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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mofaz’

Speculations: Israeli Elections Moved Up to February

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to move the next Knesset elections from October to February, 2013.

The Israeli press has been featuring several leaks from Netanyahu’s inner circle on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the approaching declaration of a February vote, although an official declaration is yet to made.

“We will make a decision by the opening of the winter session” of the Knesset, Netanyahu said on Tuesday. The winter session will start in two weeks.

Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have been discussing a less severe clipping of the national budget, which was supposed to be trimmed by $3.9 billion. In light of the expected elections, they are likely to reduce the cuts to $2.6 billion.

“Over four years, we have responsibly managed the economy, reduced unemployment, protected growth and added hundreds of workplaces. We coped better than most countries in the Western world with the global economic crisis. For four years we acted as a responsible government and we must continue on this path,” the Prime Minister said, already sounding as if he is campaigning for his next term in office.

It is expected that the early vote will be scheduled for Tuesday, February 12. The last elections were held on February 10, 2009.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai from Shas said his party would rather not have the early elections.

“I told the prime minister that if the budget is passed with compassion, we will support it,” Yishai said, hinting at the need to avoid cuts that would hurt the needy segments of Israel’s population, adding: “We are prepared for elections at any given time, although Shas would be happy to continue its term for the year that remains.”

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, who spent a short stint in Netanyahu’s coalition government this summer, said that “Netanyahu must be replaced and hope needs to be returned to the people of Israel.”

Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said that setting an early date for the national elections, because “Israel needs elections to decide between different alternatives and to reset the country’s path.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) told Israel Today: “In my opinion, the prime minister does not have a majority to approve a national budget… There is no majority in the coalition to approve the cuts. Without a budget, the government cannot continue to function and therefore there will have to be early elections.”

70 days Later – Mofaz, Kadima, Quit Netanyahu’s Government over Haredi Draft

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Following the collapse of negotiations over a new conscription law, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz decided to quit Netanyahu’s coalition, leaving the premier once again with only 66 MKs. Mofaz told a Kadima faction emergency session: “It is with great sorrow that I say that there is no escape from taking a decision on quitting the government.”

Mofaz explained: “I went in on a principle, and when that failed, we must quit.”

25 Kadima MKs supported the Mofaz proposal to quit at once, with only three opposing – MKs Yulia Shamalov, Othniel Schneller and former Mossad chief Avi Dichter.

By the end of last week it was becoming clear that negotiations between Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner—who headed a Knesset committee that presented a comprehensive plan to encourage Haredi compulsory recruitment that would nevertheless ease the path of Haredi recruits into service—and Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister, former IDF chief of staff Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon, were not going anywhere.

The key point of disagreement between the two sides was enforcement, with the Kadima side favoring criminal prosecution of Haredi draft dodgers, while Netanyahu famously declared that in Israel no Jew would go to jail for learning Torah.

Each side blamed the other for not negotiating in good faith, until in the end the talks broke down before Shabbat, with both sides being convinced that the entire affair had been little more than political posturing.

At a meeting this morning between Mofaz’s representative, Attorney Alon Englard, and the representative of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attorney David Shimron, the later introduced Netanyahu’s solution: the PM was prepared to accept the Mofaz proposal Haredi enlistment would run from ages 18 to 23, and the younger one enlists, the better his benefits would be after his discharge.

Mofaz decided to reject the proposal. “The Prime Minister’s proposal is contrary to the High Court ruling,” he declared, referring to the court’s decision to scrap the original “Tal Law” because it was offering unequal terms to the Haredi recruits.

Mofas said that Netanyahu’s offer did not “meet the principle of equality, it is disproportionate, and does not pass the effectiveness tests as laid down by the court ruling and the principles of the [Plesner] committee on equal share of the burden.”

In the end, if one were to referee this bout, it appears that while both sides were, indeed, posturing, it was Netanyahu who actually made an effort to salvage the proposed law and his coalition, while Mofaz has been thinking mostly about the next big fight – at the ballot box.

