PM Netanyahu appointed Minister of Science and Technology Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) to the inner cabinet committee involved in the freeing of Palestinian Authority terrorists, in order to ensure he will have a majority if any questions or problems arise in the committee regarding freeing these terrorists, according to a report in Times of Israel.
One is immediately reminded of how Rabin and Sharon took similar actions to stack the deck, to push through legislation and decisions that didn’t have a majority.
Besides Netanyahu, also in this committee are Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch. Netanyahu is concerned that Ya’alon and Aharonovitch might block parts of the deal.
Last week, Yesh Atid leader Finance Minister Yair Lapid had PM Netanyahu kick out Minister Yuval Steinitz from an inner cabinet meeting he was invited too, when Steinitz began to raise security related issues.
As Israelis settle in under a new government led once again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they might do well to ask themselves this question: Other than having served as Israeli prime ministers after beginning their political careers as mainstays of the political right, what do Menachem Begin, Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have in common?
It is safe to say that none of them, before attaining power, would have supported the policies each pursued while in office. Before their premierships all four held clearly hawkish diplomatic, national security and territorial views; once elected, however, their tilt to the center and even to the center-left on these same issues was just as clear.
Labor prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak often matched their pre-prime ministerial rhetoric with their performances in office. The “principled” hawks were expected to do likewise – namely to practice what they had preached.
But did they?
Let’s examine some of their words before assuming office and their actions after they attained it.
Begin’s words: “The partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized…. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever” (November 30, 1947, the day after the UN vote for the partition of Palestine.)
Begin’s actions: Responding to Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter’s insistence that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict include a Palestinian right to self-governance, Begin agreed to Palestinian “self-rule” or “autonomy” in Judea and Samaria. This arguably meant that Begin compromised on his view that “Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”
Netanyahu’s words: “This [the 2008 Israel-Hamas cease-fire] is not a relaxation, it’s an Israeli agreement to the rearming of Hamas. What are we getting for this?” (Netanyahu at the time was opposition leader.)
Netanyahu’s actions: If history is any guide, Netanyahu must surely know that the aftermath of the recent cessation of fighting between Hamas and Israel – a halt that he, as prime minister, approved – will likely resemble the 2008 truce he opposed: a lull until the next round of fighting initiated by a rearmed Hamas.
By acting so inconsistently on the same terrorist threat just four years apart, Netanyahu, it appears, put personal political needs ahead of the national interest in 2008 and again now – both, ironically, just prior to Knesset elections. In 2008 it behooved him to sound hawkish; in 2012 it suited him to be more flexible.
Shouldn’t a noted terrorism expert know better?
Sharon’s words: “Everybody has to…grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours” (Sharon, foreign minister at the time, was addressing a meeting of the Tzomet Party on November 15, 1998).
Sharon’s actions: Sharon went from being one of Israel’s most vocal advocates of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a champion of its presence in Gaza during prior ministerial positions to, as prime minister, unilaterally withdrawing fully from Gaza and from four settlements in the northern West Bank (without the benefit of any peace overtures from the Palestinians).
His clear about-face gave the Palestinians the chance to elect Hamas – sworn to Israel’s destruction – to power in Gaza, enabling it to regularly batter southern Israel with deadly rockets. Sharon’s prowess on the battlefield is, to many, overshadowed by what is perhaps the most blatant political, military and security flip-flop in Israel’s history.
Olmert’s words: “The formula for the parameters of a unilateral solution are: to maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border; and not to divide Jerusalem” (Olmert was serving double duty as minister of Industry, Trade and Labor and minister of Communications when he spoke to David Landau of Haaretz on November 13, 2003).
Olmert’s actions: Only four years after expressing those decidedly hard-line sentiments, Prime Minister Olmert made this generous offer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the U.S.-hosted Annapolis Conference in Maryland: Israeli relinquishment of parts of East Jerusalem, with Jerusalem’s Old City – and its religious sites – administered by an international group.
So much for Olmert’s 2003 pledge – before he became Israel’s prime minister – to “not…withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.”
