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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Prime Minister’

Woman of the Year 5776: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

The January 22, 2013 general elections in Israel marked the emergence of two new parties; one, journalist Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, was yet another attempt to grab the undecided center among Israel’s voters; the other, Habayit Hayehudi, was a coalition of National Religious parties led by hi-tech executive Naftali Bennett and his long-time political ally, a 30-something computer engineer from Tel Aviv named Ayelet Shaked, who stood out as the only secular Jew in an otherwise Orthodox Jewish party. Both parties did well, although Lapid’s party took seven more seats than Bennett’s (19 vs. 12). Both parties also represent new challenges to the current power status quo in Israel, with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud leading a right-leaning coalition government over an opposition being led by Labor (a.k.a. Zionist Camp).

At this point in the life of the 20th Knesset, the polls are showing Yesh Atid as the new largest party, siphoning off votes from Likud’s centrist voters and Labor’s more nationalistic supporters, as well as from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party which barely passes the threshold percentage in the polls. At the same time, Likud is also being bitten on its right flank, by Habayit Hayehudi. And, also for the first time, the National Religious leader Naftali Bennett has been speaking openly about his ambition to be Israel’s next prime minister, at the helm of a rightwing, pro-religious, pro-settlements government.

That ambition is a new thing to a party that, since its incarnation as NRP in 1956, has always seen itself as a second banana, always in government, be it with leftwing or rightwing majority parties, but never at the helm. And while Chairman Bennett has been outspoken about his ambition to carve out a new direction for the country in the image of his party’s ideology, another Habayit Hayehudi leader has been giving the nation an idea of how a national religious government would carry out its agenda — Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Since the end of the 1990s, it has become clear that Israeli Jews are only going to become more traditional, even religious, and, consequently, the chance for a left-leaning party to receive the largest percentage of the vote will continue to grow dimmer. But while political positions have been given by the voter to rightwing governments, key decisions on issues that are close to the heart of the same rightwing voters have continued to lean to the left. This has been most notable in the liberated territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, where evictions of Jewish settlers have been carried out over the past decade and a half by rightwing-led governments, and those same governments have been refusing to implement Israeli civil law in Jewish communities hat have been living under martial law since the 1970s.

This is because the judiciary in Israel has been ruling as a shadow government, unelected and with a leftwing, secular agenda. In addition, Israel has had the most activist supreme court anywhere in the West, a court that has seized for itself powers well outside the norm in countries that uphold the principle of three branches of government. In countless cases, the high court has acted as a legislator, siding with the opposition against a ruling government (the recent vote on exploiting Israel’s natural gas come to mind, when the court torpedoed a government signed contract with US and domestic companies). The judiciary has also had its hand on the executive branch through the Attorney General and the legal counsels who are appointed to every ministry, and who often force the hands of elected officials using the threat of legal action against them.

The appointment of Ayelet Shaked to be the Minster in charge of this judiciary stronghold of the real power in Israeli society was received with a great deal of alarm and trepidation in the leftwing media, which called her “Israel’s Sarah Palin,” and accused her of inciting the mobs against the Supreme Court justices, “as if she were the worst [Internet] talkbacker and not the minister in charge of the holiest holy of every democracy — its separate and independent judiciary.” (Uri Misgav, Haaretz, Aug. 11, 2015).

The attack came in response to the new Justice Minister’s tweet on the same evening the Supreme Court was convening to rule on a law designed to block infiltration of illegal migrants from Africa through Israel’s southern border. Shaked tweeted that the law had already been quashed twice by the court, causing the infiltration, which had been reduced to single digits, to grow to dozens of new border crossings.

“If the law is revoked a third time,” Shaked tweeted, “it would be tantamount to declaring south Tel Aviv an official haven for infiltrators.” She then added that, until the court’s ruling, she would upload every two hours a new video describing the “intolerable life conditions of south Tel Aviv residents,” urging her followers to spread the message.

The court took notice and restricted itself to a few minor corrections, mostly regarding the length of time an illegal migrant could be held in a locked facility until his case is resolved by the Interior Ministry. The court continued to take notice throughout Shaked’s first year in office, and has been noticeably mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary friction with a Justice Minister who is probably the most popular minister in Israel. How popular? In 2013 she was picked by the Knesset Channel as the summer session’s most outstanding MK, and in 2014 as the second most outstanding MK of the winter session. In 2015 the Jerusalem Post ranked her 33rd on its list of the most influential Jews in the world. In 2015 she was ranked by Forbes Israel as the fifth most influential woman in Israel. And in 2016 Lady Globes ranked her second on its list of 50 most influential women.

