senior administration officials said, is by making the GOP position indefensible.

Just so we’re clear:  this is community-organizing politics, in a nutshell.  Hype an exaggerated problem or threat – even a counter-factual one – with a lot of noise and pressure; stir people up about it; make yourself and your agenda the hero fighting for the people; and pin the blame for it all on the target you want to squeeze concessions from:  in this case, Republicans.  (This site has a brief summary of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” the methods community organizers favor to achieve their goals.  Rules 4, 9, and 10 are particularly applicable here.)

Obama has taken off the mask of moderation since his reelection – something even his supporters have reservations about.  This is important context for his visit to Israel in March.  If he foregoes serious negotiations in Israel for a photo-op narrative-building opportunity, what are his objectives?

OBAMA WILL presumably seek to be seen in a posture friendly and solicitous toward both Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.  I think we can expect very positive-sounding but vague comments about Israel and Israeli security, which, along with photos at the Western Wall (with kippa), a visit to an Iron Dome battery, and photos of himself receiving his medal from Peres, will be intended to evoke powerfully the sense of Obama as a friend to Israel.

Similar care will be taken to select photo-op venues with the Palestinian Arabs.  But nothing material will be resolved; Team Obama will simply hope to pocket good feeling about his attitude toward both parties.  As with his Magical Sequester Tour in the U.S., he will be looking for imagery and narrative building to establish his bona fides on Israeli security as against his political opponents’ – most particularly with an audience of the U.S. media and American Jews.

In community-organizing terms, Obama doesn’t have to convince Netanyahu himself, or other Israelis, or regional-policy experts; he certainly doesn’t have to make a parsable case for a posture that is trustworthy or has a rational basis.  What he has to do is neutralize or “make indefensible” the position of his opponents – from House Republicans to Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel – regarding both Israel and Obama’s stance on Israel.  He has to outflank them on the battlefield of perception, looking more solicitous of Israeli security than Netanyahu, and better disposed toward Israel than either AIPAC or Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

If, as Rush Limbaugh suggests, Obama’s main political objective today is winning the House in 2014, then establishing imputed bona fides for him on Israel is certainly important to the races in some key districts.  ThatObama’s campaign organization remains in political-action mode, in spite of the constitutional limit on his own reelection, is clear.  Obama won’t be leaving the 2014 election for the Democratic Party to handle.

But there is also the foreign-policy aspect of any “perception benefits” Obama hopes to garner from a photo-op tour of Israel.  Down the road, Obama may want Israel to pay a high price in security concessions for any hugs administered in March 2013.

That, I think, is where the limits of community organizing will be reached.  Netanyahu will remain undeceived as to the wisdom or utility of anything Obama may insist on (such as bilateral talks with Iran), regardless of personalities or media hype.  So, of course, will supporters of Israel in the United States – but in this case, unlike the case of the sequester, the decisive factor will not and cannot be the perceived “indefensibility” of the position held by Obama’s political opponents at home.  Not only does Israel have a vote on whatever policies are to prevail, but the other regional actors have votes too.

None of those actors – the Palestinian Arabs, the Arab nations, Hezbollah, Hamas, Turkey, Iran, the E.U. – is locked in a closed-loop system with Obama, as his political opponents in the U.S. are.  The foreign actors have alternatives to Obama’s suggested roles for them, and they are starting to pursue those alternatives.  From outside the closed loop of American politics, most of them see clearly that a perception advantage for Obama inside the U.S. isn’t the same thing as Obama being reliable or competent, or having a policy idea that’s good for them.  They will act according to their interests, in the end, rather than hitching their wagon to Obama’s star – or, indeed, rather than suffering political losses if Team Obama can make their American supporters look bad.

THE COMMUNITY organizer’s horizon is always limited.  So is his reach.  In a way we have not seen since the 1930s, the rest of the world stands outside America’s internal struggle today, and plenty of foreign observers have Obama’s number.  This will have the effect of making the world less stable, unfortunately, while reducing America’s influence over its direction.

