Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, completely cut off communications today as negotiations with the Likud reached an impasse, just a day before Netanyahu’s deadline to form a coalition. No one from the Likud party was able to reach him, no matter how hard they tried. It’s a trick he clearly learned and perfected from Avigdor Liberman.
Bennett believes that Netanyahu is short-changing his party with unreasonable offers and low-level ministries, as well as giving too much to Shas and in particular the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
One rumor has it that Bennett is concerned that Netanyhu is just biding time and creating a temporary coalition until the Zionist Camp can dump Tzipi Livni, at which point it will join Netanyahu’s coalition, replacing the Bayit Yehudi party.
Breaking his silence on Tuesday evening, according to Channel 2, Bennett has demanded the Justice Portfolio for Ayelet Shaked, and that she be appointed as early as next week.
One of Bennett’s major goals is a reform of Israel’s High Court, and in particular, restricting their judicial activism, limiting their ability to unilaterally override legislative decisions made by the democratically elected Knesset, and democratizing the judicial selection process, so future judges better represent the values of the nation, and not just the far left. Currently, current High Court judges effectively select their successors.
Netanyahu does not want an open battle with the High Court this term, and as such, he has been trying to keep control of the Ministry of Justice within the Likud.
One thing is certain, the right will never forgive Netanyahu if he doesn’t form a coalition with Bennett, and instead brings in the Zionist Camp.
The United States is obligated to defend vessels flagged under the Marshall Islands according to a mutual defense treaty between the two countries. The 34 sailors who were aboard the captured vessel were last heard from about 24 hours after the seizure, and said they were in good condition but were being confined to quarters. They have not been heard from since, nor has there been any independent confirmation of their whereabouts or condition following that contact.
Two members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were hit by mortar fire Monday in the Golan Heights in Israel in what was allegedly a “spillover” attack on their base from Syria.
One of the two was taken to a hospital in serious but stable condition. The second, a female soldier, was treated at the scene. She is in good condition, the Hebrew-language Ynet site reported. Both were stationed in their base on the Israeli side of the border with Syria at the time of the attack. There has been no confirmation of the above information from the IDF Spokesperson, who issued a terse statement saying only that two UNDOF soldiers were slightly wounded in a “spillover” attack on their base from the Syrian civil war across the border in the Golan Heights.
(Ed. Note: The UNDOF force is comprised of some 800 soldiers from the Republic of Ireland, Fiji, India, Nepal and the Netherlands. It has been monitoring the cease-fire line that separates Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights since 1974. Israel won the territory after a defensive battle with Syria in 1967, and was forced to defend in again in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was subsequently annexed by Israel.)
According to military sources, the mortar fire was launched from Syria. But it is not clear who fired the two shells.
They could have been launched by a number of terror organizations or the Free Syrian Army which whom the revolt began. It is also possible they were fired by the government troops fighting to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power.
Likewise, it is possible the mortar fire came from Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps troops, who have been fighting alongside Assad’s troops for years, together with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror guerrillas from Lebanon.
The undisputed fact is that this is not the first time mortars have been fired across the border on the Golan Heights. This time IDF designated the area a “closed military zone” following the attack – even though the IDF again determined it to be another “spillover” from the four-year-long Syrian civil war.
UNDOF transferred its Golan Heights base last year across the border from Syria to Israel due safety concerns. Irish soldiers serving in the force say “It’s a unique mission; danger lurks around every bend,” according to a report posted Monday in the Irish Times.
In that, UNDOF soldiers are facing circumstances similar to those of their colleagues in UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) and the former European Union monitors at the Rafa border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
That is, when things get a little too hot, they acknowledge the danger and back down – fast.
In this case, they were allowed to move their base to the Israeli side of the border, but today’s attack on the base — “errant mortar fire” — proves such a move is no sinecure.
This past January – just a couple of weeks after the Paris terrorist massacres, in fact – a UNIFIL unit got caught in the crossfire when Hezbollah terrorists attacked an Israeli civilian convoy with a military escort traveling along a road a few kilometers from the northern border.
Hezbollah fired six missiles at the convoy from a position three kilometers deep into southern Lebanese territory in the cross-border attack. The convoy was traveling on a road also deep into Israeli territory.
Two IDF soldiers and a civilian died; several others were wounded. A home in an Israeli Druze village took a direct hit and went up in flames; it was completely destroyed and most of the residents were badly traumatized.
Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) dropped a political bombshell today, and apparently not as a negotiating tactic, when he announced he is quitting as Foreign Minister and his party will not be joining PM Netanyahu’s coalition.
Liberman, unhappy with the directions of the negotiations said his party will be sticking to its principles, and as a result, will be joining the opposition. He wants Hamas destroyed and construction in the settlements. He also wants to be Foreign Minister again, which Netanyahu doesn’t want.
