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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Likud Beitenu’

Netanyahu to Meet Obama in March

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be visiting the U.S. next month, to meet with president Barack Obama.

In a meeting of the Likud Beitenu faction in the Knesset today, Netanyahu said his visit has four goals: continuing the political struggle to deny Iran a nuclear weapon; advancing the “peace process”; recruiting investors in Israel’s technology market; and encouraging tourism to Israel.

Netanyahu is expected to be a guest of honor at the AIPAC conference, to be held March 2-4 in Washington, DC.

The Next Round: Will Netanyahu Retain His Title?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Netanyahu had no real opponent in the recent election for Israel’s 19th Knesset, making his re-election clear before elections were even announced. Thus, despite what many analysts graded as the worst campaign of the Knesset’s 12 parties, the alliance between the Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister Lieberman resulted in a clear win of 31 seats for Likud Beitenu. Second place Yair Lapid was the surprise of the elections, winning 19 seats, and he quickly announced he was looking to be a coalition member and not the Opposition Leader.

This Friday, Smith conducted a poll published by Globes, which put Prime Minister Netanyahu’s center-right Likud-Beitenu and Finance Minister Lapid’s center-left Yesh Atid at a 30-30 tie.  While polling is not an exact science, polls provide us with the latest voting trends and they are the best tool we have for predicting election results. The Smith poll is significant because Smith is not only one of the highest rated polling companies, but it most accurately predicted the 2013 election results.

In addition, the Smith poll makes Lapid the first contender to achieve that kind of success in a mid-term poll since Kadima, under Tzipi Livni, hit 30 seats in polls following Ehud Barak’s split from Labor in early 2011.  Friday’s poll also indicated that the two other current self-labeled center parties, led by Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz, would fail to pass the threshold in a new election, with their eight seats likely heading to Yesh Atid.

Ever since Netanyahu climbed to the top of the polls in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, there has been a shift of support from the traditional ideological left vs. right vote to the “Netanyahu & friends” vs. the “Anti-Netanyahu” vote. This phenomenon was evident when extreme left-wing party Meretz dropped to three seats in the 2009 elections because left-wing voters supported Tzipi Livni, hoping she would defeat Netanyahu.

In that election, Livni won 29 mandates, but Netanyahu, with 28 mandates, nevertheless formed the coalition. After Barak formed the Independence party and Labor faced another possible split led by MK Amir Peretz, polls showed that Labor voters began to support Livni. A few months later, however, voters have pulled their support from Livni. That’s because while Netanyahu hasn’t had any real competition since – he has now.

Although the current government has an unconventional make-up, splitting the Knesset into its traditional blocks, the key to the next government, shows a tie between the right and left. The poll gives the right-religious block of Likud-Beitenu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and UTJ 60 seats. The center-left-Arab block of Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz, Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad win the other 60. One could argue that the Arab parties would never join a coalition, but splitting the seats between the traditional blocks gives a good indication for Netanyahu’s chances of forming a government. That’s because one can expect members of the center-left block to not join a Netanyahu government unless they expect him to form a coalition without them.

Many in the ideological-left camp feel that Labor, the third largest party, will be a big player in the next election. But Labor ran as the alternative to the Netanyahu government this past election and won a disappointing 15 seats. The Smith poll has Labor falling to 12, lower than the 13 seats Labor achieved under Ehud Barak in the 2009 elections. Labor, which has seen six leadership changes in the last dozen years, has become somewhat of a joke in many political circles. It seems highly unlikely that the party, under whichever leader it chooses, will be able to convince the Israeli voter to yet again look to them as the alternative to Netanyahu.

Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi came in fourth place in the recent elections with 12 seats. Bennett is an obvious future candidate for Prime Minister and will be a key player in the next election. The Smith poll has Bennett’s party in third place which means that after the next elections, he may have a chance to play the traditional kingmaker role of Israeli politics deciding between his former boss Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new best friend Yair Lapid. The thought of Bennett not backing the right-wing candidate seems improbable, but not if Netanyahu treats Bennett during this administration as poorly as he did in the weeks following the recent elections.