As things stand now, the Netanyahu coalition government is facing yet another big test on Wednesday, with the Avigdor Liberman faction bringing to a first vote their own version of a conscription law.

PM Rallies Likud MKs to Find Haredi Army Service Solution

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

As the deadline for the renewal of the Tal Law approaches and tens of thousands of people rallied to demand that all citizens of Israel perform national service, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction to discuss ways to include Hareidim in national and military service.  With his party in agreement, the prime minister is on his way to drafting new legislation.

The discussion comes less than a week after the prime minister suddenly disbanded the Plesner committee, a body he established due to the impending time lapse of the Tal Law to advise him on integrating Hareidi Jews into army and national service programs which are mandatory for the rest of Israeli society.

On Saturday night, 35,000 – 50,000 people joined a “Camp Suckers” demonstration to protest what they perceive to be as an unequal application of Israel’s mandatory draft.  Due to the Tal law, which was passed in July 2002, Hareidi Jews can opt out of army service if they are enrolled in yeshiva.  Participants included former Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, former army chief Gabi Ashkenazi, former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, and political hopeful and commentator Yair Lapid. Coalition member and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz arrived, but was booed and asked to leave.

The Supreme Court deemed the Tal law unconstitutional in February, causing an uproar in the Hareidi community, including an early morning “sack and ashes” protest against being forced to join the army.  At the June 25 rally, Eda Haredit leader Rabbi Tuvia called mandatory Hareidi enlistment the  government’s efforts to “destroy the Torah world.”

At the Sunday morning meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu utilized the recommendations of the defunct Plesner committee to brief Likud MKs.  Soon after the briefing, the group agreed to promote the committee’s findings.  The prime minister will meet with Mofaz to establish a legislation drafting team to replace the Tal Law.  Initial reports indicate that MKs are ready to back the prime minister as long as conscription laws will include drafting into national service of Arabs with Israeli citizenship.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak disagreed with the notion of addressing Arab service at this time. “The main issue is ultra-Orthodox service,” said Barak. “We will have to create a law to deal with Arab inclusion in national service at a later date.”

Regardless, the new law will aim to slowly increase the numbers of conscripts, and provide a lot of incentives and benefits to participants.  It will also enable a certain number of Torah “prodigies” – about 1,500 across the country – to remain exempt and continue Torah study in place of serving in the IDF.

“We are doing this 64 years after the issue was originally mishandled. This is a historic change,” said Netanyahu at the meeting.

The Plesner report calls for enforcement mechanisms to be put into place to prevent draft dodging, including sanctions against yeshivas which keep students from enlisting.

Law makers have until August 1 to put a new law into action.

Plots, Schemes, and Coalitions

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Earlier this month we saw something historic in Israeli politics – the largest unity government ever formed. Unlike most unity governments, this one was born neither from a sense of national emergency nor from an era of national euphoria, where political differences fade. Instead, this coalition was induced by the threat of the ballot-box and is a result of Israeli politicians’ strategic dedication to either keeping their seats or scoring the slot above them in the next coalition jig. For many observers, the “surprise” which greeted Israelis on May 8th was yet another political dance where the citizen stands on the sidelines, half-bewildered, half-relieved, but ultimately a spectator meant to watch, wonder, and wait for another year and half to be heard from again. This scenario begs the question: when it comes to the state of Israel’s representative governance, is the tail wagging the dog? Put simply, is Israeli citizenry merely an accessory to the political decision-making of the day?

There is no debating the many benefits that may derive from a unity government for Israel today. With a nuclear Iran fast approaching, Syria imploding, Turkey menacing, and Hezbollah-Hamas gaining strength rapidly, stability is a good thing, which explains why most Israelis don’t want early elections. Indeed, there are other benefits that could derive from a Likud-Kadima union, such as the ability to fast-track emergency legislation like the Tal Law, budgetary issues, and critical electoral reforms.

