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February 14, 2016 / 5 Adar I, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘UTJ’

Strange Bedfellows

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

If there was ever a question about whether all Orthodox Jews support settlers this should end it. Haredi media personalities last week called for a boycott of Judea and Samaria products. That’s right. They have joined the BDS movement. At least the “B” part of it.

For those unfamiliar with the term – BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanction. This is a campaign started in 2005 by Palestinians and their sympathizers who claim that Israel is an oppressive occupier of innocent Palestinians. They have called for a boycott of all products and divestment of any businesses who have dealings with Judea and Samaria. They have also called for sanctions against the State of Israel itself until they give in to all the Palestinian demands including but not limited to “returning” the territory to its “rightful owners” the Palestinian people.

Most of us thought that anyone who supports sanctions like these are either anti-Semites or seriously misguided if well intentioned people. Many of whom are Jews. Misguided because they fail to see the broader picture; do not factor in historical facts or security issues. Well intended because at least in some cases they see what appears to be injustices and want them to be corrected.

The Haredi world apparently feels the same way. They could not care less if Israel retains Judea and Samaria – as long as their Mosdos (religious institutions) get funded. That is the reason for the boycott. From JTA – here is the way some Haredi media personalities put it:

“We need to think twice about supporting those who hate us. It’s about time we stop being suckers,” commentator Avi Bloom said, according to the Times of Israel. “When Bennett cries about mothers not being able to sleep at night, you can come and ask him by what right does he not allow Tel Aviv mothers, and now ultra-Orthodox mothers as well, to sleep at night because of the need to protect some random outpost.”

Kol Baramah commentator Yaakov Rivlin echoed the sentiment. “It’s time to end all these relations with the real estate dealers in the West Bank territories,” he said.

A senior columnist for the Hamodia newspaper, Yisrael Hershkowitz, wrote, “The settlements will pay the price for the costly arrogance” of Bennett.

Hershkowitz said companies located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank or companies owned by settlers could go out of business if boycotted by haredim.

Now I am no supporter of settlements. Certainly not those “random outposts” that are there for Religious Zionist reasons about settling all of Eretz Yisroel. Although I do believe in that religious principle I do not believe now is the time for that. In fact believe that Israel should do whatever it can to avoid conflict with Palestinians or exacerbate their enmity. Israel should bend over backwards to avoid oppressive measures to the extent that it is able to do so without compromising the safety of its citizens. I believe that Israel tries to do that to the best of their ability despite accusations to the contrary by the BDS people.

I believe that Haredim are on the same page with me on the issue of West Bank settlements. But where I part company with them is when they start boycotting people – not because they think Israel is being excessively harsh on the Palestinian people. But because they think it will pressure the government into continuing its financial support at previous levels. And also because of their opposition to the political right wing (that champions the cause West Bank settlements and includes Religious Zionists) that insist Haredim have to subject themselves to the draft equally with all citizens. Haredim want them to ‘pay a price’! for all of that, it seems.

So there you have it – BDS and Haredim uniting to boycott the Jewish State – even if not in common cause. Never in a million years would I have ever predicted this unholy coalition. And yet… there it is.

There is something not quite right when religious Jews unite with enemies of the Jewish people to undermine the Jewish State. Even if one does not support the settlements, to boycott them along with our enemies because of financial considerations or as a means to punish political opponents does not become people who claim to be the most religious and God fearing among us.

Although it is off-putting to see all of this happening, one can understand why they do it. The Haredi world in Israel exists financially to a great extent because of government largess. That is why the Haredi parties always join in coalition with the governing party regardless of whether it is a right wing or left wing one. It is their way of getting the most financial support by promising to vote with them on political matters.

Haredim are not political right wingers or left wingers. They are interested only in continuity. They know that much of their community depends on those government stipends just to survive at poverty level. As do their institutions. They believe that dedication to full time Torah study and nothing less is the true Derech HaShem. They therefore see all of this as Hishtadlus – putting forth maximum effort to see that their lifestyle continues unabated.