Shas Balking on Support for Bennett’s Candidate for Chief Rabbi

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Despite reports in the media—most notably by Arutz 7, whose owner, Rabbi Zalman Melamed, has a pony in the race—about a deal that’s been supposedly forged between Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Shas (See: New Chief Rabbi Appointment Pitting Bennett Against Lapid).

The deal that’s being touted by Jewish Home includes extending by another ten-year term the tenure of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, in exchange for a legislative change of the maximum age for the position. That would pave the way for Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, who is over age 70, to become Chief Rabbi.

But a senior Shas official told Kikar HaShabbat that “Rav Ovadia Yosef will not support such a deal with Jewish Home,” in light of that the party’s conduct in the last elections.

“Rav Ovadia Yosef will not give a hand to any deal with the Jewish Home, the party that caused the most damage to Haredi parties,” said the Shas official. We will not support it, even if [our refusal] would endanger the selection of the Haredi Sephardi rabbi.”

Another source in Shas declared that “Rav Ovadia is willing to lose both chief rabbis if getting them means a partnership with the ones who stuck a knife in our back and went with Yair Lapid.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi David Stav published a tortured letter in Srugim, a National Religious website, saying that should Rabbi Ariel become a candidate, he, Rabbi Stav, would remove his own candidacy. Rabbi Stav also bemoaned the personal campaign against him, launched by supporters of Rabbi Ariel.

The struggle between Rabbi Ariel and Rabbi Stav is also creating a conflict within the Jewish Home faction, between the more right wing faction, represented by Rabbi Chaim Drukman, dean of the Or Etzion yeshiva and head of the Bnei Akiva yeshivot, who support Rabbi Ariel, and the Bennett circle, including MK Ayelet Shaked and Minister Uri Orbach, who support Rabbi Stav.

Naftali Bennett is, among other government jobs, Minister of Religious services. But his deputy minister there, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, is the de-facto minister. Both men will be the final decision makers, at least on paper, regarding the appointments.

But without the support of Shas, chances are limited for Rabbi Ariel’s appointment, which will require changing the law which at this point says one must be younger than 70 when taking the mantle of Chief Rabbi. While Likud-beitenu might be persuaded to support such “personalized legislation,” in exchange for another deal, making former Foreign Minister David Levi Israel’s next president (which Liberman is pushing—Levi’s daughter is an Israel Beitenu MK).

The main reason the age-changing personalized legislation is bound to die in the water has to do with the fact that Yair Lapid’s lieutenant, Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron, supports Rabbi Stav, as do most of the faction members, and—most importantly—Lapid’s entire agenda abhors special deals that include personalized legislation and similar political tricks. And so, Yesh Atid will vote against the proposed legislation, should it come up, and their 19 votes together with the opposition votes will prevent the move.

A source close to Jewish Home told The Jewish Press that Naftali Bennett is waiting this one out, offering tacit support for Rabbi Ariel’s candidacy simply because he wouldn’t dare stand up to Rabbi Drukman and the Melamed faction inside his party. In the end, Bennett is hoping that the Rabbi Ariel proposal will collapse under its own weight, clearing the way for the appointment of the one man most secular and religious Israelis (who care) are hoping for – rabbi David Stav, the National Religious antidote to Haredi alienation.

Following Lapid-Bennett Deal, Likud Facing Civil War

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

At 12:55 PM Wednesday, the prime minister’s office leaked a message so subversive and so clever, it insisted the editor of the 1 PM news edition at Kol Israel attribute it to anonymous “Likud circles.” That’s one notch below “senior Likud officials” and well below “circles close to the prime minister,” which is, basically, the prime minister. I heard it in my car, driving up to Jerusalem, but didn’t pay attention to the special wording. Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi paid attention, and realized the PM people were using the Atomic option.

