As the Arrangement Act, compelling Arab claimants against government initiated Jewish settlements to accept market value for their lands, comes up for an initial vote at the Knesset plenum, two coalition partners — Kulanu and Habayit Hayehudi — have accused Prime Minister Netanyahu and Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) of attempting to sabotage the vote. Bitan announced on Tuesday that there may be some difficulties in rustling support for the bill.
In response, Habayit Hayehudi faction informed Bitan that should the coalition partners not honor the coalition discipline rule and help defeat the government-supported legislation, Habayit Hayehudi would no longer vote in support of future coalition bills.
The threat was intended to pressure Likud to make sure all the coalition partners indeed show up to support the bill. As of Tuesday night, there have been rumors that Kulanu and the Haredi parties were considering a no-show during the vote. Now it appears those rumors were manufactured on behalf of the PM, who never was in favor of the proposed law.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a coalition request to postpone the demolition of Amona, in Samaria, on December 25.
A July 22, 2015 Wikileaked email from Stuart E. Eizenstat, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and one of Israel’s permanent friends in Washington DC, to Jake Sullivan, Deputy Assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to VP Biden (CC’ed to John Podesta and Huma Abedin), reveals that, according to Dan Kurtzer, who served as US ambassador to Egypt and to Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu was offering the “transfer of more territory from Zone C (about 55 percent of the West Bank) under Israel’s sole control to Zone A, controlled by the Palestinians” in return for the Labor party joining his coalition government.
According to Kurtzer, speaking to Eizenstat, “Bibi wants badly to broaden his coalition by including Boogie (sic) Herzog and his Labor seats.” At this point, Eizenstat noted: “[Ambassador] Dennis Ross … also told me this week the government would not last beyond the end of the year and that Bibi wants to include Herzog and his Labor Party.”
However, Kurtzer told Eizenstat, “Herzog will not come in without clear commitments on the peace process.” And so, according to Kurtzer, Netanyahu is prepared to go a long way in making concessions to both the Palestinian Authority and to the Hamas government in Gaza. These concessions would include:
“Allowing Gaza reconstruction.” One is free to read whatever one wishes into this statement, which is accompanied by the cautionary note that “Israel is concerned pressures are building because of lack of economic opportunity.” One of the things it could mean is Israel softening control over the border crossings and risking letting through construction material such as cement and metal rods which could be diverted to building terror tunnels.
“An economic plan” for both Gaza and the PA, which Kurtzer suggested would introduce Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ), which are special free industrial parks being used by both Egypt and Jordan.
And the third sacrifice Netanyahu was willing to make in the summer of 2015, according to Kurtzer: “Transfer of more territory from Zone C (about 55 percent of the West Bank) under Israel’s sole control to Zone A, controlled by the Palestinians, creating more space for development,” and “More freedom of movement and fewer checkpoints.”
[To clarify a point for our readers, the email is saying that Area C makes up about 55% of the “West Bank”, not that Netanyahu was planning to transfer away 55% of the “West Bank”.]
Naturally, according to the Eizenstat email, making life in Judea and Samaria easier for the Arabs would entail making life harder for Jews, as Netanyahu was offering to “build new homes only in tightly defined current settlement blocs.”
In June 2016, Netanyahu was using his lengthy negotiations with Labor head Isaac “Buji” Herzog to lure Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman into his coalition government.
Were the shocking promises Netanyahu was giving Herzog in 2015, to give up Israeli security assets in exchange for a stable coalition, similarly unserious? Was Bibi fooling the Americans and Herzog just to force Liberman back into his government? Or can it be safely assumed that when the time comes for Netanyahu to choose between remaining in power and maintaining those Israeli assets — he’ll choose Bibi?
Despite an effort by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent its passage, members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously voted to approve the ‘Regulation Law’ on Sunday evening.
Passage of the bill in committee means the law now goes to the Knesset, where it still must pass three readings in order to make it into law.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has said there are legal problems with the law, which may be in conflict with international norms. He has told the committee he is not willing to defend the measure in Supreme Court on behalf of the government, should it be challenged.
