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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘unity government’

Palestinians Unite to Preserve Corruption

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The unity agreement that brought together the Fatah and Hamas Palestinian factions is, according to the New York Times, already paying dividends for the Palestinian people. According to the feature on the efforts to implement the accord, newspapers from the West Bank and Jerusalem are now on sale in Gaza and those from the Hamas-ruled enclave are now available on newsstands in the area run by the Palestinian Authority. That’s good news for consumers of the propaganda published by the two main Palestinian factions’ media operations.

Meanwhile, the Times is far more interested in the brewing controversy over what to do about the murders committed by the two factions against each other. A Palestinian commission is trying to get the families of the members of Fatah slaughtered by Hamas in its 2007 coup to accept monetary compensation rather than press their case and insist that the murderers be given the death penalty. The same is true of those families of Hamas members killed by Fatah. The pressure for the families to accept “social reconciliation” is yielding mixed results as many residents of both the West Bank and Gaza weaned on a culture of violence directed mainly against Israelis and Jews are focused on revenge and not much interested in the concept of forgiveness, even when applied to fellow Palestinians.

This dynamic will play a large role in whether this scheme will work in the long run. But of far greater interest to the rest of the world are two other questions that will impact both the chances of peace with Israel and the willingness of the international community to subsidize the PA: integration of the “security” forces employed by Fatah and Hamas and how to pay for all of the Palestinians in both factions that are being supported via no-work and no-show government jobs.

While reform of the PA’s spending policies is key to any hope of building an economy for the Palestinians, the more immediate question is what to do about the glut of government workers in Gaza. For the last seven years 70,000 Fatah employees have been collecting their paychecks without having to show up for work in Gaza since the Hamas coup. Meanwhile, 40,000 Hamas supporters are also getting government paychecks for doing or not doing the same jobs. Since the economy of both the West Bank and Gaza is largely fueled by the paychecks that come from this patronage scheme, turning off the spigot for either of these groups would create a crisis that could lead to violence.

The fact that Hamas made do with only 40,000 government employees where Fatah had 70,000 is not so much a tribute to the efficiency of the Islamists as it is one to the vast scale of the patronage system that was put in place by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s predecessor Yasir Arafat. Suffice it to say that Hamas is no more likely to get a good day’s work from many of its 40,000 workers than Fatah was from most of its 70,000. But unless the PA can find a way to keep all 110,000 on the government payroll, there will be major trouble in the Strip, of which the suffering of the families of these “workers” will be just the tip of the iceberg.

But as much as this problem makes the struggles of American state governments with an expensive municipal bureaucracy look like child’s play, it must be recognized that such corrupt practices are the foundation of the Palestinian economy. Government corruption and regulations aimed at filling the pockets of PA leaders make normal economic development virtually impossible. The attempt of former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad to implement reform was a flop because both Palestinian parties opposed it. The only thing keeping the West Bank fiscally afloat is the money donated by the EU and the U.S. in order to pay an even larger number of PA patronage employees, few of whom are asked to lift a finger in exchange for the money.

White (House) Washing Hamas

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to clean up the mess he created at a closed-door meeting on Friday by claiming Israel had a future as an ‘apartheid state’ if it doesn’t make peace with the Palestinian Authority soon, the American Way, a White House adviser has just added more fuel to the fire.

Middle East adviser to the White House Philip Gordon told American Jewish leaders this week that the new Palestinian Authority unity government deal between the Fatah faction and Hamas terrorists “isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Gordon told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at a special briefing that the Palestinian Authority’s impending Hamas-Fatah unity government took the American mediators by surprise, i24News TV reported.

He added that Secretary Kerry warned PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that the timing of the unity deal was not good, and that the U.S. was not pleased by the news.

Nevertheless, the White House appears to have taken a “wait and see” attitude. Gordon commented during his briefing that in any case it would have been nearly impossible to reach a permanent peace with “half a Palestinian entity.”