The Likud circles, according to the leak, threatened that if there won’t be a breakthrough in the coalition negotiations within hours, the Likud would initiate an accelerated negotiations with the Haredi parties for a right-leaning new government without Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

In addition, a higher level source inside the PM’s circles, told Haaretz that Netanyahu believes the reason Lapid has upped the ante of his demands was his buyer’s remorse. Somehow he ended up agreeing to the Finance portfolio, and now, seeing the mess he would have to deal with, he wants to back out, so he’s making it impossible to come to an agreement.

That’s not such an outlandish surmise. Lapid, ever the glitzy charmer, had had his heart set on the Foreign Minister’s job. And he would have made a great FM, kissing hands and raising champagne glasses and all the other fun stuff FMs get to do in Paris, London, Rome, DC, and, of course, Moscow.

Except Avigdor Liberman, Netanyahu’s faction partner, already had dibs on the Foreign Ministry. Liberman couldn’t serve in the government for now, not until the silly corruption suit against him is resolved in court. But Bibi had promised Ivet to hold on to the seat for him, and breaking that promise would have been a deal killer all around.

So Lapid backed off and agreed to take another of the top three portfolios—Finance.

Customarily, the Foreign, Defense and Finance ministries belong to the party of the Prime Minister. It is a rare occurrence, usually driven by a national crisis (such as when Moshe Dayan was invited, from the opposition benches, to become Defense Minister in 1967). So, giving Lapid this high honor was a big thing.

But the job of Finance Minister is not going to make Lapid many friends this time around. No hand kissing and champagne here for the teen idol. The Netanyahu government has accrued a 40 billion shekel (just under $11 billion) deficit which has to be cut from the next budget. Unlike the U.S. government, which can run deficits in the trillion, Israeli governments are prohibited by law from running a deficit that’s higher than 3 percent of the budget. The new deficit constitutes 5.10 percent, and so some cutting has to take place.

And lover boy Yair Lapid will have the dubious honor of deciding what gets cut:

Should it be the new raises to hospital nurses? Low-cost education? Environmental improvements? Social Security benefit increases for the elderly? Highway construction? Train service?

There’s no two ways about it – in the end, someone is going to hate Yair Lapid for whatever cut he’ll make. And since he’s an avowed free market and anti-tax type, he won’t be able to fix things by taking more money from business (although Teva, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical conglomerate, received close to a billion dollars in tax break from the outgoing Finance Minister – that should pay for a few hot lunches).

The leak was a lie, of course, Lapid seems just as eager as before to embrace the, arguably, second most important job in government. But the first anonymous threat, about a coalition with Shas, UTJ and Bennett – especially when, reportedly, backed by Bennett himself, who assured Lapid he intended to stay in government, with or without him – that convinced Lapid it was time to call the game and put the cards on the table.

There’s an old Jewish joke about a shadchan who tries to convince a yeshiva bocher to marry Princess Margaret. He answers every one of the poor man’s questions – she would make a great wife, she has money, she will convert for the right man – until the yeshiva bocher breaks down and agrees to the deal. At which point the shadchan sighs deeply and says: Now starts the hard part.

Likud to Lapid: Your Bennett Pact Will Spoil Settlement Uprooting

Friday, March 1st, 2013

At last, the Likud-Beitenu coalition negotiations team has pulled the biggest rabbit out of its hat, exposing in the process that on the two-state solution there’s no daylight between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and super-leftist Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On.

As Yesh Atid negotiators have told the daily Makor Rishon, the Likud-Beitenu team threatened them on Thursday that their political pact with Habayit Hayehudi will end up thwarting the possibility of dismantling Judea and Samaria settlement as part of a future agreement on a Palestinian state.

According to Yair Lapid’s representative at the coalition talks, two Likud reps told them on Thursday: “We’re going towards tough decisions. If you don’t break up your pact with Bennett, we won’t be able to uproot settlements should there be a need for tough decisions. Together – we could do it.”

Makor Rishon noted that a similar statement was attributed to Prime Minister Netanyahu himself during his chat with Yair Lapid immediately after the elections, but it was later denied. Yesterday, Lapid’s people stated unequivocally that they’d heard that same, explicit argument from the Likud-Beitenu team.