The law calls for the government to financially compensate Palestinian Authority Arabs who claim private ownership of land on which Jewish towns have been built.
The law would retroactively legalize the status of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and would prevent the demolition of the town of Amona. It would also stop the destruction of nine homes in the town of Ofra.
The proposed bill was sponsored by Likud Knesset member Yoav Kish, along with two Bayit Yehudi Knesset members, Shuli Muaelem Refaeli and Bezalel Smotrich.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked praised the decision. This government will normalize the settlements in Judea and Samaria, even against efforts by the far-left to engage in ‘lawfare’. The way to influence [policy] on the settlement map of Judea and Samaria is through elections, not through the improper means utilize by these groups today,” she said.
Knesset coalition lawmakers say they’ll walk out when Arab members of the Israeli parliament speak from the podium this week.
The action comes in response to the boycott of the September 30 funeral of former President Shimon Peres z’l, by the Arab legislators. The boycott was condemned by numerous other MKs.
Yisrael Beytenu party chairman and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the coalition for the boycott. “I hope that same boycott will continue until the end of the session,” he said.
Liberman called the Israeli Arab lawmakers who boycotted the Peres funeral, “representatives of terror groups in the Israeli government” who were “not legitimate.” Most Israeli Arab citizens, he contended, are loyal and should be integrated into Israeli society.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Joint Arab List, slammed the boycott. “The announcement by the prime minister, advocating for a boycott of an entire faction representing an entire segment of the population, is unprecedented,” he wrote in a Hebrew tweet on the Twitter social networking site.
Joint Arab List chairman and MK Ayman Odeh told reporters that he’s not surprised by the move, which he said was part of the “fascist and racist policies” of the Israeli government.
“Even if you leave the plenary, even if you shut your eyes really tightly, we will still be here,” he warned, adding that he saw the move as a way to speak directly to the public without interference from other lawmakers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning opened his weekly Cabinet meeting with a statement regarding the brewing Israel Railways-related coalition crisis. “Since Friday, we have been dealing with reducing the congestion that was created last night and today due to the Israel Railways’ work projects. I want to thank you, Mr. Defense Minister, I spoke with you and you responded immediately. I instructed the defense establishment to assist in transportation for soldiers. The Transportation Ministry is operating a reinforced network of buses in order to ease things for passengers.”
Netanyahu then rebuked his rebellious cabinet member, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), without mentioning him by name, saying, “This crisis is completely unnecessary. There was no need to reach this situation. There has been a status quo in the State of Israel for many years; we honor it. When work needs to be done on Shabbat – it is done, as it was last Shabbat on the Ayalon highway. When it does not need to be done on Shabbat – it is not done. This has been our guiding principle; this is the principle that will continue to guide us.”
Taking for himself the credit that mostly belongs to the gregarious Transport Minister, Netanyahu said, “Over the past seven years the Government has invested almost $9 billion in a massive expansion of highways, railways, and – of course – interchanges and tunnels. We succeeded in doing this without unnecessary crises. When nobody wants a crisis, it is possible to avoid it. On this matter I expect full cooperation by all ministers. Ministers are appointed in order to avoid crises and solve problems, not create them.”
Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) admitted on Saturday that the crisis between Prime Minster Netanyahu and his Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) has reached an irreversible phase, which could mean that the PM will fire his Minster in the coming days. The rift between the two Likud politicians is not new, and the last few months have seen several attempts by Katz to attack Netanyahu on a variety of issues, some personal (Katz has been promised the foreign ministry which Netanyahu is keeping to himself for now), others have to do with actions by Katz that are threatening the stability of Netanyahu’s government.
Last week, Katz forced a confrontation between his PM and the Haredi coalition partners over massive works in the Israeli train infrastructure that were scheduled for Shabbat. The protests from the Haredim resulted in Netanyahu ordering his minister to limit the Shabbat works to only those projects which could result in danger to the public should they be carried out on a weekday. In the end, the railroad and Tel-Aviv’s main urban highway, Netivey Ayalon (Rt. 20) were blocked to traffic throughout the last Shabbat in August, with heavy traffic jams that ended only when the works were concluded around 8 PM Saturday.