It may also increase the poignancy of the Israeli government’s codename for the Obama visit – or perhaps it increases the geopolitical insight behind it.  According to media reports, Israeli officials have dubbed the visit “Brit Amim,” which is being translated from the Hebrew as “alliance between nations.”  The English expression being used officially by Israel is “Unbreakable Alliance.”

Christian groups on the watch for the eschaton immediately pointed out the similarity of “brit amim” to a passage in the prophetic book of Daniel that refers to “brit rabbim,” or a future covenant of Israel with all peoples.  (The verse in question is Daniel 9:27.)  “Brit” recurs throughout the Old Testament to signify “covenant,” in the sense of a covenant between God and His people.

While I do not think the Israeli government meant to invoke Christian prophetic expectations in choosing this codename, it is reasonable to suppose that Bibi Netanyahu, who titled his 1993 book on Israel A Place Among the Nations, is well aware of the biblical connotations of the formulation Brit Amim.  The UN’s recognition of the state of Israel in 1948 was, in a sense, a covenant of the nations with the Jewish people, and Brit Amim as a codename for the visit of Barack Obama in 2013 may imply, at the very least, a dual meaning: not just affirming the alliance between Israel and the U.S., but affirming as well that the covenant of the nations with Israel extends beyond any one president or nation.

Community organizing is very narrowly focused and self-referential.  Having no positive goals, it comes with an inherent expiration date.  It may or may not bring America down; it will not keep history from happening.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative under the title, Israel and Obama: Community Organizing the Planet?

J. E. Dyer

Memo to the President: Compromise on the Budget

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

We are about two weeks away from something called the sequester. This is a law passed by congress to ensure that congress balance the federal budget by threatening major indiscriminate deep cuts on all government programs across the board – including defense.

Balancing the budget means that no more money is spent by the government than it takes in. If there is no action by congress along those lines the government can ‘borrow’ the money by raising the debt ceiling or by selling bonds to foreign governments like China. Meaning it can just print more money and ‘owe itself or China’ the money to pay be paid back with future revenue increasing our debt exponentially as we continue to have to ‘borrow’ to meet government expenditures because of an unbalanced budget.
Although I hope I’m wrong – it seems like the sequester will happen. That is not a good thing. There is no way of telling what the exact impact will be.  But I don’t think it is rocket science to realize that when there are automatic deep budget cuts across the board to all government programs – including the military – not to mention entitlement programs like welfare, workfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and farm subsidies;  …that people will suffer.
No doubt food prices will increase; joblessness will increase; government revenue from taxes will decrease and taxes will increase to try and offset that; there will be less money for anyone to spend; consumer demand will decrease; production will decrease; more jobs will be lost; the market will crash; retirement funds heavily invested in the market will no longer be able to help support the elderly; social security will decrease; Medicare and Medicaid payments will decrease, the ill will suffer; our national defense will suffer; and who knows what else… In short it’s not a pretty picture, no matter how you paint it.
The fault lies with both the executive and legislative branches of government. Neither wants to budge from their ideological positions. Congressional Republicans will never agree to any deal that does not include a reduction in government spending. The President refuses any further cuts the budget which will surely increase the deficit. He feels obligated to protect entitlements to the wealthy and the poor.
The problem with his position is that if the government keeps printing money, it will become devalued. In a world based economy this will surely cause unprecedented inflation. We may end up with a simultaneous depression and inflation… who knows.
The President has thrown down the gauntlet. He says that if congress doesn’t act blame for the sequester will be their fault.
Perhaps. But history will not be kind to the President. If the worst happens, it will be under his watch. History will record that whatever catastrophic economic event happens under his watch will be his fault. And he may go down as the worst President in American history, despite his good intentions.
It is true that the public blames both sides but see the Republicans having greater fault I this. I see it as two stubborn sides that consider their own liberal or conservative principles having greater value that saving the country from financial ruin. I really don’t know what they are thinking.
But whatever the truth is about whose fault it is, history will record that the Obama Presidency will be the worst failure since that of Herbert Hoover.
Somebody better blink in this game of chicken.  I don’t care who it is at this point. But if the President wants to have any kind of decent legacy he ought to make sure someone does.
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.
Harry Maryles

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