Meanwhile, on Thursday the Likud negotiators have enhanced their efforts to bring the Haredi parties into the government, as a means of pressuring the Jewish Home team.

If you detect a note of hysteria in the Likud’s scrambling efforts to cobble together a government, you are not mistaken. On Saturday, Netanyahu is expected to ask President Peres for a two-week extension to be able to continue his efforts, and the White House has not been helping to alleviate the pressure by leaking that President Obama would be staying home to improve his golf game if a new government is not at hand before his visit to the Holy Land.

Naturally, this bodes very well for the Lapid-Bennett team, whose cue at this point is simply to stay the course, don’t flinch, and Netanyahu would have to capitulate.

Better him than the settlements.

Bennett: Likud Wants Us Out, We’re Sticking with Lapid

Monday, February 25th, 2013

“Why was the coordination with Yair Lapid created?” Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett asked on Sunday on his Facebook page, and answered his own question: “Because of the Likud’s decision to leave the Jewish Home outside government.”

Bennett continued: “Without this coordination, the next government would have included Livni, Kadima, Shas, Yesh Atid, Likud, without Religious Zionism, without the Jewish Home. Such a government would have been speeding along Livni’s political line (giving up Jerusalem, giving up the city of Ariel, obsession with the PLO, etc.). This is a fact.”

Regardless of whether one can legitimately suggest that their speculation “is a fact,” sources in the Likud said in response that “the Jewish Home party was offered to be the first one to join the government. Even now, the only thing preventing the establishment of a government with a majority for the national camp is Bennett’s refusal to join the national camp government headed by Netanyahu.”

Last Friday, Jewish Home and Likud-Beitenu negotiation teams met in the Kfar Maccabiah resort, after more than a week of separation. MK Uri Ariel told IDF Radio after meeting that “we talked mainly about the subject of the ‘equal burden’ and the coalition guidelines, and will continue the meetings next week.”

Netanyahu’s goal in that meeting, too, was to separate the alliance between Bennett and Lapid, but Likud officials said that Netanyahu intends to be prime minister, and so he wouldn’t mind eventually to give in to those two, if he realizes that this is his only remaining option.

On his Facebook page, Bennett argued that it was his coordination with Lapid that “changed the map, forcing the Likud let the Jewish Home in.”

“Because of that coordination, the government will now focus on socioeconomic, internal issues, and not just on political issues (Meaning the peace process – JP)” such as lowering the cost of living, lowering housing prices, improving education to include values and promoting Jewish identity, and bolstering the Jewish presence in the Negev and Galilee),” Bennett added, as opposed to “only the obsessive engagement in talks with Abu Ala.”

Bennett went on to say that “between Yesh Atid and Jewish Home there are points of mutual agreement and points of disagreement. We will focus on implementing the things we agree on, which is quite a lot. We will continue to argue about the rest.”

During the Friday meeting between Jewish Home and Likud Beiteinu, Bennett’s team took up a key issue which previously had been advocated almost exclusively by Lapid’s party, demanding to force Haredi yeshivas to teach core curriculum subjects (Math, English, Science, Literature). A day earlier, according to Army Radio, Naftali Bennett met with Yair Lapid and with Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz, to form a three-way alliance in the coalition negotiations with Likud-Beitenu.

Bennett concluded his Facebook entry with a vow not to “deviate from our principles,” which is a bit baffling, considering his newfound commitment to the core curriculum issue, which is, essentially, someone else’s principle. But all of us can agree with his end statement, that “the public will judge us over the next four years.”

Or a lot sooner.

The Future Coalition and the Israeli Right

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

So the final results are almost completely tallied and it’s pretty bad for the right-wing, especially Likud-Beitenu, despite the fact that the Benjamin Netanyahu will likely form the next government.