Most importantly, Minster Shaked has afforded Israelis a view of a nationalist, rightwing politician who can be trusted to run the country’s third most complex system, after Finance and Defense. As Justice Minister, Shaked also chairs the ministerial legislative committee which decides which bills receive the backing of the government. Her role is comparable to that of the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House, in terms of influencing the legislative process. And the fact that she has been a competent, creative and resourceful Justice Minister might suggest to people in the secular center and right of center that her and Bennett’s party is worthy of their vote.

Shaked and Bennett are in troubled waters currently, over the fate of Amona, a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria that the Supreme Court has slated for demolition by early December, 2016, over claims to ownership of the land by Arab PA residents. The fact is that no one on the right in Netanyahu’s government believes that Amona could be saved, which Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated openly. Shaked wants to see the residents being relocated to a nearby plot of land, that could turn out to be just as problematic. But both Bennett and Shaked are also interested in advancing new legislation that would compel future claimants to settle for fair market value or comparable land from the Israeli government. At stake are an estimated 4,000 homes, the bulk of which were built as part of a government sponsored settlement program. The Supreme Court has rejected these “arrangement law” initiatives, and the current AG, Avihai Mandelblit, also objects to them, even though he himself is on the record as supporting them in the past.

For now, Shaked and Bennett are under attack by their voters, who cannot believe that a government that is as rightwing as this one would still engage in the forceful removal of Jews from their homes. And the last thing Shaked and Bennet want is to be forced to resign from Netanyahu’s government over this dispute.

Shaked, like Bennett, is a vehement enemy of the two-state solution. But she is also a liberal when it comes to many legislative initiatives. She has fought court activism; she objected to imposing jail sentences on Yeshiva students who refuse to enlist; and she supports a free and open market and reducing state regulations of businesses. She also believes in cutting down on new laws.

Noting that her government legislative committee has processed over the past year and a half no less than 1,500 new legislative proposals, Shaked wrote an op-ed in the right-leaning website Mida, saying that “every time the Knesset puts its faith in a new law intended to serve a worthy cause and solve a social or economic problem, we are, in effect, raising our hands to support a vote of no confidence. … It’s a vote of no confidence in our ability as individuals and as communities to manage ourselves in a good enough manner; it’s a vote of no confidence in the wisdom of the nation and of each person to create and preserve mechanisms that are better than those which are designed artificially by experts; it’s a vote of no confidence in the ability of familial, social and economic communities to run their own lives and strive successfully to reach their goals.”

Spoken like a true, sane Libertarian. And a Libertarian who knows how to combine the principles of freedom with the ideals of nation and Torah — could make one fine prime minister some day. Which is why we believe 5776 was the year of Ayelet Shaked.


President Reuven Rivlin’s eulogy at the funeral of Israel’s Ninth President Shimon Peres

Friday, September 30th, 2016

“Laugh and play with my dreams, I am the dreamer who wanders. Play because in man I will believe, and I still believe in you.” So wrote the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, and so you played, our dear President, during the uplifting moments of elation, in times of difficulty and crisis, and with the small joys of day-to-day life, “because in man I will believe, and I still believe in you.”

I am speaking to you today for the final time Shimon, “as one President to another”, as you would say each time you called to offer strength and good advice. As I speak, my eyes search for you, our dear brother, our older brother, and you are not there. Today you are gathered to your forefathers in the land which you loved so, but your dreams remain, and your beliefs uninterred. As one man you carried an entire nation on the wings of imagination, on the wings of vision. The “Brave son”, was the pseudonym you chose as a youth, as the name of Isaiah the Prophet, a visionary. Yet, you were not only a man of vision, you were a man of deeds. Like you, I was also born into the Zionist Movement in those decisive years between vision and fulfillment. I was fortunate to look up to you as a partner in the building of the State of Israel from its very foundations. For both of us, the State of Israel could never be taken for granted. However, with much thanks to you Shimon, for our sons and daughters, for our friends – and yes for our opponents – the State of Israel is an indisputable fact.

You had the rare ability, Shimon, to conceive what seemed to be the inconceivable, and see it to fruition. Your eyes saw far ahead, while your feet covered great distances on the landscape of Jewish and Zionist history. You always walked onward and upward, as a skilled mountaineer who secures his hook before ascending ever higher to the peak. This is how you lived your life. At first you would dream, and only when in your mind’s eye could you truly see the State of Israel reaching new heights, would you then begin to climb, and take us all with you towards the new goal. You succeeded in moving even the most stubborn of politicians, and to melt away even the hardest of hearts of our opponents. You strived until your final breaths to reach the pinnacle of the Zionist dream: an independent, sovereign state, existing in peace with our neighbors. Yet you also knew that true peace could only be achieved from a position of strength, and you were sure to secure the path to this goal. Few among us understand, and much more will be written about how many mountains you moved, from the days of the State’s establishment and till today in order to ensure our security and our military qualitative edge. How deep was your belief in the sacred combination of ethical leadership and military prowess, that Israel must act not just with wisdom, but with justice, faithful at every moment to its values as a Jewish and democratic state, democratic and Jewish.

