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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Religious Zionism’

Gloves Are Off as Cabinet Revives Settlement Division

Friday, October 7th, 2016

On Sunday, the Netanyahu cabinet is expected to liberate an important tool for the reclamation and development of Israeli lands on either side of the “green line,” as the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization will come under tighter government control and at the same time increase its contribution to Jewish communities, Israeli media reported Friday.

Two years ago, Deputy AG Dina Zilber issued a harsh critique of the Settlement Division, accusing it of running a murky operation, especially in Judea and Samaria, outside the control of Israeli governments, mostly due to its status as a private entity. As a result, the Justice Ministry, then under one of the Jewish settlement enterprise’s worst enemies, Tzipi Livni, recommended that the next government (which Tzipi expected to head) dismantle the division by blocking its state budget. Without a budget, the division was expected to wither and die.

On Sunday, apparently, the same Zionist instrument of vitality will roar back to life, with a budget just short of $10 million, to be distributed equally among the Jewish communities of the Negev, Galilee, and Judea and Samaria. In addition, the Settlement Division will be empowered to offer solutions to stressed communities, especially in the periphery. No such first-aid government entity exists today.

The Zilber report was attacked not only by the rightwing parties, but also by communities that are associated with Tzipi Livni’s Labor party, alongside the Gaza border and down in the Jordan Valley. In fact, after the elections that saw Livni retreat to the opposition benches, several of her own party MKs supported a bill submitted by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), enabling the government to delegate its power to the Settlement Division. Zilber, a civil servant, lobbied against the bill, which passed in three plenum votes. The eager bureaucrat was later rebuked by her new boss, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), for her acting against the expressed will of the elected officials above her.

The layout of the revived Settlement Division which will be discussed by the cabinet on Sunday will define it as an expert, consulting entity which both counsels the government on settlement issues and carries out specific government assignments. For the first time, the division is expected to be able to act within urban communities in the rural sectors, when in the past it was limited to working with the regional councils. Its policy will no longer be shaped by the division, but instead by the Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi).

One of Zilber’s criticisms was taken seriously by the designers of the renewed Settlement Division — the need for transparency. To that end, it will be placed under the supervision of the Agriculture Ministry’s Accountant General and Legal Counsel. It will also have to comply with Israel’s Freedom of Information Act.

With all those provisos in place, the Settlement Division will be empowered to plan and establish new communities, pave roads, lay down infrastructure, manage mobile homes, and strengthen and rehabilitate communities in need. The division will also manage the lands of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria until such time as a more permanent legal solution is reached.

Minister Ariel, who has been a major force behind the efforts to revive the division, told Makor Rishon on Thursday that “in the past few years there have been many different attempts by judicial entities to lock down the Settlement Division which endeavors to develop periphery communities across the land. I believe and hope that once the Settlement Division returns to full capacity the regional councils and the local residents will once again receive solutions to their enormous needs.”


Bennett: We Must Sacrifice to Preserve Judea and Samaria [video]

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday night announced that Israelis must make sacrifices in order to preserve the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. Speaking in the wake of the Obama Administration’s assault on Netanyahu’s cabinet’s plan to move the residents of Amona to new homes in Shiloh, 11 miles away, Bennett said that “regarding the Land of Israel we must switch from blocking to winning.” He also promised that he and his two Religious Zionist colleagues in the cabinet are “taking responsibility for a strategic arrangement for the settlement enterprise.”

Bennett spoke at a conference in Jerusalem in memory of MK Hanan Porat, one of the founders of the Gush Emunim movement which led the National Religious wave of settlements in the newly liberated territories after the 1967 Six Day War. Habayit Hayehudi is facing an existential dilemma these days, as many of its voters have said they’d rather see their elected representatives leave the coalition government than participate in the decision to uproot the Amona residents. Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have been advocating a permanent legal resolution of the problem of thousands of Arab claims, initiated and financed by anti-Zionist NGOs like Peace Now, with European and American funding, against existing Jewish communities across Judea and Samaria. The Habayit Hayehudi ministers prefer to work from within the Netanyahu government on legislation to compel such claimants to accept market value compensation, rather than stage a dramatic exit from the coalition.