The only threat to Netanyahu forming the government is a joint Shas-Lapid boycott. Likud-Beitenu and Jewish Home comprise 43 seats. Shas and UTJ (17) bring it up to 61 or Lapid (19) will bring it up to 62. Only if Lapid, Shas and UTJ (or even Lapid and Shas) boycott Netanyahu will Netanyahu not be able to form the government. That scenario would also require Livni and Yachimovitch and Lapid to agree on making one of these three their candidate for Prime Minister, which is even more unlikely. Also, Shas publicly endorsed Netanyahu for Prime Minister in an advertisement prior to the elections, apparently counting on the fact that Lapid will compromise on a universal draft.

Nevertheless, for Netanyahu to form a stable coalition (closer to 70 seats) he would need to Shas and/or UTJ compromise with a plan to draft Hareidim, as he said in his “victory” speech last night that he plans to make a priority and because Lapid is now too large to ignore, especially relative to a weak Likud.

Kadima – which escaped what would have been a well-deserved political death – could be another leftist party which Netanyahu could bring on board to strengthen the coalition, especially if Shas will not join.  This would bring the coalition up to 64 seats, that’s still not that stable, but at least Kadima won’t be able to ask for much with it’s meager two seats.

That would mean giving Mofaz something that Mofaz would feel will make him and Kadima relevant until the next elections, perhaps some lessor ministry or as a minister without portfolio. (Mofaz’s other options to survive through the next elections are (a) to somehow re-establish himself outside the government, which is unlikely; (b) to rejoin the Likud with his tail between his legs, which is also unlikely considering how he treated Netanyahu after Netanyahu brought him into the coalition before; (c) merge with another left-wing party which would be equally embarrassing for him and also unprofitable for the other party; or, (d) wait for Olmert to return and save him).

Some other thoughts:

* The success of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid in garnering 19 mandates, making it the second largest of all parties is the biggest surprise of the election. It’s almost twice as high as Lapid polled before the elections and 19 more than Lapid had before as this is his first election. Like Liberman before, Lapid will likely be Netanyahu’s major partner as under almost any coalition figuration Yesh Atid can bring down the coalition.

* The Jewish Home’s success was not as great as predicted but it was still quite an achievement to garner 12 Knesset seats. The joint Jewish Home-National Union list represented only seven seats in the outgoing Knesset and only a few months ago hoped to get up to 10 seats in the next Knesset. Kudos to them for running a great campaign, including Anglo candidate Jeremy Gimpel who chaired the English-speakers campaign and Jeremy Saltan who was the English-speaker’s campaign manager, despite the fact that Gimpel himself will not be in the next Knesset.

* The Likud-Beitenu’s drop from 42 seats in the outgoing Knesset to 31 in the next is the second biggest surprise. Liberman said last night that he does not regret the merger: Of course he doesn’t, his party only dropped to 11 seats in the Knesset, from 15, despite the fact that he has been indicted, based on testimony from one of his former lieutenants and was absent during the campaign.

The Likud on the other hand lost its upward momentum and now comprises only 20 Knesset seats (only one more than newcomer Lapid). That’s quite an embarrassment for the what is supposed to be the leading party in Israel.

Not that Liberman/the merger should take all the blame. The campaign was terrible from almost every angle – functionally and strategically – and Netanyahu’s no-risk political philosophy may also be to blame for failing to motivate new voters, even though it is good for managing a coalition and providing much-needed stability to the country.

* The “Right” as a whole lost out. Instead of 65 seats (or more, even up to 71 according to some polls), it now has 61. And, remember, the right-wing bloc is not necessarily all right-wing. UTJ is only right-wing on religious issues. On Judea and Samaria, standing up to the international community and economic issues, it is to the left. Shas is also to the left on economic issues and with Aryeh Deri back at the helm it is not clearly to the right when it comes to security-territory issues. Even without Deri, Shas was the prop that kept the Olmert government together after the Second Lebanon War. So really the Right has only 43 reliable seats (Likud-Beitenu + Jewish Home).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/hadar/the-future-coalition-and-the-israeli-right/2013/01/23/

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