Sources close to Netanyahu have said that the Likud will be keeping the Foreign Ministry.
Netanyahu has until Wednesday to form a coalition.
Even without the Yisrael Beytenu party, Netanyahu can still form a coalition of 61 with his remaining “natural” partners – Kulanu and the various religious parties. But Netanyahu has been unable to seal the deal as Shas and Bayit Yehudi are in an intractable fight over the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Yisrael Beytenu’s exit may be a blessing for Netanyahu, as it frees up some of Liberman’s ministries which Netanyahu can now offer to his remaining potential partners.
Liberman has claimed that Netanyahu wants to bring in the Zionist Camp (Labor) into the coalition.
Within the Zionist Camp, an open revolt has begun against Tzipi Livni, with Shelly Yechimovitch publicly proclaiming that she does not see Livni as the co-head of the party, after boycotting the Zionist Camp party meeting.
If it weren’t so late in the coalition negotiations game, this could have been the first shot in removing Livni from the party, and paving the way for Labor to enter the coalition, and forming a ‘National Unity’ government.
Yitzchak Herzog has denied he planned to join Netanyahu’s coalition at any point. Herzog believes that Netanyahu’s coalition will be “unstable” and “doomed to failure.”
Retired neurosurgeon and black Republican Dr. Ben Carson has announced he is running to be his party’s nominee for president in next year’s election.
Dr. Carson visited Israel in December, reported here, an unofficial prerequisite for presidential candidates.
The 63-year-old Republican is from Detroit, lived in Baltimore for more than 35 years and now lives in Florida. He was the first black doctor to head the Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgery unit.
His lack of both political experience and ties with such factions as the Tea Party offers Republican voters a distinct choice among the growing number of candidates. However, he does not have the organization and political experience of other contenders, the most popular being Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, also from outside the political world, is considering tossing her hat in the political ring.
Dr. Carson grew up in poverty and has the appeal to white voters as their desired image of an America where anyone can achieve success through hard work and without making himself out to be a victim.
He has been a harsh critic of President Barack Obama, whom Dr. Carson once described as someone who “seems to believe more in a utopian view of cradle-to-grave care.”
He has made headlines, for better and for worse, on the issue of same-sex marriage. Below is an interview on CNN in which he maintained that homosexuality is a choice and that each state should decide for itself whether or not to allow marriages of homosexuals. He said in the interview that many people become homosexuals after being in prison.
After harsh criticism, he apologized, and Dr. Carson stated before announcing his candidacy today:
I’ve come to recognize that when you use certain terms, people can no longer hear anything else you say. As you’ll notice in the last several weeks, I’ve been able to get my points across without inflammatory language.
In his visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem in December, Dr. Carson placed a note between the bricks and later referred to King Solomon in an interview with CBN and said he asked God for “Solomonic wisdom on what to do” concerning the race for president.
His stand on Israel is clear, and he told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,
“Until such time as their neighbors are no longer desirous of their elimination,” Israel’s continued control of the West Bank “makes perfectly good sense.”
Dr. Carson’s strong conservative stand may appeal to Christian evangelists despite his being black.
He said at the national Prayer Breakfast earlier this year that the United States is headed for “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility.” He also declared:
We have imposed upon people restrictions on what they can say, on what they can think. And the media is the largest proponent of this, crucifying people who say things really quite innocently.
President Barack Obama was sitting a few feet away, and although Carson did not directly blame the president for America’s ills, the White House was upset.
“Within a matter of minutes after the conclusion of the program, I received a call from some of the prayer breakfast organizers saying that the White House was upset and requesting that I call the president and apologize for offending him,” Carson later wrote in his book “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.”
Carson added in his book, “I said that I did not think that he was offended and that I didn’t think that such a call was warranted.”
In an effort to ensure “bipartisan support” for the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is opposing amendments to the bill.
Noah Pollak, executive director for the Emergency Committee for Israel, posted a letter online that was sent to all senators, asking them to oppose proposed changes.
“We know that senators will offer amendments on a wide range of initiatives, many of which AIPAC would ordinarily support,” said the letter.
“However, our paramount consideration during Senate consideration of this bill is to ensure speedy enactment of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act by preserving its broad, bipartisan support – so that Congress assures itself a seat at the table in deliberations on any nuclear agreement with Iran.”
Among the amendments being considered was one by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio that would add a requirement for Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as part of any nuclear deal.
The two senators added the proposed amendment Thursday as an agreement was being completed on how to deal with some 66 amendments submitted for the bill. The senators are trying to avoid a presidential veto of the measure.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified Noah Pollak as an AIPAC official.