* * *
Should Israelis understand and accept the political reality that politicians often must retreat from pronouncements made during their days in the loyal opposition in order to govern responsibly once they’ve attained power? Or should those politicians be called out for their patronizing pre-power rhetoric?
Do Israelis believe it’s OK for political aspirants to say whatever they feel is necessary to gain power? Or should practicing what one preaches always be the political rule?
A Channel 10 report on Thursday ranked the various Israeli Prime Ministers, since 1991, based on the amount of actual housing construction that began during their respective terms, inside the Israel’s Settlements.
Who Built the Most and When?**
*Also destroyed thousands of buildings and homes. ** This chart doesn’t include infrastructure construction, only homes.
Based on information collected by Peace Now, below are the number of government tenders for new settlement housing that were issued, by year for the past decase. We then correlated that information according to who was Prime Minister at the time.
Who issued the most Housing Construction Tenders?
Again, the information above is for new homes only. It does not include the infrastructure development in the settlements, which Netanyahu, for instance, did a lot of (exact data unavailable at the moment) during this last term as Prime Minister.
According to Peace Now, the Netanyahu government also approved dozens of “outposts”, though what Peace Now calls “outposts” are actually neighborhoods of existing Settlements.
Last night, The Jewish Press was first up with the warning: the destruction of Migron was hours away. Then, Knesset member, Aryeh Eldad called for people to come to Migron to protest the evacuation scheduled for five in the morning. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and loaded some protest posters I had made into my car – a picture of Ariel Sharon with the caption, “BIBI, THINK TWICE!” In the wee hours of the morning, Netanyahu still had the ability to stop the tragic and senseless act.
My 20-year-old daughter came with me. She’s friendly with the wife of Dror Weinburg, of blessed memory, a brave army commander who was killed in Hevron a few years ago in a terrorist ambush, may Hashem avenge his murder. Many times, my daughter has gone to Migron to help his widowed wife with her young children.
A bright moon lit the way toward the small hilltop settlement, a short drive north of Jerusalem. The roads were empty. For long stretches, there wasn’t a car in sight. No army jeeps, no bulldozers, no helicopters, no riot police. Just the sound of the wind over Biblical mountains.
The newly built Migron Bet stood on a nearby hillside like a ghost-town, waiting for its displaced residents to arrive. On the ascent up to the outpost, we reached a roadblock – two army jeeps and a few soldiers. They told us that only residents of Migron could continue up the road. One of them was a young Ethiopian. I asked if the eviction was scheduled for the morning. He lowered his head in embarrassment and said that he didn’t know – his orders were to close off the road.
Parking my car by the side of the road, we got out and stood waiting for more protestors to arrive, but it didn’t look like any crowds were hurrying to get there. As usual, Moetzet Yesha (the Council of Judea and Samaria) was impotent in mounting a battle. There were no Knesset members, no activists from the Land of Israel faction of the Likud, none of the Ministers from the special Settlement Committee which Netanyahu had formed to make it seem like he really cared.
It was 4:30 in the morning when a few photographers and reporters showed up. A van stopped a little ways down the road, and a group of teenagers climbed out and skirted up the rocky hillside on foot, making a detour around the blockade. Other than shining their searchlight on them, the soldiers did nothing to stop them. Apparently there were other roadblocks along the way closer to the yishuv. When it became clear that there wasn’t going to be any meaningful protest at all, my daughter and I returned to the car and headed back to Jerusalem.
HOW CAN IT BE that in this clear time of Redemption, when millions of Jews have returned to the Land of Israel from the four corners of the world, in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and when the reborn State of Israel has been miraculously transformed, through the blessing of God, into a world superpower in a matter of decades, stunning mankind with its achievements in every field of endeavor, and once again becoming the Torah center of world Jewry – how can crises and setbacks like the evacuation of Migron still occur?
I will try to give an answer, based on the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, Rosh Yeshiva of the Har HaMor Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and one of the foremost Torah scholars on the teachings of Rabbi Kook.