Desperate men do desperate things. If that means destroying the livelihoods of Judea and Samaria residents via a boycott of their products – so be it.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Disappointed But Not Surprised

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I know that this is their view. Nonetheless, it still pains me when I see them saying so in such stark black and white terms. I am referring to the recent statement by the Agudah Moetzes endorsing the views of their Israeli counterparts on the issue of drafting Yeshiva students. They are obviously very opposed.

While I accept that the members of the Moetzes are talmidei hachamim with few peers; and that their views should be respected, I have to say that there are times – like this one – that makes it very difficult for me to do so. Not because I don’t respect their knowledge. Nor do I suspect that their views are anything but l’shem shomayim – for the sake of heaven. I truly believe that they are selfless human beings that have dedicated their lives to doing the will of God and serving Klal Yisroel.

Here is a translation of their most recent proclamation from the Baltimore Jewish Life:

We are deeply dismayed by the efforts in Eretz Yisroel to draft B’nei Yeshiva and remove them from the Beis Medrash, the wellspring of Torah to which they dedicate their days and nights. The perseverance and security of Hashem’s people are rooted in its dedication to Torah study, as Chazal comment on the posuk “Our feet were standing at your gates, Yerushalayim”: “What will enable our feet to stand firm in war? The gates of Yerushalayim, where [Jews] devote themselves to Torah study.”

We appeal to the members of the government in Israel not to take any steps that will in any way negatively affect the B’nei Yeshiva and their study of Torah. For Torah study is “our life and the length of our days,” which will “lead us, upright, forever.” Like I said, this is no surprise. But it bothers me just the same. I understand the issue. They say that Torah study is what saves the world. That without it, the world would cease to exist… and that certainly Torah study is what protects the Jewish people. Granted. But what this statement does not say is that security requires not only Torah study but in the case of Israel – an army. This very simple fact – and it is a fact – was acknowledged in public by Rav Haim Shmulevitz, a Gadol of an earlier generation. I can’t even count anymore the times I’ve quoted this revered sage of the 20th century on this issue. He did not make it up. Nor is there any rabbinic opposition to this fact. It is the truth. It’s called hishtadlus – maximum mental and physical effort. Hishtadlus in this case requires that we do whatever earthly things we can to accomplish the goal of protecting Jewish lives. Which means that we do not rely on miracles. If there were no army, there would be no hishtadlus. It is true that Torah holds up the world. But as R’ Haim said we need not only a spiritual army. We need a physical army as well. If that were not so, there would no such thing as a milchemes mitzvah (a war mandated by God). We would just all sit in a beis hamedrash and study Torah until our enemies were destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. David HaMelech captured Jerusalem not by staying in the beis hamedrash but by going to war.

This statement does not address that issue. Nor does it answer the pain and suffering of families whose sons have been maimed or killed in doing their hishtadlus in battle, while yeshiva students do theirs in relative safety. The idea of “sharing the burden” which is what proponents of drafting Haredim want – is based on this kind of inequity. Why do they not address it? How can they not? How can they just say they are dismayed by a possible draft without addressing this issue?

Nor do they explain why they feel that the status quo ante should remain untouched in any way? I could better understand if they had said that there ought not be a draft for Haredim – if they qualified it with the requirement to root out those who are faking it or just going through the motions because of peer pressure. Or maybe even those who are learning but not quite at the level one would expect of someone who is Torah umnaso (Torah is his job).

The Mysteriously Missing Religious Alliance

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

While the Lapid-Bennett alliance is still holding strong, much to Netanyahu’s consternation, recriminations are flying between the religious parties as to why no religious political bloc formed instead, which would have given the religious parties more power in negotiations with the Likud.

According to a report in the online Hareidi paper, Kikar Shabbat, MK Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) claimed that the Hareidi parties refused to join together with them to create a religious alliance.

MK Meir Porush (UTJ) responded and said that they sat with the Jewish Home, both before and after the election to discuss the idea, but never got an answer.