“We should highlight the dream, and the dream is that Judea and Samaria become part of the sovereign Land of Israel,” Bennett told his audience. “We must act today and we must make sacrifices. We cannot continue to consider the Land of Israel as our tactical goal and a Palestinian State as our strategic goal.”

Bennett cited the late Hanan Porat “who said we have no right to divide the land. Not through words, nor through action, silent acquiescence, or quiet excuses. Neither by politicians nor by jurists. The path of concessions, of partition, has lost out.” He then promised that because of the people of Amona, and because of their faith and trust, “we will lead with a strategic solution to the entire settlement enterprise.”

Zionist Camp (a.k.a. Labor) MKs Tzipi Livni and Ksenia Svetlova condemned Bennnett’s vision, calling it “the nightmare of the entire people of Israel,” and accusing him of warmongering. Interestingly, current polls are showing Habayit Hayehudi leading the Zionist Camp by between two and four Knesset seats, had the elections been held today.


Justice Minister Shaked Issues Manifesto on Jewish Democracy, Based on the Teachings of Chief Justice Barak

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

“The Knesset is attempting to legislate away our lives and the High Court is invading territory to which it is not entitled,” declares Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), in a lengthy but exciting essay in the inaugural issue of Hashiloach, an Israeli Journal on thought and policy. The essay, titled “Tracks toward Governing” (the Hebrew title is a play on words between Mesilot-tracks and Meshilut-governance), suggests that the behavior of some of Israel’s branches of government is threatening individual freedoms as well as the ability of elected officials to govern. Shaked is urging a return, as soon as possible, to the proper governing on the proper tracks, from within Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state.

“Good governance is not a blind force, certainly not a strong but silent engine,” writes Shaked, stressing that “the ability to carry out goals in the way they have been defined is a prerequisite condition for good governance, but is far from being sufficient in itself: good governance is measured above anything else by the ability of government ministers to establish their own goals.”

“A politician who knows how to bring the train to its destination, but is unable to set the destination, as senior as he may be — is not governing but merely subcontracting; he may have been appointed Minister, and he may get to cut ribbons in the end, but he is nothing more than a contractor,” Shaked argues. “To move down a track laid down by others does not require leaders; any driver could do it just fine. The essence of governance is always setting down directions and posting goals. This requires of elected officials to lay down new tracks only after they had decided for themselves where they would like to take the train.”

Shaked asserts that every time the Knesset votes in favor of any given law, it is also voting against the freedom of individuals to take care of their issues on their own. She calls it a vote of no confidence in the autonomy of communities and individuals. Indeed, as Chair of the Ministerial Legislative Committee, Shaked laments that she has processed more than 1,500 legislative proposals, from amendments to existing laws to fully realized, new bills. Suggesting the Knesset is by far the most prolific parliament in the entire Western world, Shaked describes this abundance of new laws as a hospital that’s being built underneath a broken bridge to care for the people who fall off.

Referring to economist Milton Friedman’s impressions following his visit to Israel in the 1960s, when he predicted that the historic spirit of Jewish freedom would eventually overcome the newly bred spirit of Socialist bureaucracy in Israel, Shaked admits she’s not so sure Friedman was right. “Without our firm push on the brake pedal of this locomotive, week in and week out, those legislative proposals would have created for us an alternative reality, in which government controls the citizens through the regulation of more and more economic sectors, with the individual being left with precious little freedom to manage his own affairs.”

Shaked provides several examples whereby proposed legislation would have, for instance, created a world in which a landlord would be forbidden to raise the rent for several years. Of course, rents would soar on the eve of this new law going into effect, followed by a loss of interest on the part of investors in creating new rental stock, leading to a drop in available apartments and, of course, another rise in rents. It would also be a world in which employers must comply with pensions set by the legislator, until, of course, they go bankrupt. And a world in which police would be bound by a two-strike law that compels them to arrest any individual against whom someone has filed two complaints. Running down some of these “bizarre” proposals, as she calls them, Shaked eventually describes a proposal to compel the state to solve terrorism by distributing bulletproof vests to every citizen against knife attacks, as well as a proposal to eliminate the reference in the law to “Beit Av,” which is the Biblical term for Household, because it has a reference to a father rather than to a mother.