The remark is a reference to the fact that the PA chairman and his Ramallah-based government only actually control certain areas in Judea and Samaria. Nearly one half of the PA – the entire region of Gaza, in fact – is under the iron fist of the Hamas terrorist organization. Even Abbas cannot enter Gaza without the permission of the Gaza leadership, for fear of assassination.

All of southern Israel and significant parts of central Israel have been vulnerable to rocket, mortar and missile attacks from Gaza for several years. More than 12,000 such attacks have been launched at Israel over the past decade.

At least two mini-wars have been fought against the region in order to silence the deadly rocket fire that periodically disrupts daily civilian life in southern Israel, and more than a thousand PA Arab terrorist prisoners were freed in a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas in order to rescue IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held hostage in Gaza for more than five years after being kidnapped by a group of Hamas-affiliated terrorists in June 2006.

Plots, Schemes And Coalitions

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Last month we saw something historic in Israeli politics – the largest unity government ever formed. Unlike most unity governments, this one was born neither from a sense of national emergency nor from an era of national euphoria, where political differences fade. Instead, this coalition was induced by the threat of the ballot box and is a result of Israeli politicians’ strategic dedication to either keeping their seats or scoring the slot above them in the next coalition jig.

For many observers, the “surprise” that greeted Israelis on May 8 was yet another political dance where the citizen stands on the sidelines, half-bewildered, half-relieved, but ultimately a spectator meant to watch, wonder, and wait for another year and half to be heard from again.

When it comes to Israel’s representative governance, is the tail wagging the dog? Put another way, is Israel’s citizenry merely an accessory to the political decision-making of the day?

There is no debating the many benefits that may derive from a unity government for Israel. With a nuclear Iran fast approaching, Syria imploding, Turkey menacing, and Hizbullah-Hamas gaining strength rapidly, stability is a good thing, which explains why most Israelis don’t want early elections. Indeed, there are other benefits that could derive from a Likud-Kadima union, such as the ability to fast-track emergency legislation like the Tal Law, budgetary issues, and critical electoral reforms. But as in all things, there is a subtext to this story that cannot be expediently swept under the rug. In this case, it has become clear that the unity government’s main ambition is consolidating its own power, as Israelis are once again forced to endure ad hoc-style governance in which day-to-day politicking is more about the maintenance of power then exercising it.

Sadly, the numerous scandals and convictions of former prime ministers, presidents and MKs are constant reminders of unscrupulous public servants blatantly neglecting their national duties. This is not to say there are not good, well-intentioned men and women in the Knesset who seek to improve the lives of Israelis. There are many. But the overall climate inside Israel’s governing class is one that applauds – even pursues – stability at the cost of clarity in policy.

Israelis are an audaciously capable people in times of crises. The concern is that political stability could lead to policy inertia, which leads to a fatal sense of apathy.

To most honest observers, the Netanyahu/Mofaz marriage is one of convenience, a mutual desire for power consolidation and political momentum. And how can we blame either of them for mimicking the political strategies of the day? Netanyahu has managed to successfully navigate – even dominate – a political system, while Mofaz – newly installed as Kadima’s head – effectively read the writing on the wall regarding Kadima’s chances in an early election. What is indisputable is the complete lack of effort by either leader to court the general public in the formation of this unprecedented coalition.

This disinterest in the grassroots constituency has become standard. Take, for example, the Netanyahu government’s response to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who took to the streets last summer to protest Israel’s centralization of wealth and power. The Israeli grassroots finally made their voice heard, but lacked the clarity of purpose and the sacred national symbols to unite and speak truth to power. We should have seen a more serious response than the appointment of the Trachtenberg commission.

Since then, Israelis citizen have been led – by delays and other obfuscations – back into the grip of societal apathy, where they congratulate the government for forming a coalition but fail to hold it accountable for demands which swept the nation less than 10 months ago. And so, demands from a broad consensus of Israel’s population have so far yielded only minor legislative changes and a unity government that can more easily diffuse accountability for inaction.