Porush said they offered to work in strengthening the settlements, and to look out for the needs of the National-Religious, and in exchange, Jewish Home would work to protect Yeshiva students [from the draft].

Porush claims that Bennett promised to think it over and give them an answer, but he never received a response.

Porush left a door open and said that perhaps Bennett requires more time to think over the offer, and not that he is refusing their offer completely.

Porush also dismissed the claims that it was Rav Shteinman that “ripped up” the cards, after he refused to support the idea of a religious bloc with Jewish Home, and even going so far as refusing to meet with National-Religious rabbis in his home to discuss the idea. Porush said that the Degel HaTorah faction inside the UTJ gave a “green light” to protect Torah learning and the offer is still there.

On Monday, the Hareidi Hebrew Mishpacha newspaper ran an article entitled,  “Migron [settlement] in Exchange for Ponovitch [yeshiva]” and “Haredi Price Tag”.

Ponevitch for Migron

Mishpacha claimed in the article that senior members of UTJ said they would work to destroy the settlements if the Bennett-Lapid alliance isn’t broken, as it endangers Torah learning, and that “Torah learning is more important than the Land of Israel”.

The article didn’t discuss how their “retaliatory” price tag attack would affect their own Hareidi constituents in all-Hareidi settlements such as Beitar Ilit, Modiin Ilit and Tel Tzion.

 

Shas and UTJ to Join Coalition by Week’s End

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Both Shas and UTJ are claiming they will be in the government by the end of the week and perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to a report in Kikar Shabbat.

Other sources report that the parties have reached a compromise on the universal draft issue that the Gedolim (Torah sages) can live with, as well as the Likud.

JewishPress.com sources say that Shas may again receive the Interior Ministry. The Srugim website confirms that, and adds that Shas was also offered the Minsitry of Religion, an additional ministry to be named later, and Deputy Minister of Education.

The question still stands if Bennett and Lapid will be in the government, or perhaps, if Labor will go in, in their place.

On Israeli TV tonight, Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said there is no alliance with Lapid, just understandings on specific issues, implying that they could join the government even if Lapid doesn’t. Jewish Home has no problem sitting with the Hareidi parties, while Lapid does.

For the Jewish Home, one of the important issues that they want agreed upon for them to enter the coalition is that the Edmond Levy report be adopted by the government.

Once Netanyahu approaches the needed 61 seats, he can then ask for a 2 week extension to close the last party that pushes him over the top.

But will that last party be Jewish Home, Yesh Atid, or Labor?

Netanyahu Not Discounting New Elections, Likud Says

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not discounted the possibility of holding new elections, senior sources in the Likud-Beitenu faction say, according to the Israeli publication, Ma’ariv.

Netanyahu has had a hard time forming a government because of the feud between the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties on the one hand, who desire a universal draft policy, and Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, who want to maintain the status quo in which the vast majority of Haredim do not serve, pursuant to an exemption for yeshiva students.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Jewish Home chairman Naftalli Bennett have reportedly agreed to enter or stay out of the government as a bloc. The two parties comprise 31 Knesset Members between them, and Netanyahu will not practically be able to form a coalition with out them.

Forming a coalition with them will not be easy either, as Shas and UTJ would not join due Yesh Atid and Jewish Home’s insistence on a universal draft plan. In that case, Netanyahu would likely have to include Tzipi Livni, and possibly also Kadima to form a stable coalition of seventy seats.

The possibility of new elections is only the latest in public posturing by the various parties engaged in coalition negotiations.

By law Netanyahu has 28 days to form a government which has the backing of the Knesset and can ask for an extension of 14 days. If Netanyahu cannot form a coalition by then, the President would then ask another Member of Knesset to form a government, who would then have fourteen days to form a government. If a government could not still not be formed, new elections would have to be held.