The Talmud teaches that three precious gifts were given to the Jewish People and they all require suffering to obtain: the Torah, the World to Come, and Eretz Yisrael (Berachot 5A). For example, it invariably happens that a person comes on aliyah and finds himself confronted with difficulties. He or she finds it difficult to learn Hebrew, to adjust to the Israeli culture and way of life, or to find work. While they were “somebody” in their former communities, and knew how to get around, their egos often take a bruising when they come to Israel – they don’t know many people; they have to establish their identities from scratch; status symbols that meant something in the past and former positions of honor are meaningless now.
It’s been more than six years that attorney Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff and one of his closest confidants, is convinced that what caused Sharon’s collapse, in addition to the blood thinning drugs he was taking at the time, was a broadcast on Channel 10 Television the night before, about corruption investigations against the prime minister.
In an exclusive interview with Yedioth Aharaobot’s weekend magazine, Weisglass relates, “According to a senior doctor with whom I spoke after Sharon had lost consciousness, it was a deadly combination of blood thinners and a sudden, sharp increase in blood pressure. The doctor asked me if I knew of anything unusual that happened close to the time of Sharon’s stroke that might have caused such a sudden increase in his blood pressure. He asked me if Sharon had been upset about something.”
Weisglass concludes: “The more I contemplate these issues, there is just one thing that I can think of, and that is the broadcast on Channel 10.”
According to Weisglass, it was an opening report on the news broadcast, talking about Martin Schlaff and the Cyril Kern affair.
The Cyril Kern affair involved allegations that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received millions of dollars of bribes from Kern, a South African businessman, and from the Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff, through Sharon’s sons.
“The report said that in a message given by the Israeli police to the District Court, the police confirmed that they are conducting an investigation of Prime Minister Sharon who is suspected of taking a bribe from Martin Schlaff. Sharon was very upset after he heard this, mainly because it was the first time this was stated explicitly.”
Explaining how he would know these details about the news broadcast, Weisglass recalls that Sharon called him up immediately after the show.
“I felt the tension and anger in his voice,” Weisglass describes. “Sharon would become hoarse immediately when he was nervous, and during this conversation, he was extremely hoarse. He asked me ‘What is this?’ I told him that I would check it out and started making phone calls. I got back to him and told him that it was an old story from a few months ago. Apparently, another businessman, James Schlaff, Martin Schlaff’s brother, came to Israel and was at his parents’ home in Jerusalem. Police arrived and confiscated his cell phone and laptop. The attorney for James Schlaff made a completely normal appeal in court, to return these items. Either the police or the state’s attorney opposing the appeal said that these items were required in relation to a bribery inquiry. This is what leaked to Channel 10.”
Finally, Weisglass recalls, “I told him, ‘Arik, it’s nothing, forget about it. There are no new developments here.’ But I saw that he didn’t calm down.”
Talk is cheap. The right accuses the left of pursuing a fantasy, namely, that peace is possible. At the same time it suffers from what others consider a fantasy of its own, namely, that Israel can defy the World. While many on the right believe it is no fantasy and can be done, they represent a minority of Israelis only.
You can count the instances where Israeli prime ministers defied the US on the fingers of one hand. Ben Gurion’s declaration of Statehood is one such example, as was his refusal to withdraw in the ’48 war to the Partition line. He insisted instead on the Armistice lines. In part for his intransigence, he was punished with the creation of UNRWA. Eshkol’s decision to pre-empt the Six Day War and Begin’s courageous decisions to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, and to push on to Beirut in the first Lebanese War, were perhaps, others.
Begin, uncharacteristically gave up every inch of the Sinai, after much pressure and prodding. He even came to the conclusion that doing it was a good thing. The most important reason was that, Egypt, then Israel’s biggest Arab enemy, was prepared to break the Arab rejectionist front by making peace with Israel. This was considered a very big deal at the time.
Yitzhak Shamir was forced to participate in the Madrid Conference in 1991 and to negotiate indirectly with the PLO. He was also forced to put Jerusalem on the table. He may have given in because he desperately needed a US loan guarantee on a $10 billion line of credit in order to finance the aliya of close to one million Jews, or nearly-Jews, from Russia. There may have been pressures applied on him as well, as he was dealing with James Baker, who had no love for Jews.