In looking at the current coalition, we must ask ourselves: Does Israel get the leaders it deserves? For an ancient people founded on the republican principles of individualism, community, and ethical responsibility, leadership from the Jewish perspective has always flowed upward, from the people. While the people are supposed to be the power behind the throne, Israel’s democracy has become filled with willing subjects. In the end, the blame lies with a public that has abdicated its duty – to be comprised of active citizens and advocates for a better nation that doggedly participate in their community and politic. Until such an innervated citizenry arises, Israel will continue to produce the leaders that reflect their own abdication and take advantage of the power vacuum, governing ad hoc on the basis of petty politics.

Plots, Schemes, and Coalitions

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Earlier this month we saw something historic in Israeli politics – the largest unity government ever formed. Unlike most unity governments, this one was born neither from a sense of national emergency nor from an era of national euphoria, where political differences fade. Instead, this coalition was induced by the threat of the ballot-box and is a result of Israeli politicians’ strategic dedication to either keeping their seats or scoring the slot above them in the next coalition jig. For many observers, the “surprise” which greeted Israelis on May 8th was yet another political dance where the citizen stands on the sidelines, half-bewildered, half-relieved, but ultimately a spectator meant to watch, wonder, and wait for another year and half to be heard from again. This scenario begs the question: when it comes to the state of Israel’s representative governance, is the tail wagging the dog? Put simply, is Israeli citizenry merely an accessory to the political decision-making of the day?

There is no debating the many benefits that may derive from a unity government for Israel today. With a nuclear Iran fast approaching, Syria imploding, Turkey menacing, and Hezbollah-Hamas gaining strength rapidly, stability is a good thing, which explains why most Israelis don’t want early elections. Indeed, there are other benefits that could derive from a Likud-Kadima union, such as the ability to fast-track emergency legislation like the Tal Law, budgetary issues, and critical electoral reforms.

There is no doubt that a stable unity government will contribute to Israel’s wellbeing. But as in all things, there is a subtext to this story that cannot be expediently swept under the rug. In this case, it has become clear that the unity government’s main ambition is consolidating its own power, as the Israeli citizen is once again forced to endure ad hoc styled governance in which day-to-day politicking is more about the maintenance of power then exercising it. Benjamin Disraeli, one of the greatest parliamentarians, once said, “Coalitions though successful have always found this, that their triumph has been brief.” Such has been the fortune of too many of Israel’s political coalitions, and the current one cannot argue for an exception.

This is not to say that there are not good, well-intentioned men and women in the Knesset that seek to improve the lives of Israelis and future of Israel. There are many. But the overall climate inside Israel’s governing class is one that applauds, even pursues, stability, at the cost of clarity in policy. In these environments, it becomes difficult for leaders to properly undertake their duties – and understand the nature of their duty – when grappling the ‘greasy pole’ of politics. Serving their real constituency – that is, the general public – instead of their power base is not a notion that illuminates the corridors of power inside Israel.  Sadly, the numerous scandals and convictions of former PMs, Presidents, and MKs are constant reminders of unscrupulous public servants blatantly neglecting their national duties. Israel cannot afford such willful ignorance, given the volatile regional realities and the critical domestic issues that crowd its agenda. Israelis are an audaciously capable people in times of crises. The concern is that political stability could lead to policy inertia, which leads to a fatal sense of apathy.

To most honest observers, Netanyahu and Mofaz’s marriage is one of convenience, a mutual desire for power consolidation and political momentum. And how can we blame either of them for mimicking the political strategies of the day? Netanyahu has managed to successfully navigate – even dominate – a political system, while Mofaz – newly installed as Kadima’s head – effectively read the writing on the wall regarding Kadima’s chances in an early election. What is indisputable is the complete lack of effort by either leader to court the general public in the formation of this unprecedented coalition.

This sort of disinterest in the grassroots constituency has become standard. Take, for example, the Netanyahu government’s response to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens that took to the streets last summer to protest Israel’s centralization of wealth and power. The Israeli grassroots finally made their voice heard, but lacked the clarity of purpose and the sacred national symbols to unite and speak truth to power. The proof of this, as they say, is in the pudding. We should have seen a more serious response than the appointment of the Trachtenberg commission. Since then, the Israeli citizen has been led – by delays and other obfuscations – back into the grip of societal apathy, where we congratulate the government for forming a coalition but fail to hold it accountable for demands which swept the nation less than 10 months ago. And so, demands from a broad consensus of Israel’s population have so far yielded only minor legislative changes and a unity government that can more easily diffuse accountability for inaction.