My dear Shimon, you were the only one in the history of the State of Israel to serve in the three most senior positions in government: Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and Finance Minister. You are the only one to have served as Prime Minister and as President. It is no exaggeration to say that: more than you were blessed to be President of this great nation, this nation was blessed to have you as its President. In all these roles you were our head, but even more so, my dear friend, you were our heart; a heart that loved the people, the land, and the State. A heart which loved each and every person, a heart which cared for them.

Your stubborn faith in mankind and the good of people – in the victory of progress over ignorance, in the victory of hope over fear – was your eternal fountain of youth, thanks to which you were the eternal fountain of youth for all of us. The man of whom we thought time could never stop. With all your love for history and tremendous knowledge of history, you despised wallowing in the past, or being entrenched in a sense of self justice at the cost of the possibilities and opportunities that tomorrow brings. “The future is more important than the past” you said. “What happened yesterday does not interest me, only tomorrow does,” you would say. The love you received, which transcended political divides in the later years of your life – from your supporters and opponents – was an expression of the yearning of all us to be infected by your unequivocal optimism. Even when we did not agree with you we wanted to believe that perhaps you were right. Believe me, it was not easy to refuse your optimism, and at times your innocence.

Who more than you knew the heavy price of innocence, and yet, who more than you believed that heavier still was the price of mediocrity and being of little faith?

Shimon, I unashamedly confess, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, at your graveside among the graves of the leaders of our nation, also your forgiveness must be asked. We will ask your forgiveness. It was permitted to disagree with you. Your opponents had a duty to express their opinion. However, there were years in which red lines were crossed between ideological disputes and words and deeds which had no place. You always acted according to what you believed with all you heart was best for the people, whom you served.

As President, you were for us an honest advocate. You taught many around the world to love the State of Israel, and you taught us to love ourselves, not to speak ill, and see the good and the beautiful in everything.

This is a sad day, Shimon, this is a sad day. The journey of your dreams which began in Vishnyeva, comes to its end in Jerusalem our capital, which is also a dream which became a reality. Your death is a great personal and national loss, as it is also the end on an era, the end of the era of giants whose lives’ stories are the stories of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel. This is our profound feeling today. A feeling of the end of an era in the nation’s life, the end of a chapter in our lives. Our farewell to you is also a farewell to us from ourselves. When we see world leaders – our friends from near and far – who have come here to bid you their final respects, we understand that not only here but across the world you will be missed. And all of us already miss you. Farewell Shimon. The man whose ‘ways are pleasant, and all of his paths peaceful’. Rest in peace, and act (in Heaven) as an honest advocate for the people of Israel whom you loved so. “Because my soul aspires for freedom, I did not sell her for a golden calf. Because I will also believe in man, in his spirit, his spirit of strength.” Farewell Mr. President.

Jewish Press Staff

Palestinian Authority Leader Hails Peres As Peace Partner While PA Gov’t Vilifies Him

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas expressed his “sadness and sorrow” on Wednesday over the death of former President Shimon Peres.

Abbas sent a message of condolence to the family of Israel’s ninth president, according to the official PA news agency, WAFA.

“Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Rabin, and made unremitting efforts to reach a lasting peace from the Oslo Agreement until the final moments of his life,” Abbas said, according to WAFA.

Peres is to be laid to rest at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, in the section reserved for Israel’s founding fathers. He will be laid to rest five meters from Rabin.

However, the same official PA news agency also issued a venomous obituary for Peres in which the former president was said to be responsible for the “deaths of Palestinians” and “many crimes.” Peres was described in an official statement from the PA government as having been responsible for having built the Dimona nuclear reactor, and there was no mention of the 93-year-old statesman’s role in “making the brave peace” or for having tried to reach a “lasting peace” via the Oslo Accords — for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Israel’s late Prime Minister Rabin, and late PLO terror leader Yasser Arafat.

Meanwhile, the Hamas terrorist organization based in Gaza — which is also part of the Palestinian Authority — welcomed the death of the former Israeli president.