Shaked reports that she requested, for the 2017-18 budget, that the ministerial committee would no longer consider bills that add new criminal offenses to the law books, without a thorough investigation of similar legislation in other countries, of the ramifications of the new criminal law on the books in Israel’s society, and, most important — of existing, non-criminal alternatives.

Alongside the need to restrain the legislator, Shaked sees a dire need to restrain Israel’s expansionist Judiciary. She notes an ongoing war between the Supreme Court and the executive branch, which necessitates the passing of a new constitutional-level legislation (Foundation Laws in Israel’s system) to regulate once and for all this combative relationship. She cites several cases in which government was blocked by the high court in areas that are clearly the executive’s domain, such as the law regulating the treatment of illegal infiltrators from Africa, and the government contract with natural gas companies to exploit Israel’s rich deposits.

Shaked laments the fact that the Supreme Court so often usurps the right to kill an entire legislation, as if it had appointed itself the 121st Knesset Member (or more than that, since it so frequently joins with the opposition parties to defeat a majority coalition). She has no problem with individuals seeking remedy in the lower courts to damages they claim to have suffered from, say, the new gas contract. That’s a legitimate use of the court system. But how can the unelected high court delete an entire legislation passed by elected officials? Who, after all is said and done, is the sovereign, the people or their appointed judges?

As a result, the art of politics in Israel is practiced as follows, according to Shaked: first the different parties vie for the voter’s trust; then, in the Knesset, the coalition negotiates with and fights against the opposition over a proposed bill; finally, after the bill was passed, the opposition parties appeal it before the Supreme Court, which reverses it. That, in a nutshell, was the story of the natural gas bill earlier this year.


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.


Religious Zionist Rabbi Offers Homosexuals Alternative Approaches

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

By Tzvi Lev/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – While controversy has been brewing over several prominent rabbis’ comments on homosexuality and the Jerusalem gay pride parade, a well known religious-Zionist rabbi has been quietly setting up Orthodox gay men with lesbian women to be married, an idea that is considered revolutionary in the religious-Zionist world.

The Anachnu (“we” in Hebrew) organization is an NGO founded in 2011 by Rabbi Areleh Harel and is associated with Kamoha, a support organization for religious homosexuals who wish to have a conventional marriage.

As a resident of Shiloh and a teacher at the Elon Moreh Yeshiva, which is commonly associated with the ultra-Orthodox stream of religious-Zionism, Rabbi Harel does not seem a likely candidate to run a matchmaking service for homosexuals yet he began taking interest in the matter 12 years ago.

“Women were coming to me and telling me that after 10 or 15 years of marriage, they realized that their husband was gay and was seeing other men,” he said. “I understood the tremendous pain felt by many religious homosexuals and I felt that I had to do something.”

“A religious homosexual is stuck,” he continued. “I don’t have any way to solve this problem. Perhaps one tried to change and failed, but the question is what do we do now? If a gay man and a lesbian woman can marry each other without expecting love and sexuality, they can still build a traditional family.”

After six years of independently setting up religious gays and lesbians, Rabbi Harel was approached by Kamoha with an offer to formally expand his activities.

“Our NGO received many requests from gay men asking to be set up with lesbian women,” said Amit, the spokesman for Kamoha, who preferred not to disclose his full name. “Since so many people have turned to us, we decided to set up an initiative to match gays with lesbians. All of the rabbis we spoke to sent us to Rabbi Harel who had already been doing it privately and we decided to turn it into something official as part of our NGO, which became Anachnu.”

Anachnu recommends using their services only after having already seen a therapist and having accepted that a change to one’s sexual orientation would be impossible. “Those suitable for this project are those who are not in the process of trying out a new sexual orientation, but rather for those who have accepted themselves as being gay or lesbian,” states their website.

