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July 29, 2016 / 23 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Moshe Kahlon’

FM Kahlon Tussles With Netanyahu Over Casinos in Eilat

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Kulanu party chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon apparently is teaming up with Bayit Yehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett in a minor political brawl against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The argument is over funding, as usual – this time, a plan to open a casino in Eilat.

In the past Kahlon has sidestepped the issue altogether by saying, “Everyone knows there will not be a casino here.”

The Finance Ministry has taken steps to block gambling activities that target Israelis and others who have low incomes and difficulty walking away from their hopes for easy money.

“Last week we decided to put an end to slot machines and horse races – gambling activities that ruin families. These machines are placed in poor neighborhoods to sell them illusions and hopes while taking money out of their pockets,” Kahlon said, according to the Globes business news site.

“Sadly, this has been going on since 2003 – it has been talked about for years and we decided to take action; soon we’ll remove them, and Mifal HaPayis can scrap them as far as I’m concerned.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu appointed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to head a commission to look into the possibility of developing a gambling spot in the southern resort city.

But Kahlon told journalists at the start of the Kulanu faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday: “The State of Israel does not need casinos. It needs to provide education, values, and jobs – not a casino.”

Hana Levi Julian

Israel ‘Shocked and Horrified’ at Orlando Massacre, But Life Must Go On

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was speaking on behalf of the entire nation at the opening of the cabinet meeting on Monday when he offered condolences to the United States over the Orlando massacre.

The attack carried out by an ISIS terrorist at an Orlando night club in the wee hours of Sunday morning left 50 people dead and another 53 wounded, plus countless others deeply traumatized in the Florida city where Disney, among others, feel at home on the East Coast.

“We are all shocked at the horrific massacre in Orlando,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting.

“On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I would like to again express our condolences to the American people and the families at this especially difficult hour.

“This terror threatens the entire world and it is necessary – first of all – that the enlightened countries urgently unite to fight it. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people,” he said.

The prime minister then went on to discuss the economic improvements being considered by the government – including the separation of credit companies from the major Israeli banks.

“Competition in the banking sector will ease the credit situation for small and medium business,” he said. “And separation between the major banks and credit card companies is the start of a comprehensive reform that will be good for all Israelis.”

Hana Levi Julian

Kulanu’s Leftwing Trend Continues: Housing Minister Supports Settlements Freeze

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

After the resignation of Kulanu Environment Minister Avi Gabbay on Friday, because he objected to the prime minister’s replacing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman; and after Kulanu chairman and Finance Minster Moshe Kahlon’s tweet that he would veto any attempt to curb the legislative ambitions of the Israeli Supreme Court; now Kulanu’s Housing Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Wannabe Yoav Galant, who was forced to resign from the Army under the cloud of a scandal, has also moved to pull his fledgling party to the left. According to a Jewish Insider report, Gallant spoke to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York last week and told them his government’s policy was to freeze construction in the Judea and Samaria Jewish settlements. Galant also warned against the emergence of a two-nation state if the 2-state solution is not implemented, and advocated moving in that direction even without cooperation from the PA Arabs.

In other words, at this point there is no daylight between the views of Meretz and at least one Netanyahu government minister on the fate of the Jewish communities on the “wrong” side of the green line: they must come down and every penny Israel invests in adding to them is a penny wasted.

According to the report, Galant was asked several times regarding settlement construction, and his response each time should constitute a challenge to all of Kulanu’s partners in Netanyahu’s government. Galant spelled out that “fundamentally, I’m carrying out the government’s policy that we do not build in Judea and Samaria.” He added, apologetically: “But I’m not the only one who holds the capacity to build. There are private people who build, and other parts of the government which are acting according to the instructions of other ministers.” Make that the Habayit Hayehudi ministers, specifically Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel who is in charge of the Settlement Division.

Galant was concerned about the stalled negotiations with the PA. “In ten years there will be 7 million Palestinians and 7 million Jews west of the Jordan River,” he said, obviously accepting the Arab census information on blind faith. The real figures are less alarming, and the figures of Israel’s birthrate are more encouraging than ever. It turns out young Israeli couples, especially the religious ones, are not watching TV or surfing the Internet at night.