There is no doubt that a stable unity government will contribute to Israel’s wellbeing. But as in all things, there is a subtext to this story that cannot be expediently swept under the rug. In this case, it has become clear that the unity government’s main ambition is consolidating its own power, as the Israeli citizen is once again forced to endure ad hoc styled governance in which day-to-day politicking is more about the maintenance of power then exercising it. Benjamin Disraeli, one of the greatest parliamentarians, once said, “Coalitions though successful have always found this, that their triumph has been brief.” Such has been the fortune of too many of Israel’s political coalitions, and the current one cannot argue for an exception.

This is not to say that there are not good, well-intentioned men and women in the Knesset that seek to improve the lives of Israelis and future of Israel. There are many. But the overall climate inside Israel’s governing class is one that applauds, even pursues, stability, at the cost of clarity in policy. In these environments, it becomes difficult for leaders to properly undertake their duties – and understand the nature of their duty – when grappling the ‘greasy pole’ of politics. Serving their real constituency – that is, the general public – instead of their power base is not a notion that illuminates the corridors of power inside Israel.  Sadly, the numerous scandals and convictions of former PMs, Presidents, and MKs are constant reminders of unscrupulous public servants blatantly neglecting their national duties. Israel cannot afford such willful ignorance, given the volatile regional realities and the critical domestic issues that crowd its agenda. Israelis are an audaciously capable people in times of crises. The concern is that political stability could lead to policy inertia, which leads to a fatal sense of apathy.

To most honest observers, Netanyahu and Mofaz’s marriage is one of convenience, a mutual desire for power consolidation and political momentum. And how can we blame either of them for mimicking the political strategies of the day? Netanyahu has managed to successfully navigate – even dominate – a political system, while Mofaz – newly installed as Kadima’s head – effectively read the writing on the wall regarding Kadima’s chances in an early election. What is indisputable is the complete lack of effort by either leader to court the general public in the formation of this unprecedented coalition.

This sort of disinterest in the grassroots constituency has become standard. Take, for example, the Netanyahu government’s response to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens that took to the streets last summer to protest Israel’s centralization of wealth and power. The Israeli grassroots finally made their voice heard, but lacked the clarity of purpose and the sacred national symbols to unite and speak truth to power. The proof of this, as they say, is in the pudding. We should have seen a more serious response than the appointment of the Trachtenberg commission. Since then, the Israeli citizen has been led – by delays and other obfuscations – back into the grip of societal apathy, where we congratulate the government for forming a coalition but fail to hold it accountable for demands which swept the nation less than 10 months ago. And so, demands from a broad consensus of Israel’s population have so far yielded only minor legislative changes and a unity government that can more easily diffuse accountability for inaction.

Netanyahu Inaugurates Coalition with ‘Four Main Goals’

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Kadima into his Likud-led government at the first cabinet meeting since Kadima’s entry into the coalition.

“This is the first meeting of the broad unity government, and we have many challenges ahead of us. On behalf of all ministers, I welcome Shaul Mofaz as a government minister and welcome the Kadima MKs that have joined the coalition.” Mofaz was sworn in as deputy prime minister and minister-without-portfolio last week.

“In the talks between us, we set four main goals for the broad unity government,” he continued, “changing the Tal Law, changing the electoral system, passing the budget, and advancing the peace process.”

Netanyahu placed greatest priority on advancing a bill that will replace the expiring Tal Law, which permitted Haredi men to defer military service indefinitely. “This week, an inter-party team will be formed to present us with alternatives to the Tal Law. By the end of July, we will pass a law that will divide the burden on a more equal, more egalitarian and more just basis for all Israelis, Jewish and Arab alike, without setting public against public.”

Without going into specifics, Netanyahu also reiterated his and Mofaz’s call last week to reform the electoral system, saying that the government would “establish a team to lead the change in the electoral system.”

One topic that Netanyahu did not address in his statement but is certain to test the strength and durability of the new coalition is the Ulpana outpost crisis. In light of the High Court’s ruling last Monday that Ulpana must be evacuated and destroyed by July 1, there is talk that the government will propose a bill that would circumvent the High Court’s ruling by legalizing Ulpana.

Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau stated that proceeding with the scheduled evacuation and demolition would be “immoral, unjust and inhumane.”