Last Friday, Sept. 2, five minutes before the start of Shabbat, Katz ordered the cancellation of all the projects that received special dispensation, pushing them off to Saturday night and Sunday. The order for the technical teams to abandon the work sites was given after they had taken apart some of the rails, so that there was no way to resume service Saturday night. In fact, as of Saturday night, train passengers have been told the service would only be renewed Sunday night.
Both sides, Netanyahu and Katz, are blaming each other for the crisis, with Meretz and Labor siding with the transport minister and urging their people to demonstrate in front of the shut down stations. Only a few hundreds have arrived at those rallies Saturday night — which blame Netanyahu for capitulating to the Haredim. In addition, the opposition parties have collected 25 MK signatures to call a special session of the legislature to debate “the desecration of Shabbat and the harm to soldiers and civilians by the train crisis.”
Sunday is the day thousands of IDF soldiers who spent Shabbat at home are riding the trains back to their bases, many of them for free. Now the IDF is working overtime rustling up buses for these soldiers. In a small and tense country like Israel, messing up with the schedule of our kids going back to the Army does not make one a popular politician. Which is why Meretz Chair Zehava Galon has already appealed to the Supreme Court against both Netanyahu and Katz, demanding that they be compelled to terminate their decision to cut Shabbat railroad works.
Netanyahu issued a statement Saturday saying, “This is an initiated and unnecessary crisis on the part of Minister Yisrael Katz designed to undermine relations between the Prime Minister and the ultra-orthodox public or alternatively to damage the image of the Prime Minister among the general public. From the outset there was no need to initiate work on Shabbat. It would have been possible to carry out the work on other dates that would not have harmed the ultra-orthodox public, passengers or soldiers. For example, it would have been possible to combine the work with the eight-day shutdown of the railroad – which has the approval of the Transportation Ministry – in the coming weeks. Israel Katz is holding passengers and soldiers as hostages in an unnecessary and artificial crisis that he initiated after having failed in his attempt to take over the Likud institutions. The Prime Minister is outraged over Minister Katz’s cynical attack on passengers and soldiers and is doing his utmost to minimize the damage to these publics in the next 24 hours. To this end, the Prime Minister and Defense Minister have agreed to place buses at the disposal of soldiers over the next 24 hours. The Prime Minister has also instructed the Transportation Ministry to boost public transportation between Tel Aviv and Haifa with additional buses.”
Yes, Katz tried and failed to take over the Likud institutions, about two and a half weeks ago, he got a huge majority (95%) of the Likud Secretariat, which he happens to head, to agree to the narrowing of the absolute power the Likud Chairman, one Benjamin Netanyahu, had enjoyed in personnel appointments and distribution of party funds. Katz apparently assumed Netanyahu was experiencing a weak period, what with police looking into his and his wife’s use of public funds, and figured the prime minister would shy away from confrontation with the third strongest man in Likud. He was outrageously wrong. The PM called him to his office at 9 AM the next day and, reportedly, handed him an unsigned letter of resignation, which he expected Katz to sign unless he issued a statement walking back the entire secretariat vote from the day before.
Katz capitulated, but apparently did not stop sulking and looking for new ways to force a showdown with the PM. The reason for his combative stance has to do with Netanyahu’s inviting Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) into his coalition government, which boosted his hold on his government and reduced the ability of any individual coalition member to get his way. Katz is aware that his days in this government are numbered, Netanyahu will never keep his promises to him regarding the foreign ministry, so, frankly, he might be better off outside the tent than inside.
Meanwhile, the Likud is splitting up between Katz and Bibi supporters, and the fact that several Likud ministers have thrown their weight — albeit politely — behind Katz, may be enough to avoid an actual showdown. Meanwhile, for the next 24 hours or so, Israeli train passengers remain in dire need of transportation alternatives.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.