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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘coalition talks’

‘Obama to Visit Israel, Ready or Not’

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

U.S. and Israeli officials said President Barack Obama would not delay his trip to Israel in the event that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unable to form a government.

An Israeli Embassy official in Washington described as “baseless” reports in the Israeli media earlier this week that Obama would delay his trip should Netanyahu fail to meet a March 16 deadline to form a government, a few days before Obama is due to arrive.

The official told JTA that preparations for the trip were continuing apace and there was no sign of a postponement.

It has been assumed that President Obama would postpone his trip rather than land at Ben Gurion Airport and be faced with a having to deal with officials who might not be in their same posts when a coalition finally is formed.

It is possible that the White House has to put on a good face towards the visit. Any remarks hinting that Obama will not arrive on March 20 could be interpreted as pressure on all parties to get their act together and form a government.

Assuming President Obama arrives as planned. he will not speak at the Knesset, where he might be subject to undisciplined Knesset Members from both sides of the political fence.

In his 2008 campaign visit to Jerusalem, he visited the Western Wall. This time around, he would cause a diplomatic catastrophe were he to step one foot into the Old City or any other part of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority.

More likely he will speak at the Jerusalem Convention Center, the Times of Israel reported. He probably  also make a “de rigeur” obligatory visit to the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

Israel TV: Obama Won’t Visit Israel without New Coalition Gov’t

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

President Barack Obama will cancel his scheduled March 20 visit to Israel if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not from a coalition government before then, Israel’s Channel 10 television reported Thursday night.

It based its report on unnamed sources, but it makes sense because President Obama would have little to do in Israel except to bask in the sun at the Dead Sea if there is no government.

If Netanyahu fails to complete his coalition puzzle, Obama privately might gloat, considering the Prime Minister’s blatant grandstanding for Republican president candidate Mitt Romney in the recent US election campaign.

Netanyahu’s first deadline for forming a coalition is this Saturday night. If he still is empty handed, President Shimon Peres can grant him a final one-time only 14-day extension. That brings him up to March 16, four days before President Obama is scheduled to arrive.

If there is no government by then, Peres can throw the ball in the court of Yair Lapid, whose Future (Yesh Atid) party won the second largest number of Knesset seats, or simply call new elections.

Either prospect is unlikely, but anything is possible in Israeli politics.

The Obama administration figured a March 20 arrival date would give  the Prime Minister more than enough time to get his political act together. So far, it has been dead wrong.

Netanyahu tried throwing a curve ball at all of the parties dickering for Cabinet positions or acceptance of their principles. Instead of closing a deal with one of the largest parties first, he took in the hapless Tzipi Livni and her party of a total of six Knesset Members. Livni vowed in the election campaign she would not sit in a government with Netanyahu, but she caved into the offer of  being Justice Minister and de facto “Minister of the Peace Process.”

The curve ball turned into a boomerang.

If he thought his ploy would scare the other parties to fall into line, he was wrong. He had not yet understood that Lapid and Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party, really meant what they said and will not sacrifice their platforms and promises for a fancy Cabinet portfolio.

Netanyahu messed himself up by putting Livni in charge of the peace process, because Bennett told him “no way.” Without Bennett and Lapid, Netanyahu is up the creek, because he cannot form a majority only with Livni, the Haredi parties and the two-seat Kadima party. Labor party’s chair Shelly Yechimovich also has principles, the main one being not to join a Netanyahu-led government

Netanyahu has squeezed himself into a tight corner. Lapid’s chief negotiator David Shimron made it clear Thursday night that there is  no room in a coalition government for the Future party with Haredim.

If the Prime Minister wants to show Obama who’s in charge in Israel, he has no choice but to admit that Bennett and Lapid are in charge.

Bibi, Bennett, Yair Talks Breakthrough: Shas Gets Boot

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

After several weeks in which it seemed that the gaps between the sides in the coalition negotiations on burden equality could not be bridged, we’re now being told, according to Maariv, that a solution is near. Senior Likud negotiators said Tuesday night that they are close to an agreement with the Jewish Home over an outline for equal burden legislation. According to those sources, the Jewish Home team told them they are authorized to negotiate on behalf of Yesh Atid as well.