Winners and Losers: Israel’s Historic Unity Government

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

A joint JoeSettler-Jameel post. 

Left behind in the wake of Netanyahu’s surprise unity maneuver are some serious winners and loser. There is no doubt that elections would have shaken things up, but this unity coalition shakes up things even more.

What Netanyahu managed to do today is of historic proportions and has some serious ramifications for many people on both a personal and national level. We present to you our list of winners and losers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Winner. Bibi would probably have done well in elections, but now he runs the largest unity government ever in the history of Israel, giving him a support base not even Ben-Gurion could have dreamed of.  

 

Shaul Mofaz: Winner. Mofaz made a fool out of himself when he jumped ship to Kadima, but after sitting it out on the back benches behind Tzipi Livni on the back benched, he’s manages to come out on top and resuscitate the essentially dead Kadima party.

 

Kadima Party: Winner Until yesterday they were completely irrelevant and simply dead in the water; the largest individual party in the Knesset was forced to face the fact that they might as well not even have been voted into office. Now they have a seat at the table, and perhaps some influence too.

 

Tzipi Livni: Loser She could have been in the government 3 years ago, 2 years ago, and even 1 year ago. This could have been her and not Mofaz. At the end of the day, Kadima was kept in failure and disgrace because of her. Now it’s obvious to all.

 

Likud Party: Winner The Likud as a party is more powerful than ever.

 

Likud MKs: Losers For the most part, their individual influence and power has been diluted. Perhaps significantly.

 

Labor: Losers They were positioned to be the second largest party. Who knows what will be in a year and a half. They may be in for an even bigger shock in the opposition (see Ahmed Tibi below).  

 

Shelly Yachimovitch: Black eye Labor lost, but Shelly only got a black eye out of this. Perhaps she’ll lead the Tel Aviv summer block party, if it happens.  

 

Yisrael Beiteinu: Winner/Loser Yisrael Beiteinu didn’t really want elections, so this is good for them. The downside, their influence has been diluted, perhaps almost completely. One of the goals of this unity coalition is to implement a good replacement for the Tal law. It may happen. Yisrael Beiteinu may even get part of the credit for it, so they can at least bask in the reflected glory.  

 

Avigdor Lieberman: Loser Lieberman will keep his job, avoid elections, and get the opportunity to try to pass more laws he wants. But on the downside, the investigation(s) against him will now continue, and his influence has been severely diminished. We’ll see if he can make a comeback out of this.  

 

Ahmed Tibi: Winner What does Ahmed Tibi have to do with this? It’s simple math. Depending on a few factors, there will be only around 26 MKs in the opposition. The Arab have the largest number of opposition members compared to Labor, Meretz (and maybe Ichud Leumi). Ahmed Tibi is poised to be the new head of the opposition.  

 

Meretz: Losers Outside, irrelevant, no following, and not going to be opposition leader. Not even the Tel Aviv summer block party will be able to help them.  

 

Aryeh Deri: Loser No explanation needed.

 

Shas: Winners See Aryeh Deri above.  

 

Yair Lapid: Loser No explanation needed, but we’ll give one anyway. Sure he can go back to TV and perhaps try again next year, but he really lost his opportunity, even as his followers lost their enthusiasm for him the longer he stayed in the race.

 

President Obama: Loser Obama is a partisan president, while Bibi is the leader of the largest national unity coalition in the history of Israel. Netanyahu has the support of most of the country behind him for whatever he may need to do. Obama may have hoped he’d be facing a weaker Bibi after November, there’s no chance of that now.  

 

Dagan, Diskin, etc.: Losers Netanyahu and Barak are messianists, and irrational? Well, then add Mofaz too, and 80% of the Knesset. Now the former security chiefs sound like sore losers.  

 

Ehud Barak: Winner He still has a job.

 

Yuval Zellner: Winner Yuval Who? We asked the same thing. Zellner just replaced Livni in the Knesset. Until this morning, he was going to go down in history as one of the shortest serving MKs (who would never get a second chance at it either). Now he gets a chance to serve.  