Bennett’s Unholy Alliance with Lapid

Friday, February 15th, 2013

I’m not going to pretend I was satisfied with the Likud’s election campaign, or even all of Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s policies/positions over the last four years (e.g., Bar Ilan, the freeze, etc.). But in the past four years, we’ve had, first of all, a government that lasted  just about four years, which is quite an achievement in and of itself in Israel. And we’ve managed to stave off international pressure while getting sanctions in place against Iran. At the same time we’ve had modest domestic achievements, keeping the economy stable despite a global crisis and lowering the monthly cost of living.

Yet, leading up to the elections, I was shocked by how many people were so ready to abandon the Likud and Netanyahu, despite the fact that they knew only he could be Prime Minister and would need a strong showing for the Likud-Beitenu slate in order to have a stable center of gravity for his coalition.

On the day of election, I argued that weakening the Likud-Beitenu, even if by voting for the Jewish Home, to Netanyahu’s right, will actually strengthen whatever left-of-center party will join the government. That’s because even if “the right” has a majority of the Knesset, even 65 seats, a stable government requires more than that. Netanyahu will have no choice, just as he did after the last election, but to bring at least one party from the left in to stablize the coalition. Otherwise any coalition partner could bring down the government.

As the Likud-Beitenu dropped in support, that became more and more true, since the less seats it would have the more vital each coalition partner would be. While that would make Jewish Home more vital to the coalition, it would also have a similar affect on the other parties. The only method Netanyahu has of neutralizing that problem is by bringing in more parties. Practically, the weaker Likud-Beitenu was, the more necessary a left-wing party would become to the coalition. That party was Yesh Atid, which seems to be the most centrist of the sizable left-wing parties.

That prediction, or actually warning, came true with a vengeance. Not only did the Likud lose seven mandates worth of votes to Jewish Home (Jewish Home got 12 and Power to Israel got two, for a total of 14 – seven mandates greater then these two parties represented in the prior Knesset), but Yesh Atid almost doubled in size, going from a predicted 10 to 19 mandates.

So, predictably, Netanyahu’s first post-election call was to Yair Lapid.

At that point Netayahu had two realistic possibilities for a right-of-center coalition: Likud-Beitenu-Jewish Home-Yesh Atid+Shas (with a moderate Haredi-draft plan) for a 72 seat coalition OR  Likud-Beitenu-Jewish Home-Shas-UTJ-Livni-(Kadima) for a 67-69 seat coalition without Lapid (unclear draft plan, but relatively decent foreign policy positions).

(A Likud-Beitenu-Jewish Home-Shas-UTJ coalition would amount to 62 seats, would result in do-nothing government, with a bad budget, and might even fall by the time the next budget came up).

When it became clear that Lapid’s demands were too inflexible, making Shas unwilling to join the coalition, meaning the first option was not going to happen, the second option became more necessary. So Liberman went about trying to make it happen, meeting with the Jewish Home. Talks began with Livni as well. But then Bennett and Lapid formed an alliance:  Bennett would not join the government, unless Lapid also joined.

Practically, that means that Netanyahu can’t form a government without Lapid. It also means that Lapid will be strengthened in his demands, specifically his universal draft plan (which sees lowering the amount of yeshiva-exemptions to a mere 400, lower than it was in the early years of the state) and Shas and UTJ will not sit in the government. Lapid will be doubly strengthened in his demand for a renewed focus on the peace process (he still clings to Golda Meir’s non-sense slogan of, you only make peace with your enemies), because not only does he have more leverage with Netanyahu, but also because Netanyahu will need to bring in more left-wing partners to stabilize the coalition, such as Tzipi Livni who demands that she lead a renewed negotiation effort.

Netanyahu tried to break the alliance by offering Bennett virtually everything he wanted prior to elections – greater say over government guidelines and ministries – in exchange for being the first party to join the coalition. That would have weakened Lapid’s position and forced him to moderate. But Bennett refused.

The Future Coalition and the Israeli Right

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

So the final results are almost completely tallied and it’s pretty bad for the right-wing, especially Likud-Beitenu, despite the fact that the Benjamin Netanyahu will likely form the next government.