At this point, sources in both teams are saying they are close to an agreement, at least over the recruitment age for Haredim: 21. This figure is a kind of compromise between age proposed by the Likud-Beitenu: 24, and the Yesh Atid position: 18.

There were huge problems with the age 24 idea, which was, in essence, a Trojan horse pushed in by the Haredi parties through the Likud-Beitenu team. First, in terms of the recruit’s usefulness to the IDF, at 24 he is basically unavailable to combat duty. Also, by the time he is 24, the average Haredi man could be the proud father of several children, which entitles him to a significant military stipend. In other words: at 24 he is more trouble than he’s worth.

Also, the Jewish Home team was arguing that the same Supreme Court that killed the previous Tal Law on grounds of inequality will no doubt reject the age 24 idea on the same grounds. Even at age 21, the Haredi recruits are only expected to serve two years—which is very likely to be challenged in front of the court by anyone who didn’t make it into the government and isn’t Haredi.

Incidentally, according to Maariv, Jewish Home and Yesh Atid do not agree on the enlistment of another, much larger segment of the population, the Arabs, who have been just as useless to the community at large as the Haredim, but comprise 20-25% of the population, as opposed to the estimated Haredi 8%. While Jewish Home would like to see the Arabs shouldering the burden like the rest of Israel’s young men and women, Lapid’s party is not as shocked and anguished over Arab inequality, possibly because they like them more than they do Haredim.

One message is clear, for now: according to Jewish Home sources, the Likud-Beitenu team has given up on trying to split the Bennett-Lapid pact. This might mean that Benjamin Netanyahu’s and Avigdor Liberman’s worst nightmares could be realized over the next four years, namely that those two young, sassy winners will use their stay in power to push their respective parties to an even bigger share of the vote next time around.

On the other hands, when you’re in charge of actual government ministries, things can happen…

Finally, whether or not the next coalition will include Shas and Torah Judaism, the 17-seat strong Haredi block, it appears that their two “traditional” portfolios, Interior and Housing, Shas’s source of patronage jobs and huge influence over Israeli society, is lost to them, at least for now. It isn’t clear yet, however, whether those two rich portfolios will be given to Bennett’s party or kept in Likud-Beitenu’s embrace.

Being kept apart from its traditional lifeline could spell the beginning of the end for both sectarian Haredi parties, who’ll start losing followers to the broader-based Jewish Home. Coupled with the probable, at this point, appointment of National Religious Rabbi David Stav to Chief Rabbi, this could mean the beginning of a new golden age for Religious Zionism.

Put that in Obama’s pipe and let him smoke it.

After an Apology, Bennett to Meet Bibi in Tel Aviv

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett will meet on Monday—at last—with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The meeting is expected to take place at the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv, and to be the official inauguration of direct coalition talks between Bennett and Bibi, coinciding with the negotiations run by MK Uri Ariel’s Jewish Home team.

A source inside the Likud party told the website Kipa that the meeting between the two leaders had been set in principle last week but was only inserted into the schedule on Sunday afternoon.

In preparation for the talks Monday, Bennett used an Army Radio morning interview to apologize for his earlier, somewhat flippant remarks about the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, remarks that had to do with her and himself enduring a “terrorism course” together—remarks which at least one news source, Iran’s Press TV, took at face value.

On Monday morning, however, Bennett was reverent and contrite when he said: “Sara Netanyahu is a good woman. I’m sorry about the joke regarding the terrorism course we supposedly took together.”

This obligatory humbling should clear the way for Bennett’s being the first leader of a mid-size party to accept a government partnership. Netanyahu has been adamant about looking to establish a broad, 80 member or so coalition government, but with Yair Lapid insisting on keeping his promises to his voters regarding Haredi military service, it would be difficult to have him and the Haredi party be on the same side.

Bennett and Lapid are still, apparently, united in their pact to either joining the government together or not at all. That, too, should make Bibi’s coalition cobbling task more challenging than usual.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/after-an-apology-bennett-to-meet-bibi-in-tel-aviv/2013/02/11/

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