It was due to the pressure and threats that he and by extension Israel was subject to, that Rabin, when he became Prime Minister, opted to by-pass the pressure and to secretly negotiate a deal directly with Arafat, the head of the PLO. What resulted was the Declaration of Principles in 1993 and the Interim Agreement in 1995, together known as the Oslo Accords. These agreements were favourable to Israel as US was not in a position to support the Palestinian position. That is not to say that it wasn’t a huge mistake to invite Arafat back into Judea and Samaria. It was.
After Rabin’s assassination, Benjamin Netanyahu narrowly defeated Shimon Peres for the job of Prime Minister. He based his campaign on his rejection of the Oslo Accords or, more accurately, on his demand for reciprocity before Israel acts on them. Within two years he betrayed his longstanding positions and signed the Wye Agreement in which he turned over control 40% of the territories to the PA as required by Oslo, without demanding reciprocity. Douglas Feith wrote “Wye and the Road to War” in Commentary magazine explaining the significance of the agreement.
It was a known fact that Pres Clinton had promised to release Jonathan Pollard but I doubt that this was why Netanyahu signed the agreement. He may have thought he had no choice but to continue the Oslo process even in the face of Arafat’s non-compliance. In any event, it contributed to his defeat at the hands of Ehud Barak in the elections one year later.
Due to a wave of devastating suicide bombings, Barak resigned in 2001 and Ariel Sharon, the noted war hero, replaced him as Prime Minister. For all his toughness and his defense of the settlement enterprise, expectations were that he would not succumb to pressure. His first task was to put an end to the killings and accordingly he announced:
“All of our efforts to attain a cease-fire have been torpedoed by the Palestinians. The fire did not cease, even for one day. The Cabinet has therefore instructed our security forces to take all necessary measures to bring full security to the citizens of Israel. We can rely only on ourselves. [The following sentence, significantly, was said in Hebrew only] And from this day forward, we will rely only on ourselves.”
But the thrust of Sharon’s remarks [here translated from Hebrew] were directed westward:
“We are currently in the midst of a complex and difficult diplomatic campaign. I turn to the western democracies, first and foremost the leader of the free world, the United States. Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when the enlightened democracies of Europe decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for the sake of a temporary, convenient solution. Don’t try to appease the Arabs at our expense. We will not accept this. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia.”
Some in Israel though Sharon’s remarks were over the top, but I for one, and I was not alone, was thrilled to read them. Reuven Koret wrote about the statement and what may have caused it:
“Israeli officials were uncharacteristically reticent to comment on Sharon’s remarks. Army Radio reported in the morning that they were unable to extract any quote from any government minister with whom they spoke.
Is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s politically “brilliant move” just the opening shot? Will his next move be an attempt to inject the Kadima Knesset members into the Likud? Or is the prime minister planning another Sharon-style bombshell, such as enticing Likud MKs to join him, Kadima and Ehud Barak’s party in forming a new balloon party?
We in Manhigut Yehudit all hope that these are not Netanyahu’s plans. We cannot, however, ignore the worrisome signs and the great temptation that threatens to push him to make such a move.
The simple and logical solution for the Ulpana Hill neighborhood in Beit El is to enact legislation to legalize the construction there. But Netanyahu is torpedoing that solution. This means that his grand coalition has not afforded him enough power to stand up to the pressure of the media and the Left. From our past experiences we know that in situations like this, the Likud’s leaders usually turn sharply left.
“Perhaps your power is your downfall?” Avri Gilad asked me in a Channel 2 interview. “Maybe Netanyahu will leave the Likud because of you, establish a new party, and leave you with the empty shell?”
“That is exactly what Sharon did to Netanyahu,” I answered. “Everyone talked about the empty shell that Sharon left for Netanyahu. But now it is plain to see that the Likud is actually the party that rebounded, while Sharon’s Kadima is the empty shell.”
Nothing can last long without meaning, and certainly not a political party that is supposed to be predicated on an ideology. That is why a party like Kadima, founded on opportunism and essential corruption, or a party based on hatred of the haredi public cannot survive for long.
What gives the Likud its surprising vitality and resilience? Its members. The Likud is a traditional, popular party that faithfully represents the nation of Israel and takes responsibility to lead it.