The only threat to Netanyahu forming the government is a joint Shas-Lapid boycott. Likud-Beitenu and Jewish Home comprise 43 seats. Shas and UTJ (17) bring it up to 61 or Lapid (19) will bring it up to 62. Only if Lapid, Shas and UTJ (or even Lapid and Shas) boycott Netanyahu will Netanyahu not be able to form the government. That scenario would also require Livni and Yachimovitch and Lapid to agree on making one of these three their candidate for Prime Minister, which is even more unlikely. Also, Shas publicly endorsed Netanyahu for Prime Minister in an advertisement prior to the elections, apparently counting on the fact that Lapid will compromise on a universal draft.

Nevertheless, for Netanyahu to form a stable coalition (closer to 70 seats) he would need to Shas and/or UTJ compromise with a plan to draft Hareidim, as he said in his “victory” speech last night that he plans to make a priority and because Lapid is now too large to ignore, especially relative to a weak Likud.

Kadima – which escaped what would have been a well-deserved political death – could be another leftist party which Netanyahu could bring on board to strengthen the coalition, especially if Shas will not join.  This would bring the coalition up to 64 seats, that’s still not that stable, but at least Kadima won’t be able to ask for much with it’s meager two seats.

That would mean giving Mofaz something that Mofaz would feel will make him and Kadima relevant until the next elections, perhaps some lessor ministry or as a minister without portfolio. (Mofaz’s other options to survive through the next elections are (a) to somehow re-establish himself outside the government, which is unlikely; (b) to rejoin the Likud with his tail between his legs, which is also unlikely considering how he treated Netanyahu after Netanyahu brought him into the coalition before; (c) merge with another left-wing party which would be equally embarrassing for him and also unprofitable for the other party; or, (d) wait for Olmert to return and save him).

Some other thoughts:

* The success of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid in garnering 19 mandates, making it the second largest of all parties is the biggest surprise of the election. It’s almost twice as high as Lapid polled before the elections and 19 more than Lapid had before as this is his first election. Like Liberman before, Lapid will likely be Netanyahu’s major partner as under almost any coalition figuration Yesh Atid can bring down the coalition.

* The Jewish Home’s success was not as great as predicted but it was still quite an achievement to garner 12 Knesset seats. The joint Jewish Home-National Union list represented only seven seats in the outgoing Knesset and only a few months ago hoped to get up to 10 seats in the next Knesset. Kudos to them for running a great campaign, including Anglo candidate Jeremy Gimpel who chaired the English-speakers campaign and Jeremy Saltan who was the English-speaker’s campaign manager, despite the fact that Gimpel himself will not be in the next Knesset.

* The Likud-Beitenu’s drop from 42 seats in the outgoing Knesset to 31 in the next is the second biggest surprise. Liberman said last night that he does not regret the merger: Of course he doesn’t, his party only dropped to 11 seats in the Knesset, from 15, despite the fact that he has been indicted, based on testimony from one of his former lieutenants and was absent during the campaign.

The Likud on the other hand lost its upward momentum and now comprises only 20 Knesset seats (only one more than newcomer Lapid). That’s quite an embarrassment for the what is supposed to be the leading party in Israel.

Not that Liberman/the merger should take all the blame. The campaign was terrible from almost every angle – functionally and strategically – and Netanyahu’s no-risk political philosophy may also be to blame for failing to motivate new voters, even though it is good for managing a coalition and providing much-needed stability to the country.

* The “Right” as a whole lost out. Instead of 65 seats (or more, even up to 71 according to some polls), it now has 61. And, remember, the right-wing bloc is not necessarily all right-wing. UTJ is only right-wing on religious issues. On Judea and Samaria, standing up to the international community and economic issues, it is to the left. Shas is also to the left on economic issues and with Aryeh Deri back at the helm it is not clearly to the right when it comes to security-territory issues. Even without Deri, Shas was the prop that kept the Olmert government together after the Second Lebanon War. So really the Right has only 43 reliable seats (Likud-Beitenu + Jewish Home).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/hadar/the-future-coalition-and-the-israeli-right/2013/01/23/

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