Galant also suggested that even though Israel does not have a partner for peace on the Arab side, this should not hinder its progress towards the 2-state target. “The question rises, what would happen should we take our hands of this plane’s rudders and just let it continue to glide,” Galant asked. “What will happen in one generation?” He, apparently knows what is bound to happen: “We’ve seen what happened in the Balkans,” he said, concluding that “thinking about the future obligates us as a government to bring about a solution even if the other side does not want it.”

Naturally, with the successful record of a unilateral pullout from Gaza to support it, who can refute Galant’s argument. Even the idea of the IDF staying out of the PA areas is terrifying to most Israelis, who recall what the PLO terror network was able to accomplish without Israeli tight supervision. The notion of evacuating the Jews of Area C is both criminally absurd and contrary to the wishes of the majority of Israeli voters.

As polls have shown, the Kulanu party is destined to leave the Israeli political map as quickly as it has appeared, shrinking from its current ten MKs to 6, and making room at the unaffiliated center for the Yair Lapid Yesh Atid party which may end up as the second largest party in the Knesset next time, with a projected 19 to 21 seats. All of Kulanu’s vagaries in the coming weeks should be viewed in that context: a party on its way to extinction attempting to soar once more by flapping its arms with great vigor. It’s not a very attractive image, and in this case it is also likely to inflict some damage on Jews.

JNi.Media

Kahlon Says Netanyahu’s Coalition Safe – for Now

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, chairman of the Kulanu party, says he will not be the one to bring down the government of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kahlon told Israel Radio in an interview on Sunday, “The government will last. We have large, important challenges, and you can’t bring down a government every month, you can’t go to elections every year. The government needs to function,” he said.

The finance minister’s party holds the lion’s share in the coalition next to the Likud.

The reassurance followed a threat Saturday night by Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett who told members of his Knesset faction that he is ready to vote against the appointment of new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also a member of Bayit Yehudi, stands to lose her job if the party leaves the coalition, as does Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.

New elections might still be an option, Shaked told Galei Tzahal Army Radio on Sunday.

In a Facebook post late Saturday night, Bennet said the security cabinet “commands the [IDF] chief of staff and the IDF, which makes fateful life-and-death decisions, must stop being blind. Today it is blind.” The cabinet ministers, he contended, “consistently have critical information withheld from them.”

Bennett contends “Saving lives I s more important than cabinet portfolios.” He has demanded real-time security updates, fact-finding visits to IDF bases and military zones, and easier access to classified information.

The 61-seat coalition is to be expanded by five more mandates when Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party’s membership is completed with his appointment as defense minister. But it may not survive the loss of Bayit Yehudi.

Hana Levi Julian

Survey: A Party Led by Ya’alon, Sa’ar, Kahlon, Could Defeat Netanyahu

Friday, May 27th, 2016

An Israel Radio/Rafi Smith survey on Friday revealed that a new center-right party led by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), former Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar (Likud), and still serving Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) would have won as many as 25 seats in the next Knesset, if the vote were conducted today.

The new, imaginary party, which for the time being is only based on the fantasies of the folks who conducted the survey and the 500 folks, Jews and Arabs, who answered, will apparently be the big winner of the next elections. Likud would be demoted to 21 seats (from 30); Lapid’s Yesh Atid’s rise would be tamed, only 2 new seats, from 11 to 13; the Zionist Camp (they really should go back to calling themselves simply Labor) would be crushed, from 24 down to 11; the Joint Arab List would retain its 13 seats; Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi would grow from 8 to 10; Yisrael Beiteinu up from 6 to 8; United Torah Judaism up nicley from 6 to 8; Shas would remain stuck with its 6 seats; and Meretz likewise with its 5.

The question is, even considering the above fantasy scenario, whether the Ya’alon-Kahlon-Sa’ar triumvirate, assuming they would be able to overcome their egos to allow one of them to lead, would be able to form a coalition and with whom.

If they go left, they could add Lapid, Labor and Meretz for a 54-seat coalition, which could rule with the tacit, conditional support of the Arabs.

If they go right, they would have to add Netanyahu and Lapid, for a 59-seat coalition, and then, possibly, Labor, giving them a hefty, 70-seat coalition.

But should the imaginary party not be able to forge a coalition, the president would then turn to Netanyahu, yet again, who would combine Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Yisrael Beiteinu, UTJ and Shas to get 53 seats, and then bring in an additional partner, possibly even the very triumvirate that couldn’t.

