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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘UTJ’

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).

What Will the Chareidim Do?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

In the past, Chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) participation in election voting has never topped more than around a third of their potential voters.

Chareidim have avoided voting for two primary reasons. The first is to minimize their participation in the Zionist enterprise, the second is that many Chareidim are actually disillusioned with the Chareidi political leadership, and prefer not to vote, rather than vote for them.

But this election may be different.

While there are so few specific issues that this election is revolves around, one of the issues on the table is the Chareidi draft. If the Chareidi parties don’t have a strong enough showing in this election, the results today could actually directly affect many of their lives, in ways they don’t want.

Many Chareidim believe that the unusually high voting levels today are the result of high turnout on the Left. Rumors are flying that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is doing unusually well.

But regardless of how any individual party may be doing, a higher percentage of voters means that both the minimum threshold and the number of votes required per seat will rise too.

As a result, even the Admor of Visnitz (Monsey) has told his extended family in Israel to vote, even though in the past he’s told them not to vote. This is extremely unusual to say the least.

In general, it’s being reported that the Chareidim are very nervous about these elections, and that could translate into a lot more of them voting than they have in the past.

Orthodox Sweep Elections in Israel!

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Fantasy headline? Dream? Fishman gone crazy? The truth is – the only thing preventing it from becoming a reality is the sad and tragic fact that the Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora prefer living as tiny, insignificant minorities in foreign, gentile lands, conducting meaningless studies about saving Diaspora Judaism, when they could be living in the Land which G-d gave to the Jews, where they could play an active part in the Redemption they supposedly pray for every day, by turning the Israeli Knesset into a Beit Midrash of G-d fearing Jews.

Take a look at the numbers. Let’s say that in the coming election, Shas wins 10 seats, the Haredim 6, Jewish Home 15, and Otzma l’Yisrael for a total of 32. Scattered amongst other parties are another 10 Orthodox Jews. That makes 42. There are also another half a dozen or more closet-Orthodox-Jews who would come out of hiding with the appearance of a strong Orthodox trend. But we won’t count them for now. If all 300,000 voter eligible Haredim in Israel who don’t vote would use their brains for one day and vote, that would give the Orthodox another 4 or 5 votes, bringing the total to 48 – but we won’t count them either, because it looks like the miracle of simple, down-to-earth sechel won’t grace their camp within the next two weeks. So out of the 120 Knesset seats, about 43 are/will be Orthodox or from Orthodox parties.

Now, if the 100,000 Orthodox lovers of America who recently filled a baseball stadium in New York to protest against trash on the Internet, and the 100,000 Orthodox lovers of America who filled a stadium in New Jersey to celebrate the siyum of the Talmud, would come to live in the Holy Land and vote, and the other 400,000 plus Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, Monsey, Lakewood, Chicago, Arizona, Beverly Hills, Boca, Toronto, Paris, London, Manchester, Melbourne, South Africa, Belgium, and everywhere they are hiding, would come out of the closet with them, and act on their prayers and actually say goodbye to the gentile countries they so love and come and live and vote in the Jewish Homeland, then those hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews would translate into potentially another 20 Knesset seats, giving the Orthodox a clear and resounding majority of 63 seats, and the headlines would read:

Orthodox Sweep Election in Israel!

Then we’d call the shots, and won’t that be fun!

You can argue about the numbers, but the truth is clear – if the Orthodox Jews of the Diaspora would take a whiff of smelling salt and play a part in the Redemption of Israel which the Master of the Universe has been bringing about over the last 100 years, miraculously rebuilding Zion, just as our Prophets foretold, in the fulfillment of our prayers, and to the amazement of the nations, already making Israel the clear and uncontested Torah center of the world – if the Orthodox Jews of the Diaspora would worry about building the Torah in Israel, instead of trying to hang on to galut as long as they can, then Israel would have an Orthodox Knesset, an Orthodox government, and Orthodox army, and G-d’s Kingdom would be established all over the Earth due to the towering light of Torah which would shine out from Yerushalayim, as the Prophet declares: “For from Zion will go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Yerushalayim.”