Amit claims that Anachnu is not being used exclusively by religious Jews. “The majority are religious,” he admits. “However, there have also been traditional people and even secular people who have reached out to us. All of them are closeted.”

Kamoha’s efforts are not without controversy within the religious community. Chavruta is an organization that supports religious homosexuals and is often considered a more liberal alternative to Kamoha. Daniel Jonas, a Chavruta spokesperson, offered lukewarm praise for the initiative. “We think that everyone has a right to choose their own path,” he said. “It makes no difference whether that means to live in the closet while married to a woman and pretending everything is normal or to live as you are.”

He warned against using groups like Anachnu to further hurt the LGBT community. “We reject any initiative that tells us ‘this is how you need to be’. If a person chooses to marry a woman and build a house with her, that is fine and there is a place for them. However, we in no way, shape, or form accept someone saying that this is the only solution and that this is what everyone needs to do.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

New Bill Revokes Get-Refusing Inmates’ ‘Mehadrin’ Kosher Food, Boarding Privileges

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

The Knesset on Wednesday debated a bill submitted by Habayit Hayehudi Chair MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli revoking the special privileges of prisoners who refuse to grant their wives a get-religious divorce. The bill singles out Orthodox Jewish prisoners who are entitled while behind bars to stay in the prison’s “religious” section, participate in Jewish studies, and eat a stricter-standard “kosher l’mehadrin” meals. The idea is to use the loss of these privileges to force the prisoner to set his wife free.

To be clear, the law does not deprive the Orthodox inmate of his basic Jewish needs, it merely takes away elements of his “ultra-Religious” lifestyle.

Some Orthodox prisoners are actually sitting in jail for their refusal to grant the get, so that by freeing their wives they can set themselves free. But in the case of these Orthodox men, prison often resembles their normal everyday life, and in some cases may be an improvement — in prison they can sit and learn all day with a group of other Orthodox men, celebrate Shabbat and the holidays, and not have to worry about parnossah (making a living). MK Moalem hopes that removing those prisoners’ ability to live a full Jewish life behind bars and inserting them in the general population might help change their outlook on life in prison.

MK Moalem-Refaeli said, “A man who turns his wife into an aguna and refuses to obey the judges’ order to stop abusing her is not truly a man who values halakha and maintaining a Jewish lifestyle. He tramples the most essential Jewish principle, Love your fellow man as you would yourself, only to make his wife’s life miserable. Therefore he is not worthy of enjoying the plethora of privileges prison affords religious inmates.”


Bennett: ‘You Can’t Be in Favor of Eretz Israel in Hebrew while Establishing the State of Palestine in English.’

Monday, June 6th, 2016

On Sunday night, during the celebrations of Jerusalem Liberation Day at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, the academic crown jewel of the rightwing Greater Israel movement, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett flatly accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of lying about his true intentions regarding a Palestinian State. “You can’t be in favor of Eretz Israel in Hebrew while establishing the State of Palestine in English,” he said, obviously pointing to the PM, who was present at the same ceremony, and accusing him of telling his voters (in Hebrew) during the last campaign that he was opposed to dividing the land, while scheming with foreign dignitaries and a number of Israeli politicians to bring on some form of the two-state solution.

The relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) is about as bad as can be, feeding on 20 years of bad blood, resentments, betrayals and condescension. Ten years ago, after fighting in the 2006 Lebanon War, Bennett served as chief of staff for Netanyahu, who was then the opposition leader. He helped Netanyahu dig his way up from a deep electoral hole, but couldn’t get along with Mrs. Netanyahu (few could). Eventually, in 2008, Bennett and his political partner, Ayelet Shaked, set out to carve their own path among Israel’s rightwing voters.