The fact is that even in their fantasy, the center parties find it difficult to make do without Bibi.

The same survey also polled the 500 likely voters as to their choice today without a dream team running: Likud goes down to 28 (from 30), making it still the unavoidable leader; Labor is cut down from 24 to 15; Yesh Atid goes up to 19; Kahlon’s Kulanu virtually disappears, down to 6; UTJ 8; Shas 7; Lieberman 8; Meretz 5, Arabs 13.

Which would mean the exact same players in Netanyahu’s current coalition could stay on, but they would have more votes to offer the slightly reduced Likud and without Kahlon. Netanyahu’s next government would then have a 61-seat majority, with Habayit Hayehudi as the second-largest partner. Kahlon could then be invited to come back, but on radically less favorable terms.

David Israel

New Defense Minister Facing Challenges Within and Without

Friday, May 27th, 2016

The State Dept. deputy spokesperson Mark C. Toner on Thursday reiterated verbatim his statement from the day before about the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) had chosen to bolster his coalition government by inviting MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) to serve as his defense minister. Toner said, “We’ve seen the agreement that has been reached to expand the coalition. We also know that this is the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.” He knows this because, he said, “We’ve seen – or we know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. And what I said yesterday is the same as what I’m going to say today: this raises legitimate questions about the direction that the new Israeli Government may be headed in, and what kind of policies it’s going to adopt. We’re going to judge this government by the course it charts and the actions it takes going forward, but yes, we are concerned.”

It isn’t clear from the statement whether Toner is aware of the fact that the reason the current Netanyahu government is “the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history” has to do with the fact that Israel’s voters have been voting rightwing parties in at an increasing rate, and the fact that so many government ministers oppose the 2-state solution has to do with the fact that the majority of Israelis oppose it. Just like, incidentally, the majority of Arabs do as well. But the attacks on Liberman’s appointment are coming not just from Washington, DC, but from inside the Netanyahu government.

The coalition agreement Netanyahu and Lieberman signed on Wednesday included a commitment to promote a new amendment to the Basic Laws, Israel’s closest thing to a constitution, which would limit the ability of the Supreme Court to overturn Knesset laws. The amendment would require a majority of 8 out of the 15 justices to overturn a law.

On its face, this is not a bad idea. In the loose and soft boundaries between the branches of government in Israel, the Supreme Court has become so activist, it has practically begun to legislate, by trimming and cutting laws based on petitions from individuals as well as from Knesset opposition factions. It should be noted that in Israel a petitioner need not prove a direct and personal injury from a given law, it’s sufficient that they object to it. And so we’ve seen recently how the Knesset opposition factions which lost the vote on the off-shore gas deal took the law to the high court, which killed it on its face, and then recommended which precise changes in the law would help it pass the court’s approval. In short, the high court added its vote to the opposition to defeat an elected prime minister. That’s bad enough as it is, but the fact that the panel judges dealing with these petitions don’t even require the approval of a majority of the court is about as anti-democratic as they come.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) did not see it that way, and on Wednesday night announced that he would veto any attempt on the part of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu to limit the power of the Supreme Court. “So as not to keep you guessing, I’m telling you in advance — this will not happen,” Kahlon tweeted in response to the new coalition agreement.

Kahlon is desperate to appear as if he matters in the Netanyahu government. His popularity has been sinking, while the clout of his rival in the center of the map, Yair Lapid, has been soaring. In a political environment where the Supreme Court is the only means by which the Tel-Aviv elite has been able to force its will on the rightwing majority in Israel, distinguishing himself as the gallant defender of the court couldn’t hurt Kahlon’s creds, whether the point he’s making is reasonable or not.

Then, on Friday morning, another Kulanu politician, Environment Minister Avi Gabbay, announced his resignation on account of the Lieberman appointment. Gabbay, who is not an MK, and whose ministerial appointment was Kahlon’s choice, said in a statement, “Despite the great importance I see in [my] ministry and in our significant activities to reduce air pollution and in many other areas, the recent political moves and the replacement of the defense minister are in my view a grave act that ignores what’s important to the security of the state and will cause another escalation and the tearing up of the nation.”