Sometimes a leader can become confused and think that it is not the party that carries him – but just the opposite. A person who rules on the basis of that erroneous presumption can certainly succeed at first. But in no time it will turn out that he is not equipped with the roots of a real party that will keep him strong in the stormy wind.
How can we prevent these predictions from coming true? At this point we are talking about no more than concern. As long as nothing comes of it, we will strengthen and assist the Likud government and its head in all of their positive undertakings.
However, we must make our concern public. Let our Knesset representatives know that we are attentively watching and waiting to hear what they plan to do if the above scenario plays itself out. The more that this potential move is publicly discussed and the more the ministers and MKs publicize their positions, the less chance that a new “big bang” will actually take place in Israeli politics.
I had just wrapped up a pleasant visit with my good friend Jack from the US. As he pulled away, the beeper beeped, with something of a blood-chilling message: “Police have broken into Machpelah House and are expelling its residents.”
Over the past few days, a number of important politicians had visited Machpelah House, including Ministers Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael Katz, Moshe Kachlon, Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, and MKs Uri Ariel and Tzippy Hotoveli. And there may be others that I’ve forgotten.
When Barak insisted on expelling the families from the building, others, including Gideon Sa’ar and Limur Livnat, protested publicly.
Last night, as we were conducting a small dedication in Machpelah House, Bibi was meeting with a group of ministers to discuss the “crisis.” Unofficial results consisted of “no decision yet” and “no change in status,” at least until of end of April.
So when the storm-troopers crashed the party early Wednesday afternoon, very few people were home. Most were at their “other homes,” getting ready for Passover. It only took a few minutes for the hundreds of police, border police, soldiers and riot squad to round up a few women and kids, and see them to the door. Quiet, peaceful, almost pastoral. Almost. But not quite. Watching a group of about twenty Border-police women surrounding and escorting a young woman with her two very small children isn’t really tranquility-in-action. Actually, it’s rather sickening.
So what happened? Yesterday Bibi said that we’d have some time to prove our case. And today?
It seems that our Prime Minister, as we get close to the holiday celebrating our exodus from Egypt, decided to dress up as the Pharaoh and to assist with another exodus. This one from Hebron. Of course, his original great great granddaddy tried to keep us in Egypt. His great great grandson, the new version of the Pharaoh, is doing the opposite, which is, expelling us – from our homes, our property, our land.
Good ol’ Bibi is the same Prime Minister whose actions took Hebron into Hell. The decision to split the city, leaving most of Hebron with Arafat, including the hills surrounding the Jewish community, led to massive gunfire directed at us for two and a half years. Leading to the killing of Shalhevet Pass, and to the injuring of others, physically and otherwise. Bibi promised us we’d be safe. He lied.
In the government decision of January, 1997, Bibi promised to assist Hebron, building and developing its Jewish community. He lied.
A day ago, Bibi promised that Machpelah House residents would have a chance to prove that they really own the building. He lied.
A true Pharaoh at heart.
Bibi’s coalition is fairly right-wing. The people in his cabinet certainly lean right. Likud’s MKs, for the most part, certainly lean right. His coalition partners certainly lean right.
Except for one: Ehud Barak. Barak is, for all intents and purposes, partyless. He left Labor, and doesn’t have a spot in the polls. He’s a nothing, a political nobody. Yet he is Defense Minister of the State of Israel, and as such, wields tremendous authority. So much so that his lone opinion outweighs that of Netanyahu’s party, MKs, Ministers and coalition. So if Ehud says…, Bibi does.
What a mighty, powerful Pharaoh!
It’s clear that this is not an isolated incident. It fits, hand–in-hand, with Barak’s plans to expel Jews from Migron, Beit El, and who knows where else. This is just the beginning of the rolling of the snowball, whose true goal is the deletion of all Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
Other Prime Ministers have expelled Jews from their homes: Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert. What happened to them?
That’s where Pharaoh Bibi is headed. In the same direction. He will fizzle and fail. And Machpelah House, as ensconced in the name (Machpelah means ‘double’), will double, triple and quadruple itself, many times over.