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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Power to Israel’

Naftali Bennett: Stop US Aid, Slash Israel’s Military Budget

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Naftali Bennett’s parents, Jim and Myrna, made Aliyah from America in 1967, and settled in the port city of Haifa. Naftali, one of three brothers, was born on March 25, 1972. He served in the elite IDF units of Sayeret Matkal and Maglan as a company commander and still serves in the reserves, at the rank of Major.

I asked Bennett if he would have to give up his American citizenship, should he become Israel’s prime minister.

“I’m not becoming prime minister quite yet,” Bennett said, laughing out loud, “but, obviously, I’ll follow the law, if I’ll need to forfeit it, like Netanyahu has done. I’m not even sure who needs to do it – a minister, a prime minister – I’ll do whatever is needed.”

(For the record, current US policy requires that a dual citizen renounce their American citizenship if they are serving in a “policy level position” in a foreign government. The same holds true on the Israeli side. Law professor Daphne Barak Erez, born to Israeli parents in the U.S., was named Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel in 2012, which required that she give up her foreign citizenship.)

In 1999, Bennett co-founded and was the CEO of “Cyota,” a hi-tech company making anti-fraud software which he sold in 2005 to RSA Security for $145 million. He is likely the richest politician in Israel – well ahead of Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, who is worth about $40 million.

Perhaps because of his own experience with vigorous American Capitalism, Naftali Benett is in favor of cutting the 40-year-old umbilical cord that still connects Israel to the American Treasury.

“Today, U.S. military aid is roughly 1 percent of Israel’s economy,” Bennett says. “I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from it. We have to do it responsibly, since I’m not aware of all the aspects of the budget, I don’t want to say ‘let’s just give it up,’ but our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago. Israel is much stronger, much wealthier, and we need to be independent.”

When I asked him for his opinion about the nominations of Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State and former Senator Chuck Hagel for Defense, his response was consistent with the former statement:

“I think it’s none of our business in Israel to intervene in American domestic decisions. President Obama gave us his word most vehemently that he would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon – he said it several times over the past year. He said he has Israel’s back. So I hope and trust that President Obama will follow through on these very powerful commitments.”

In 2006, a wealthy man, Naftali Bennett decided to start giving back. He began serving as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff, when the Likud was still in the opposition. He ran Netanyahu’s primary campaign in 2007 and continued to serve him through 2008.

Rumor has it that Bennett and Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, are not on good terms, to the point where Mrs. Netanyahu—who is as influential in her husband’s decision making as a political wife can be—will put her foot down when it comes to taking the former chief of staff on as coalition partner.

Gilat Bennett, Naftali’s wife, told Channel 2 News earlier this year that she could understand Sara Netanyahu, and empathized with her need to have a voice in the prime minister’s career, and with her desire to show that he “belonged to [her], too.”

In 2010, Bennett, in his role as Director General of the Yesha Council (the coalition of all the Jewish settlements east of the “green line”), was in an all out war against Netanyahu over the government imposed settlement construction freeze. The two are not on friendly terms, although Bennett insists on being cordial and even compliments his old boss now and then. Bibi’s comments about Bennett are outright icy.

I cited TV host Nissim Mishal, on whose show Bennett was ambushed quite crudely into stating that he would refuse an order to evict a Jew from his home—which turned into the media brouhaha of the week, earning Bennett ample condemnations from his enemies, and a 2-3 seat bump in the polls. On the same show, Mishal also suggested (“barked” would better describe his tone of questioning) that Netanyahu hated Bennett so much, there was no chance he would include him in is government.

Likud Continues to Sink, Left Rising, Jewish Home Third Largest

Friday, December 28th, 2012

It’s three and a half days before the January 22 election in Israel, and the major story continues to be Likud-Beiteinu’s downhill slide. The unhappy union of two major right-wing parties, which has been losing a seat a week since its inception, on Friday sank to 33 vote (down from their current 42) in the Yedioth-Dahaf-Mina Tzemach poll, which included an unusually large sample in Israeli terms – 1,250 likely voters, with a 2-3 seat margin of error.

The other big story is that the new beneficiary of Likud’s losses is no longer Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi, but the “near left” parties of Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid. These two personality-based lists are also siphoning off votes from Labor, which in Friday’s poll was clipped down to 17 seats. Lapid and Livni are holding 11 seats each

Naftali Bennett’s National Religious coalition received 12 seats in Friday’s poll, while Power to Israel scored 2 seats, same as its current presence.