So Lieberman should expect more attempts to torpedo his decisions in his new role from the left side of the Netanyahu coalition, which, with its 10 seats, could topple the government and bring on new elections whenever it wishes. Lieberman should also anticipate some friction with the Haredi parties, which are facing a decree from the Supreme Court to accept Reform and Conservative conversions, and would be likely pushing new legislation to bypass the court — legislation Lieberman may not necessarily embrace.

Finally, there are the Arabs. The four rockets that were shot at Israel by the Salafist group Omar Al Hadidi Battalions, and the feeble retaliation by the Israeli air force, illustrated the complexity of the realities inside the Gaza Strip — realities that cannot at the moment be solved with the new defense minister’s much quoted calls to just going in and taking it over. For the moment, both Hamas and Israel are interested in maintaining the quiet. But the Salafists want to heat up the front — they steal those rockets from Hamas storage and shoot them at Israel to encourage a retaliation that would bring an escalation. They’ve missed every time they’ve shot so far, but all they have to do is hit once, kill or injure a civilian inside Israel, and watch the flames that would surely follow.

The Salafists are invested in provoking the Hamas government into military action, with posters that show Hamas as the jailers who serve Israel, the warden. They’ll continue to do everything in their power to rile up a defeated, depressed Arab population. Which is why the right Israeli move at this point is containment—unless Israel wishes to fight the next war on the enemy’s terms. This is why the retaliation Wednesday night was only against two targets, one of them a Hamas naval commando training facility which the IDF has wanted to take out for some time. Despite his reputation and the irrational reactions he seems to generate in DC and across the aisle at home, Lieberman will not, for now, change the containment policy, mostly because it serves Israel’s needs.

JNi.Media

Analysis: An Afternoon of Hard Maneuvering May Yield New Defense Minister and 67-Member Rightwing Coalition

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Israeli media reported Wednesday evening that MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) has accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to join his government and receive the portfolios of Defense and Immigrant Absorption — which is a nice package considering Liebrman is only adding six seats to the coalition.

But what a difference six seats make. With the budget vote coming up this Summer Session, Netanyahu will be able to breathe easy. Last session, three rogue members of his Likud faction chose to abstain from voting just to make a point, which helped derail some government legislation, awarding undeserved wins to the opposition. With 67 members, the fourth Netanyahu government can live out its entire four-year term.

Also, unlike the earlier potential coalition partner, Isaac Herzog’s left-leaning Zionist Camp, Lieberman is a natural fit in the current government. When he ended his 90 minute private meeting with the PM (which followed the PM’s meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, where the latter was given his walking papers), most of Likud’s senior ministers were quick to congratulate and welcome him back into the fold. Liebrman really is no stranger to Likudniks — from 1993 to 1996, with Netanyahu in place as party chairman, Lieberman served as the Likud party’s director-general. When Netanyahu was elected to his first term as prime minister, Lieberman served as director-general of the prime minister’s office, the equivalent of the White House chief of staff, from 1996 to 1997. With a few noted exceptions, Lieberman has been to the right of Netanyahu, and left his side to start Yisrael Beiteinu in 1999 over concessions Netanyahu granted the Palestinians in the 1997 Wye River Memorandum. But these days there’s very little daylight between Lieberman and the majority of the Likud Knesset faction.

In addition to Netanyahu’s need for coalition stability, the other issue behind Wednesday’s dramatic change was the growing gap between Defense Minister Ya’alon and the rest of the Likud party, which could have put Netanyahu’s future in danger had he continued to be associated with his DM. In several key episodes in the country’s fractious confrontations with Arab terrorists, Ya’alon appeared to be going out of his way to drag the Netanyahu government to the left.

Last Purim, an IDF medic in Hebron shot and killed a terrorist who had already been neutralized by six bullets to his body. The soldier’s commanders on the ground planned to give him a disciplinary hearing at the time, but an Arab B’Tselem agent shot and released a video of the event, and shortly thereafter military police picked up the medic on murder charges. Ya’alon supported the MP and the military prosecutors, despite an unprecedented wave of protest against the IDF brass that frightened Netanyahu. The PM met with the Medic’s father, the charges were reduced to manslaughter and the case may yet be dismissed, but the PM felt that his DM had stuck him in an untenable spot with the Likud diehard rightwing voters.