Jewish Press Radio: The Scoop on the New Government

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The Scoop on the New Government

A new unity government was formed in Israel during the last week and in order to properly discuss the ins and outs of the new government and its foundation, the Jewish Press’ Yishai Fleisher is joined by Jeremy Man Saltan, an insider on the Israeli Knesset and host of the definitive English-language Knesset blog. Together, they discuss the situation that created the new government including a wide-reaching agreement between Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and leader of Kadima Shaul Mofaz to create an overwhelming coalition government. Specifics about the new government are discussed along with thoughts on how long it could last.

Netanyahu Inaugurates Coalition with ‘Four Main Goals’

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Kadima into his Likud-led government at the first cabinet meeting since Kadima’s entry into the coalition.

“This is the first meeting of the broad unity government, and we have many challenges ahead of us. On behalf of all ministers, I welcome Shaul Mofaz as a government minister and welcome the Kadima MKs that have joined the coalition.” Mofaz was sworn in as deputy prime minister and minister-without-portfolio last week.

“In the talks between us, we set four main goals for the broad unity government,” he continued, “changing the Tal Law, changing the electoral system, passing the budget, and advancing the peace process.”

Netanyahu placed greatest priority on advancing a bill that will replace the expiring Tal Law, which permitted Haredi men to defer military service indefinitely. “This week, an inter-party team will be formed to present us with alternatives to the Tal Law. By the end of July, we will pass a law that will divide the burden on a more equal, more egalitarian and more just basis for all Israelis, Jewish and Arab alike, without setting public against public.”

Without going into specifics, Netanyahu also reiterated his and Mofaz’s call last week to reform the electoral system, saying that the government would “establish a team to lead the change in the electoral system.”

One topic that Netanyahu did not address in his statement but is certain to test the strength and durability of the new coalition is the Ulpana outpost crisis. In light of the High Court’s ruling last Monday that Ulpana must be evacuated and destroyed by July 1, there is talk that the government will propose a bill that would circumvent the High Court’s ruling by legalizing Ulpana.

Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau stated that proceeding with the scheduled evacuation and demolition would be “immoral, unjust and inhumane.”

Bibi’s Bombshell Proves He’s ‘Israel’s Number One Politician’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bombshell announcement of a unity government agreement with new Kadima Party head Shaul Mofaz gives the Israeli leader an unshakeable government coalition for at least another year.

Netanyahu had announced at a Likud meeting on Monday evening that the time for new elections had come and urged his supporters to rally behind the party ahead of the September 4 election.

Israeli prime-time TV news programs had already stationed reporters inside the Knesset on Monday night, where a majority of Knesset members were preparing to dissolve the parliament in order to prepare for new elections.

All the while, however, Netanyahu and Mofaz were meeting behind closed doors to discuss the parameters of a unity government deal.

Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni had ignored repeated calls during the past three years from faction members – including Mofaz – to form a unity government with Netanyahu.

President Shimon Peres congratulated Netanyahu on the formation of the new coalition, saying that “a national unity government is good for the people of Israel…the good of the state in light of the crucial challenges facing it requires broad national unity.” Yair Lapid, the former TV broadcaster whose newly formed Future Party was rising in the polls, ripped the formation of the new government. “This ugly alliance will bury all those involved,” he said.

Yossi Verter, who covers politics for the left of center Haa’retz daily, wrote on Tuesday, “After getting over initial feelings of disgust and nausea, you have to admit that Netanyahu has once again taught us all a lesson. He’s Israel’s number one politician, no doubt, by a mile.”

Labor Party chief Shelly Yachimovich will now assume the role of opposition leader.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/bibis-bombshell-proves-hes-israels-number-one-politician/2012/05/09/

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