The Morning After: Israel’s Political System Shaken, Stirred, Realigned

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The stealth move Monday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz has left everyone in Israel’s political arena reeling. First, the very idea that such a game-changing deal could be kept secret in Israel was shocking. It served to remind everyone of the military combat background of both leaders.

And then there was the realization that by joining forces the two have almost accomplished the oldest dream of every Israeli premier since David Ben Gurion – to rule without partners.

Today, a Likud and Kadima coalition relies on 55 of the 61 seats needed for a majority government.

But in reality, Kadima is “Likud light,” having been formed in 2005 by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with Likud members who were willing to support Sharon’s plan to uproot the Jews of the Gaza strip, dubbed the “unilateral disengagement plan.”

In that sense, the Likud-Kadima coalition is more reunification than realignment. Mofaz et al are more lost children coming home than political foes overcoming their differences.

Back in December of 2005, then Defense Minister and Likud MK Shaul Mofaz sent personal letters to party members who were defecting to Ariel Sharon’s new party, begging them to return home. Later Mofaz would be ridiculed for the memorable slogan he included in his personal letter, “You don’t desert your home,” because shortly after coining it, Mofaz himself up and deserted that very home.

Seven years later it appears that all is forgotten.

Incidentally, Shaul Mofaz is fast becoming the Mitt Romney of Israeli politics, famous for making bombastic announcements which he disregards in a matter of days. Just before the Kadima primaries in March, Mofaz wrote on his Facebook page: “Listen well, I will not join Bibi’s government. Not today, not tomorrow and not after I become the head of Kadima on March 28. It is a bad, failing and disconnected government, and Kadima under my stewardship will replace it in the coming elections. Clear enough?”

Clear indeed.

The new deal awards the Kadima returnees significant legislative powers.

Under the section “Sharing the burden of military service,” the agreement states:

“The Parties undertake to enact, by July 31, 2012, a law regulating fair and just distribution of the burden of military service among the various segments of the population in Israel, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. Clear goals will be set for Haredi recruitment with progressive increases over the years. The bill will be written by a team from Kadima.”

Under the section “Correcting the system of government,” the agreement reads:

“The Parties undertake to fundamentally change the system of government in Israel, establishing a system of governance which will enhance governmental stability and effectiveness. Among other things, the new system will allow a prime minister to fulfill his agenda as determined by the voter, to create continuity of government, enhance the capacity for long-term planning and the protection of the public good.”

Under the section “The political process,” the agreement reads:

Both sides agree that the government will act to renew the political process and to advance negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Both sides agree on the importance of preserving the State of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state, and on the importance of maintaining defensible borders.”

This third segment essentially embraces the two-state solution, which is bad news for the Jews in settlements east of the security fence. It means the beginning of a countdown towards the evacuation of thousands of Jews, and should that undertaking appear unrealistic, many settlers recalled today that Shaul Mofaz, serving as Sharon’s Defense Minister, was the enforcer in the removal of thousands of Gush Katif’s Jews.

The immediate huge loser of this move is Prime Minister wannabe Yair Lapid, who – before last night’s earthquake – was projected to gain between 11 and 12 seats in the coming elections, as newbie center parties have been doing in Israeli politics since 1977.

Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, on Tuesday morning told Israel’s Army Radio that it is clear that Yair Lapid is the big loser of the new move. “He was already revving up his engine and saw himself in the Knesset,” Elkin mocked.

Lapid’s Facebook page offered this entry by the disappointed proto politician:

“What you saw today is exactly the old politics, dingy and ugly, which the time has come to kick out of our lives. Politics of seats instead of principles, of jobs instead of the public good, of interest groups instead of the whole country. They think now they will play for time and we’ll forget, but they are wrong. This disgusting political alliance will bury all its members under its ruins.”

But while the damage to Lapid’s dreams adds comic relief to the story, the new coalition deal means decidedly sobering news for Israel’s two major religious camps – the Haredim and the Religious Zionist settlement movement.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/the-knesset/the-morning-after-israels-political-system-shaken-stirred-realigned/2012/05/08/

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