When they returned victorious in 2013, with 12 seats, as leaders of a National Religious Party that everyone had been certain was going to leave the political stage — they were considered Netanyahu’s natural coalition partners — but Sara Netanyahu put down her foot. Instead of a negotiation between friends, Bennett et al were put through the wringer. It took the intervention of a third party leader, MK Yair Lapid, who forged an ad hoc, mutual-benefit alliance with Bennett, to finally open the door. Then, after the 2015 elections, when Bennett generously endorsed Netanyahu’s message that it made no difference if the settler community voted for Likud or for his own party, because he had been promised they’d all be part of the same winning coalition in the end — Bennett ended up as the last man the PM had turned to for a government post. Promises of the Defense Ministry were reneged on, and Bennett, a party chairman, ended up with a second-tier portfolio. Mind you, Bennett believes a full five of Likud’s 30 Knesset seats should have gone to him. That’s ten years’ worth of resentment.

And now, as Netanyahu continues his pursuit of a broader coalition with MK Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Camp (Labor), voices in Labor are starting to say that they’d consider the offer only if the PM is sincere in his desire for a two-state solution, and the profound way in which he could signal that commitment would be by sacrificing the only dedicated enemy of the very idea of a Palestinian State, Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi. If Netanyahu were to go ahead and fire, or demote Bennett and the other two Habayit Hayehudi ministers, Ayelet Shaked and Uri Ariel, it would mean that five seats worth of voters who believed Netanyahu was just as anti-two-state as Bennett, actually cast their vote to get themselves and their families evicted from their homes and lands. There’s plenty to resent there.

“There are some, in Israel and the world, who join various Arab initiatives according to which we would divide the land, divide–God forbid–Jerusalem, and return to the 1967 lines,” Bennett said, “because the world is pressuring, and we must appease them. I tell these individuals tonight: never.”

As to the dual-language policy, Bennett told Netanyahu: “It’s time to say in a clear voice: the Land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel. In Hebrew, English, Russian and French, in summer, in winter, during elections and when there are no elections. Why? Because the world is listening to us. To every word we say. The world recognizes weakness, just as it recognizes strength. The world sniffs whenever we are not certain of our right to the land, and attacks us with the fury of boycotts.”

It was a painful, raging attack, that marked the worst day in the complex relationship of these two politicians. But it would be a mistake to suggest that Bennett was acting emotionally. In fact, this had to be a well planned assault, ahead of a foreseeable dismissal of Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition. Even before Sunday’s de facto declaration of war, Bennett’s party was up at least three seats in the polls, while Likud was down by those same three seats — that was the Judea and Samaria vote. And should Netanyahu actually pursue peace negotiations at this juncture, those three seats could grow to become five, putting in risk Likud’s numeric supremacy in the next Knesset.

It was such an aggressive attack on Bennett’s part, that the pushback had to come from Likud’s own rightwing, pro-settlements wing: an anonymous Likud senior official was cited by the press, but everyone knew it was Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, who accused Bennett of hypocrisy—since he had lived comfortably in the previous coalition government with Minister Tzipi LIvni, while the latter was in charge of the two-state negotiations. Elkin, speaking as senior anonymous Likud man, also said it was Bennett who was threatening the stability of the most rightwing government in Israel’s history.

In the end, the cooling down of the internal fighting came from the new defense minister, Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), also a former Netanyahu lieutenant in Likud who broke up with the boss and has maintained a terrible personal relationship with him, complete with bad blood and burgeoning resentments. Liberman said Monday morning: “I call on Naftali Bennett to calm down. Right now we need fewer declarations and more coordinated, quiet work.”

“If he can’t hold back, I suggest he undergo surgery to remove his short fuse,” Liberman said about Bennett, in a bearish kind of humor.

Incidentally, you may recall that Liberman has endured his share of ridicule upon taking on his important new position, because in an interview Liberman had given only last April, he promised that should he become defense minister, he would demand that Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniya return the bodies of Israeli soldiers in his possessions or face death. There’s even a website counting the days since Liberman’s appointment and noting that the Hamas leader is still alive.

“I suggest to anyone who is asking me regarding taking care of Haniya to wait until the end of my term, and not [harass me] in my first week in office,” the new defense minsiter said.

Except that in that interview Liberman actually said Haniya should be counting his days on this earth from Liberman’s first day in office. So the inquiries are certainly legitimate.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ahead-of-coalition-reshuffle-bennett-revving-up-attacks-on-netanyahu-liberman-urging-calm/2016/06/06/

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