Sami Abu Zukhri, a spokesperson for Hamas, said “The Palestinian people are happy at the death of this criminal.

Shimon Peres was one of the last Israeli founders of the occupation. His death marks the end of an era in the history of the Israeli occupation,” he told the AFP news agency.

Peres will be laid to rest on Friday, and it is not yet known whether or not the Palestinian Authority will send a delegation to the funeral.

Hana Levi Julian

Shimon Peres Dead at 93

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

By Michael Bachner/TPS

Former president, prime minister, statesman and Nobel Peace Laureate Shimon Peres has died at the age of 93. He passed away during the early morning hours of September 28 at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan after suffering a severe stroke two weeks ago, on September 13. Peres’ condition had been improving, until it suddenly sharply deteriorated on Tuesday and he was pronounced dead at 3:40 a.m. Israel time.

The hospital is due to make an official announcement at 7:00 a.m. local time.

Born in Poland in 1923 as Szymon Perski, Peres moved to Israel with his family in 1934 and rose to become one of the most prominent and influential figures in Israel’s history. He was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot in the north of the country, where he worked as a shepherd and a farmer, and in 1945 he married Sonya Gelman. They had three children together- Tsvia, Yoni and Chemi. Sonya Peres died in 2011 at the age of 87.

During a political career that spanned 73 years, Peres served as prime minister, president, and Knesset member for 47 consecutive years, the longest anyone has served in the Israeli parliament. He also published at least 11 books as well as hundreds of articles in newspapers and periodicals in Israel and around the world.

Peres’s political career began in 1941 when he was elected Secretary of Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, the Labour party youth movement. David Ben Gurion then appointed him to the secretariat of Mapai, the party that later became Labour, and in 1946 Peres was chosen alongside Moshe Dayan as a youth delegate in the party’s delegation to the Zionist Congress in Basel.

In 1947 Shimon Peres joined the Haganah, the armed forces that later became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He became director-general of the Ministry of Defense in 1953, when he was only 29 years old. During the 1950s he played an important role in developing Israel’s defense industry, forming strong personal and political relations with French officials that resulted in many years of military aid, strong cooperation between the countries, and the establishment of Israel’s nuclear research center in Dimona.

Peres served two terms as prime minister, from 1984 and 1986 and 1995-6 following the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He was a member of 12 cabinets, holding positions including defense minister, foreign affairs minister and finance minister.

Peres was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize (together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat) for his role in the 1993 Declaration of Principles signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Two years later he established the Peres Peace Center which aims to promote peace through cooperation and face-to-face interaction between Jews and Arabs.

After leaving the Labor Party in 2005 to join the more centrist Kadima faction, headed by Ariel Sharon, Peres was elected president by the Knesset in 2007, succeeding Moshe Katsav.

Peres ended his political career when his presidency term ended in 2014, but continued his involvement in public activities, primarily through the Peres Peace Center.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Trump Promising Netanyahu Jerusalem Embassy, Wants Advice on Building Fences

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

The Trump campaign press release following the meeting Sunday between Benjamin Netanyahu and the GOP presidential candidate stated that Trump told Netanyahu “a Trump administration would finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.” The statement also said Trump “agreed that the military assistance provided to Israel and missile defense cooperation with Israel are an excellent investment for America,” and “there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries,” should Trump be elected.

Trump emphasized that Israel is a “vital partner of the United States in the global war against radical Islamic terrorism.” According to the statement, the nuclear deal with Iran and ways to defeat ISIS were also discussed, as well as “Israel’s successful experience with a security fence that helped secure its borders.”

A short while before Sunday’s meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, the GOP presidential candidate and indefatigable tweeter tweeted: “Looking forward to my meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Trump Tower at 10:00 AM.” The meeting lasted an hour and twenty minutes behind closed doors, and the two did not speak to the press before or after.

The Prime Minister’s office released a laconic statement saying, “Netanyahu presented to Trump Israel’s positions on regional issues related to its security and discussed with him Israel’s efforts to achieve peace and stability in our region.” The PM’s office also said that Netanyahu thanked Trump for his friendship and support for Israel. The meeting included Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and Trump’s son-in-law, Jewish businessman, investor and political operative Jared Kushner.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet next with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who has already committed to inviting the Israeli PM to her White House as soon as she’s sworn in. Clinton is on the record as supporting the nuclear deal with Iran, but repeats her commitment to Israel’s security. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Clinton said “Trump should worry every Israeli, regardless of his positions on Israel.”

The two meetings were arranged when a senior Netanyahu official told reporters after his meeting with President Obama that he hadn’t been approached by either candidate for a meeting while he’s in the US, but should they invite him he’d be delighted to accept. A day later the invite came from the Trump campaign, followed by one from Hillary.