Among the Haredi parties, Shas increased to 11 from its current 10 Knesset seats, Torah Judaism maintains its rise to 6 from the current 5 seats, and Rabbi Amsalem gets 2 seats, an increase of 1 from his current 1 seat.

The extreme leftist Meretz retains its 4 seats. The Arabs receive 11 seats – same as their current number.

The gap between the blocks is narrowing: Likud-Beiteinu, Jewish Home and Power to Israel get 47 seats, Labor, Livni, Lapid and Meretz get 43, the Haredi factions Shas, Torah Judaism and Amsalem get 19, and the Arabs 11.

The lower Likud-Beiteinu’s count, the less able will prime minister apparent Benjamin Netanyahu be to pick and choose among his potential government partners. In my humble opinion, his ideal coalition will include his own 33 seats (if the slide stops), Shas and Torah Judaism (17) and labor (17) for a stable, 67 member coalition.

This will create an interesting conundrum on the opposition side. According to the Knesset protocol, the head of the largest opposition party is appointed Opposition Leader – receiving a salary comparable to a government minister and getting monthly updates from the PM. However, should Naftali Bennett have the honor to head the largest opposition party, he would be facing 11 Arabs, 4 Meretz, and 22 Tzipi-Lapid members, all of whom fiercely oppose his platform.

In the past there was one case of rebellion against a coalition head under reverse circumstances, when Shas and Torah Judaism refused to accept the anti-Haredi Tomi Lapid (late father of the current Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid) as their representative.

This has a Supreme Court appeal written all over it. And guess who loses in Supreme Court appeals…

In Israel’s Election Campaign Telling the Truth Is against the Law

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

A few weeks ago, our Power to Israel movement launched campaign signs on buses and billboards. We used a number of words in Arabic that we thought the Arabs in Israel were familiar with: “taxes,” “border,” “planning and construction laws,” “traffic laws,” and “loyalty,” and we stated that “without responsibilities you have no rights,” meaning that if Arabs don’t obey state laws, they shouldn’t claim any rights either.

A number of radical leftists approached the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, and showed him a photo of a bus ad that read, in large Arabic letters: “Fidelity,” and below that: “Without responsibilities you have no rights – Power to Israel.” They claimed that the publication was racist and offensive and demanded to disqualify the campaign. Justice Rubinstein approved their claim.

The offending campaign ad, with the word "Fidelity" written prominently in red Arabic letters.

The offending campaign ad, with the word “Fidelity” written prominently in red Arabic letters.

Beyond the legal questions (the Attorney General believes that the chairman of the Election Committee lacks the authority to intervene in outdoor advertising, and may only disqualify propaganda broadcasts on radio and television), Justice Rubinstein’s decision is highly problematic.

The Tax Authority data show that the rate of income tax payments for Israeli Arabs is far lower than their share in the population. The gap in Social Security data is even more extreme, even when compared with Jewish populations of similar socioeconomic segment. It is also well known that the rates of municipal tax collection in Arab communities are minuscule.

However, the representation of Arabs in the prison population is twice their proportion in the population at large and the proportion of Arabs involved in road fatalities is similarly high. The facts exist and are well know, but Justice Rubinstein decided that saying it in an election campaign, and in Arabic – amounts to racism

Power to Israel intends to enact in the next Knesset the “Law of the Hebrew language,” written by Ruth Gavison, the former chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights. The law will determine the status of Hebrew as the only official language in Israel. But until the law is enacted — Arabic is Israel’s other official language. It is difficult to understand the justice’s determination that the prominent use of this language indicates that we address Arabs and that it is racist. If the very use of an official language in Israel in an election campaign is racist – what remains of the freedom of speech the left is so proud of? Does it cover speech that contradicts the left’s position?

It may be the conceptual difference between strength and power. Israel had the strength to topple Hamas in operation Pillar of Defense, but it lacked the determination and the moral conviction to do it. Tens of thousands of illegal homes are being built by Israeli Arabs in the Negev, in Galilee and in Jerusalem. Israeli police have enough power to enforce the law equally, but the government has no inner strength and determination to instruct them to do so.

To that end, we launched Power to Israel, led by myself and by MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari. Together we will empower the national camp.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/in-israels-election-campaign-telling-the-truth-is-against-the-law/2012/12/18/

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