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September 24, 2016 / 21 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Crisis’

Netanyahu Calms Coalition Crisis, Grabs Credit for Transport Minister’s Achievements

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

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.”

David Israel

Coalition Chair: No Coming back from Netanyahu Vs. Transport Minister Crisis

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

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.

JNi.Media

Israel Publishes Plan to Solve Urgent Water Crisis in Jewish and Arab Communities in Judea and Samaria

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

By Michael Bachner/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria convened on Monday to discuss and approve a new executive plan to implement an immediate solution to the water shortage in both Jewish and Arab communities in Judea and Samaria. A total of 26 water reservoirs of up to 400 cubic meters each will be built throughout the region to reduce the amount of water shortages, at a cost of six million shekels (approximately USD 1.5 million).

The plan was formulated as a result of a collaborative effort by the Civil Administration, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Water Authority, Israel’s national water company Mekorot, the National Emergency Authority, and local councils in the region.

“I am glad that all the relevant authorities have come together to find a short-term solution that will enable regular water supply after years of neglecting the water infrastructure,” said Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan. “This is not the last word though. I intend to work together with National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz to promote long-term master plans for developing the water infrastructure in Judea and Samaria.”

However, due to a lack of funds for the project and the urgency of finding a solution to the water shortage in the mid-August heat, Minister Ben-Dahan is expected to request additional funding from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

According to Mekorot, there is currently a water shortage of 7000 to 9000 cubic meters a day in Judea and Samaria. Experts in the field claim that this is due to a long period of negligence in the water sector and that none of the authorities had adequately prepared for the increase in population and in agricultural fields that require large amounts of water.

The severe shortage has affected both Jewish and Arab residents of the region. However, Palestinian Authority and international organizations as well as media outlets have been blaming Israel for what they perceive as a deliberate policy to withhold water from Palestinian Authority communities.

Israeli sources have repeatedly denied the charges, citing that the shortage existed in Jewish communities as well. The Israeli Water Authority has blamed Palestinian Authority Arabs for stealing water and for refusing to convene the Israeli-PA Joint Water Committee, which was established under the 1993 Oslo Accords, a step that would be necessary in order to upgrade the outdated infrastructure.

Idit Druyan, spokeswoman for Deputy Defense Minister Ben-Dahan, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that the solution would affect Jewish and Arab communities alike.

“The pipe system needs to be fixed to prevent it from becoming overloaded in certain spots,” Druyan said. “When this is done and balance is restored to the various parts of the pipe, all communities will benefit.”

“Today, the problem mainly affects communities that are 800 meters above sea level,” she added. “Once we fix that problem, then the lower communities, including the Palestinian villages and towns, will also have more water.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Official: Water Crisis in Samaria Caused by Arabs Stealing 400 Million Gallons a Year

Friday, July 1st, 2016

On Thursday, during an emergency meeting on water shortages in Samaria in the office of Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi), it was revealed that systematic water theft by Arabs, as well as dereliction of duty on the part of the Israeli water authorities, are to blame for the current crisis.

Over the past two weeks or so, the Jewish communities of eastern Samaria—Karney Shomron, Ariel, Kdumim—have been under emergency water procedure. These communities, with roughly 60,000 residents, experience interruption of their water service every few days, and it has been presumed that the shortages are due to the failure of the water authority to expand its infrastructure to match the Jewish and Arab population growth in Samaria.

On Monday, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) ordered Knesset Finance Committee management to freeze debates over budgets intended for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), including freezing its budget of about $20 million until the water crisis in Samaria is resolved.

Also on Monday, Yesha Council heads met with Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and presented alarming data on the absence of long-term infrastructure planning by the various government ministries throughout Judea and Samaria. Steinitz promised to take over the coordination of the different entities, including the Water Authority and the national water utility Mekorot.

The Thursday night meeting in Ben-Dahan’s office on the water shortage in Judea and Samaria (most acutely in Samaria) included representatives of COGAT, the Civil Administration, and the water Authority. During the meeting, Ben-Dahan stated that “for many years there has been neglect of everything having to do with the water infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, which resulted in the absence of promoting master plans to develop the water resources in the area. Unfortunately, none of the entities involved has been properly prepared to deal with the growth in both the Jewish and Palestinian populations, as well as the growth in agricultural land which require a great deal of water.”