Then came the notorious Holocaust Memorial Day speech of the IDF deputy chief of staff, who compared, albeit not directly, episodes such as the Hebron shooting of the terrorist to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany. Again, Netanyahu’s core voters were outraged. He ordered his DM to extract and apology from the general, but the IDF would not apologize, and denied the charges instead.

Finally, there were the terrorists’ bodies. On several occasions, Netanyahu opposed returning the bodies of killed terrorists to their families for burial without some cost, the least of which would be to let them wait a few days, or weeks, as a deterrence to others. In early May, against Netanyahu’s explicit request, Ya’alon ordered the return of the body of a terrorist who had been killed after attacking and wounding three IDF soldiers, one critically, with his car. Then the IDF said something preachy about having no interest in detaining the bodies, ostensibly as political chips.Netanyahu was livid. Anyone who was following those events and understood the growing resentment in Likud against Ya’alon, could see that his days at the helm were numbered.

It isn’t clear whether Netanyahu was very smart or just very lucky when he allowed himself to be talked by his finance minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) into inviting MK Isaac Herzog to join his coalition government. On its face the move looked crazy if not stupid: for one thing, it wasn’t at all certain that more than half of the Zionist Camp MKs would make the switch over, seeing as they view Netanyahu as the poison tree that must be uprooted, not the shade tree for their top members to sit on lucrative portfolios. So the most Bibi would have gotten were 15 or 16 new MKs, but at the cost of Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi 8 seats, which would have netted him only 7 or 8 additional seats — but would have alienated his rightwing voters. So why did he embark on this apparent fool’s errand? Like we said, either because he is frighteningly clever or frighteningly lucky.

Avigdor Liebrman’s mission from the first day of the 20th Knesset has been to topple Netanyahu’s government and come back after the next elections as the most viable rightwing leader. This is why he refused Netanyahu’s repeated courting in the spring of 2015, and continued to bide his time in the opposition, together with Arabs and leftists, the people he dislikes the most—waiting for his chance. He figured, when the time came, with a big enough issue, and with Bibi’s rogue MKs doing their bit, Lieberman could deliver the deadly blow to Netanyahu, with a resounding vote of no confidence.

But when it started to look as if the Zionist Camp was going to boost Bibi’s numbers beyond the point of toppling, Lieberman realized it was time to shelf his revenge plan and get inside the tent before he’d lose any hope of leaving an impression on his voters this term. And so, seemingly out of the blue, Lieberman gathered a press conference in the afternoon, even as Bibi was scolding Bogie (Lauren Bacall’s nickname for Humphrey Bogart which somehow stuck with Ya’alon during his long and decorated military service) — and the Russian refusnik of yesterday suddenly started to play a serenade to Bibi on his balalaika. For the right price—defense and absorption, and the right terms—the death penalty for terrorists, for instance, he and his Yisrael Beiteinu are definitely ready to jump in.

Netanyahu may have been clever or lucky, but Lieberman was, without a doubt, brilliant. He may appear from this day on as serving Netanyahu, but it will be the PM who’ll be forced to do his bidding on security, because it is Lieberman and not Netanyahu who speaks for the rightwing Likud voters. If Bibi flinches at one of Lieberman’s calls (which the latter will issue politely and calmly) — then Bibi’s voters could easily go for the alternative. Say what you will about Avigdor Lieberman, but he could teach a class on maneuvering to a school of sharks.

As a result of all of the above, and should the coalition talks between Bibi Netanyahu and Yvette Lieberman be successful, Israel will have its first truly rightwing government ever. The Haredim are concerned about the draft, but it’s doubtful the new DM will focus on that hornet’s nest at this stage of his new career. If he does, it would bring a quick and unhappy ending to the 20th Knesset.

The one remaining unknown at this point is Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who really wanted to bring the Zionist Camp into the government and is now stuck to the left of Netanyahu, and with polls that show his Kulanu party dropping from 10 to 7 seats come next elections, while his identical twin, Lapid, is projected to win 19 or 20 seats next time around. Kahlon could kill this latest coalition deal in a kamikaze departure followed by resounding vote of no confidence, at which point nothing could save Bibi’s fourth government.

Oh, what interesting times we’re having.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/analysis-an-afternoon-of-hard-maneuvering-may-yield-new-defense-minister-and-67-member-rightwing-coalition/2016/05/18/

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