Monday night the world will follow with bated breath the first presidential debate between the two candidates. Many Israelis have reported setting their alarm clocks (or apps) to wake them up at 4 AM Tuesday, to watch the Monday at 9 PM match.

David Israel

Haredi MK Blocks Train Funding over Shabbat Works

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) has not approved the transfer of $171 million to the new projects of Israel Railways, according to a Tweet by journalist Amalia Duek. Duek cites sources in the Transport Ministry who accuse Gafni of revenge tactics, saying the delay in payment would result in delays in carrying out the work in preparation for the new fast rail from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Ministry is also concerned about potential lawsuits from contractors who haven’t been paid. MK Gafni, meanwhile, has told Duek he would examine the transfer request “when I see fit.”

Meanwhile, the renovation and preparation works continue full blast. At midnight Sunday Israel Railways shut down its three (out of four) stations in Tel Aviv for eight days, to be reopened a week from Tuesday. The massive project will match the stations and the rails passing through them with the new, electric, fast rail to Jerusalem.

Over the next eight days, the railway service will be running buses between Herzliya and Tel Aviv, in both directions, as well as buses from Herzliya to Ben Gurion International. Police on Monday morning reported worse than usual traffic delays in all the arteries leading into Tel Aviv.

The war between the Haredi coalition partners UTJ and Shas and Prime Minister Netanyahu over railway works that had been scheduled to be performed on Shabbat two weeks ago turned out to be a mere skirmish, as neither side was interested in fighting. However, the real battle ensued between Netanyahu and his Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), followed by a more reserved showdown with Welfare and Labor Minister Haim Katz (Likud). That internal fight in the Likud party was resolved with a win by points for Netanyahu (no knockouts, both ministers are still alive and kicking). Against this background, MK Gafni’s decision appears both vindictive and unhelpful.

Transport Ministry officials told Kikar Hashabbat that “if it turns out Gafni is operating out of political considerations we will view it seriously and act accordingly.”

Gafni, one of the most powerful committee chairmen in the Knesset, responded, “I’m not obligated to debate every agenda item that comes up. I will weigh it, and if the proposal has merit, the money would be transferred.” Which means the Railway will get the money eventually, because this is a government project, but the folks at Transport will have to sweat blood over it because of their Shabbat works fiasco.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, the Haredi parties are angrier at Police Commissioner Ronnie Alshich, an Orthodox Jew, more than anyone else, because Alshich was the one who came up with the idea that those works constituted “pikuach nefesh,” meaning saving a life, which is permitted on Shabbat. Which stands to show you, never go to a cop for halakhic rulings.


Netanyahu: US Never Offered Us More than $38 Billion

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning opened his weekly Cabinet meeting telling his cabinet ministers that despite reports to the contrary, the $38 billion military aid package Israel received from the Obama Administration for the next 10 years was the highest amount that had ever been suggested by the Americans.

“I hear all kinds of background noise and disinformation about the agreement,” Netanyahu said, noting, “I would like to make it clear: We were never offered more. We were not offered more money, not even one dollar, and we were never offered special technologies. These are distortions and fabrications by interested parties; either they do not have the facts or they are distorting the facts, and they are, of course, showing ingratitude, and in my view this is the saddest thing of all, ingratitude to our greatest and best friend, the United States.”

The reports that suggested Israel stood to receive as much as $45 billion over ten years came from opponents of Netanyahu, most notably prime minister wannabe Moshe Ya’alon, whom Netanyahu had removed from the defense ministry, and former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who served as Netanyahu’s defense minister before Ya’alon. The reports also suggested that Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the Iran nuclear deal, and the fact that he dared go behind President Obama’s back to speak directly to Congress against the deal, is what cost Israel the additional funds.

But Netanyahu denied all that, insisting “the support for Israel in the United States is stronger than ever. It crosses political parties and embraces the length and breadth of the United States and it finds expression in this agreement. This is the largest assistance agreement that the United States has ever provided to any country in its history, and this agreement proves the depth of the relationship, and the strength of relations, between Israel and the United States.”

In an earlier statement, last week, Netanyahu also stressed Israel’s strong ties with the US, saying the “agreement illustrates a simple truth: relations between Israel and the United States are strong and steadfast. This does not mean that we do not have disagreements from time to time, but these are disagreements within the family. They have no effect on the great friendship between Israel and the United States, a friendship that is expressed in this agreement, which will greatly assist us in continuing to build up Israel’s strength in the coming decade.”


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