“In addition,” Ben-Dahan stated, “there’s the phenomenon of water theft by the Palestinians in the amount of 5,000 cubic meters of water daily, a factor in the shortage of water.”

To illustrate, 5,000 cubic meters is the equivalent of 1,100,000 gallons a day. Over one year, water theft by Arabs in Judea and Samaria reaches a staggering 401,500,000 gallons.

The debate in Ben-Dahan’s office, reported by Srugim, resulted in short- and long-term solutions. Over the next few days there will be a regular rotation of 15 water trucks that will refill the reservoirs in communities where they have dried out. In addition, the entities involved will examine the possibility of constructing 27 above-ground pools to provide for locations where the crisis has been particularly acute. Existing pumping stations which have been left in disrepair in Ariel and additional locations will be repaired speedily.

In coming weeks, both Deputy Minister Ben-Dahan and Minister Steinitz will meet to plan the promotion of a master plan for the water infrastructure in Judea and Samaria.

Interestingly, not one word was said about ways of preventing the flagrant theft of water by Arabs.

Meanwhile, on the Palestinian Authority side, the responsibility for the shortage is being placed squarely on Israel. In mid June, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that Israel was “waging a water war against the Palestinians. Israel wants to prevent Palestinians from leading a dignified life and uses its control over our water resources to this end; while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy uninterrupted water service, Palestinians are forced to spend great sums of money to buy water that is theirs in the first place.”

Ayman Rabi, executive director of the NGO Palestinian Hydrology Group, told Al Jazeera that “some areas had not received any water for more than 40 days. People are relying on purchasing water from water trucks or finding it from alternative sources such as springs and other filling points in their vicinity. Families are having to live on two, three or 10 litters per capita per day.”

Mekorot denied cutting the water supplies, but admitted there was a reduction in water supply “as a result of the shortage of water supply.”

“We have made a broad reduction of the supply to all residents in the area,” Mekorot told Al Jazeera. “All the facilities are working and the capability to supply is less than the rate of consumption. The water authority recently approved a master plan for the water sector and accordingly we will build the systems that will meet the West Bank’s required consumption.”

Now, if only Mekorot had told Ministers Ben-Dahan and Steinitz about this new master plan, it would have saved everybody a lot of time.

JNi.Media

Bennett Coalition Crisis Averted, Liberman (Still) to Be Defense Minister

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Another overnight marathon negotiation session has resulted in a repeat 11th hour resolution of the latest coalition crisis in the Netanyahu government with Bayit Yehudi party chairman Naftali Bennett.

The cabinet voted to approve the appointments of Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman as defense minister and party member Sofa Landver as Minister of Aliya and Absorption.

Bennett had threatened to vote against the appointments, together with his party’s ministers – bringing down the government in the process.

If all goes according to plan, the two will be sworn in as ministers by Monday afternoon, after the vote is confirmed in the Knesset plenum.

The resolution came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted a mitigating proposal Sunday by Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party.

Under the plan, the acting head of the National Security Council, Brig.-Gen. (ret) Ya’akov Nagel – or his deputy – would temporarily act as military attache to the security cabinet.

He would remain in place until a committee to be formed by Netanyahu and headed by former NSC head Ya’akov Amidror is tasked with finding a way to meet Bennett’s demands on upgrading cabinet briefings without compromising national security, and returns with its recommendations.

Bennett had threatened to take his ministers and his eight party mandates and leave the coalition unless security cabinet members received one-to-one military attaches, access to classified information, field operations sites and IDF bases, and real-time security updates.

In order to keep the 61-seat coalition government in place, Netanyahu has needed to keep Bennett’s party on board.

Hana Levi Julian

Incoming Defense Minister Rattles Israeli Political Establishment

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

by Michael Bachner

The news that MK Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteynu party, will be Israel’s next defense minister has rocked the political establishment on the right and left.

Liberman, a tough-talking former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has sought the Defense Ministry portfolio for years – and appears set to receive it after a deal struck with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Liberman’s rise followed a tumultuous day of negotiations and backroom deals in which both Liberman and MK Isaac Herzog, chairman of the historically left-wing Labor party, vied for the job of defense minister and the chance to enter Netanyahu’s government.

“I regret the prime minister’s decision. I did not imagine that he would make such a paradoxical and dangerous move,” said MK Benny Begin, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio on Thursday morning. “The prime minister has been very proud of what he called ‘a reasonable, balanced and responsible’ defense policy, while Liberman’s statements give an opposite impression.”

Netanyahu received harsh criticism from opposition parties as well, including Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah, who blasted Netanyahu for “bartering the most sensitive and important positions as if nothing mattered” in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Liberman was an ally of Netanyahu – the two ran together in a united party during the 2013 election after which Liberman became foreign minister – until they had a public falling out two years ago. The Yisrael Beiteynu party remained in the opposition after last year’s election, and as recently as March Liberman castigated Netanyahu as a “liar, cheat, and con man.”

Liberman has been a frequent advocate for a harsher military response toward Palestinian Authority terrorism, notably against the Hamas terror group that runs Gaza.

“The elimination of Hamas is the primary mission of the Israeli government and as defense minister I will carry it out,” Liberman said before last year’s elections. “We will not reach agreements and understandings with them. The only agreement that can be reached with Hamas is when they are buried in the ground,” he said, adding that such an Israeli policy cannot be implemented when the government is comprised of “a coalition of nerds.”

Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East and a former British prime minister, colluded with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to push Herzog into the government – a move reportedly designed to facilitate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority. According to the report in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Blair even met with Herzog’s political partner, MK Tzipi Livni, in her Tel Aviv home this week, despite the fact that she is sitting shiva – the Jewish mourning ritual – for her brother.

Liberman is set to replace current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, a senior Likud member who has recently clashed with Netanyahu over a series of issues related to the IDF’s independence from the political establishment.

Ya’alon, apparently alluding to the news of his ouster, said on Thursday that Israel is facing a crisis of leadership. “There is a loss of our moral compass on basic issues,” Ya’alon said. “If I had to give a golden tip, it would be to navigate with a compass rather than a weather vane. Navigation with a compass is tried and true, and it’s also a question of leadership.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Israel State Comptroller’s Report Details Housing Crisis

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Israel’s state comptroller Joseph Shapira released his report Wednesday on the nation’s housing crisis, detailing a 55 percent rise in the price of a home between 2008 and 2013.

According to the 294 page report, rent costs rose by 30 percent in the same period, and that “no solution was found” by the Netanyahu government. Wage raises did not match the skyrocketing prices, the report noted, and,”The various government departments responded with no strategic plan of action in the long term, and without having set any goals.”

What was once a given – the Israeli tradition of both sets of parents splitting the cost of buying an apartment for their children when the young couple marries – is today a given no longer. For many Israelis the high cost of living has put the tradition entirely out of reach. Rents are also significantly higher, even in communities located in the “periphery.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party released a statement in response to the damning report, saying that only a strong government led by Netanyahu could resolve the crisis, “just as we did with many other reforms and deep institutional changes we implemented, which made the Israeli economy strong and competitive.”

Former Likud MK and current candidate Prof. Benny Begin told the Anglo Voters’ debate at Cinema City in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, “In 2009, less than 20,000 apartments were being built annually. This year with Housing Minister Uri Ariel, 50,000 were built. But we need a stable government, a strong backbone and a strong Likud to keep one government in place in order to continue that trend,” he emphasized.

Yisrael Beytenu candidate Ashley Perry, also present at the debate, said his party would strengthen the economy and the housing market by helping families purchase new homes with a mortgage designed to avoid the difficult issue of the 33 percent out-of-reach down payment. For Israelis who have served their country via the military, Perry said, there should be a 90 percent mortgage incentive plan and after-school programs for working mothers to help them earn a living.

Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, another candidate present at Wednesday evening’s Ango Vote debate, also underlined the fact that more than 50,000 housing units were built this past year but said his party chairman had been sabotaged. “The plan was to build thousands of rental units as well,” he said, “but there was not enough time for Yesh Atid to implement our entire housing improvement plan, which involved an increase of NIS 10 billion in the 2015 budget. It was on the table when elections were called. We wanted to pass the budget, and then call the elections – but the prime minister refused.”

Yachad candidate Hillik Bar also blamed the prime minister, noting that at least two million Israelis live in rented housing. “It’s a jungle,” he said. “This government has made no attempt to reduce the price of housing.”

Bayit Yehudi candidate Uri Banks slammed Yesh Atid party chairman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid altogether over the issue, saying he “came in with a foolish plan which increased demand without the supply to meet it. He committed suicide on that plan and brought us to these elections.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-state-comptrollers-report-details-housing-crisis/2015/02/25/

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