Yes, we have problems in Israel. After 2000 years in exile, our Nation has been weakened and is seriously ill. But here, we are like sick people who are getting better. In comparison, the Diaspora is like a terminal unit where everyone is on the way to Forest Lawns. The exile is not meant to last. Now that we can return home to Israel, there is no longer a need for it. Building a new yeshiva in Lakewood, and opening a Chabad House in Las Vegas, is like putting a band-aid on the victim of a fire whose entire body is covered with burns.

It’s time for Diaspora Jews to stop deluding themselves, the rabbis, blog writers, and Federation heads. Diaspora Judaism is a dinosaur of the past. It is destined for extinction. Studies about assimilation and drop-out won’t help. And remember, my friends, becoming more Haredi or more Modern Orthodox won’t do a thing when the millions of rifles in America and Europe are turned on the Jews. It’s happened everywhere else that Jews have ever lived, in all of our wonderful exiles, and it will happen in America too.

Coalition Grumblings: Political Posturing or First Signs of Splintering?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Not even a week old, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is already being forced to deal with internal divisions that threaten its stability and makeup.

The intensifying focus on legislating a Tal Law alternative has the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition defensive yet intractable. Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Yakov Litzman announced that his party would not participate in the newly-established coalition committee on formulating a Tal Law alternative, headed by Kadima MK Yochanan Plesner. His sentiments were echoed by fellow UTJ MK and Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni, who said that the the party would only “participate in the discussions from the outside.”

The Israel High Court ruled in February that the Tal Law, which for all intents and purposes permitted ultra-Orthodox men to defer military service indefinitely, is unconstitutional and must be replaced by August 2012.

According to the Haredi news website Kikar Shabbat, a senior figure in UTJ said that “we can not take an active part in committee meetings that are designed to remove yeshiva students from the Yeshiva. It contradicts our ideals. On the other hand, it is clear that not participating in the committee will result in much criticism and will limit our ability to influence the committee’s conclusions.”

The boycott follows Gafni’s statement over the weekend to Bnei Brak daily Yated Ne’eman that he was specifically instructed by UTJ spiritual leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman “to immediately resign from the government if there’s an attempt to block the study of Torah from our students.

“Any attempt to keep Torah scholars from their studies is an attack on the very soul of the nation,” Gafni stated. “We cannot compromise on this at all… anyone whose heart desires to study Torah must be permitted – without quotas and without conditions. We will never allow the status of Torah scholars to be diminished.”

Internal Affairs Minister and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai on Monday joined UTJ in boycotting the committee after consulting with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. “Torah scholars are not subject to negotiations on quotas and on their basic right to study of Torah. Their contribution to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel is obvious and apparent to any believing Jew.” Yishai added that “Shas will formulate its own solution to the problem will soon shoulder the burden and show the public.”

UTJ holds 5 seats in the current coalition while Shas holds 10.

Despite the harsh words, Prime Minister Netanyahu intends to invite leading Haredi attorney Jacob Weinrot to serve as the ultra-Orthodox liason – but not ‘representative’ – to the committee, according to Kikar Shabbat.

In joining the coalition last week, Kadima stipulated among other things that a bill proposing an alternative to the Tal Law must be presented to the Knesset before the August deadline. Plesner, responsible for formulating Kadima’s platform vis a vis universal military/national service, was appointed head of the committee last Thursday. The committee will also include Prof. Yedidia Stern from the Israel Democracy Institute and Bar Ilan University, Prof. Yaffa Zilbershatz from Bar Ilan University, and former head of the IDF’s personnel branch, Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Zamir.

According to recent statements, Plesner’s idea is to test a formula – which he terms “one third, one third, one third” – whereby each ultra-orthodox recruitment cycle will allocate a third of eligible conscripts to the IDF, a third to national service, and a third would be defined as exempt and would continue Torah study in yeshiva.

A source in the Knesset tells The Jewish Press that an alternative to the Tal Law will likely be enacted, but that the new legislation will be weak or temporary; it is understood that because the main focus for both Kadima and Likud  is electoral reform, they will seek to preserve the broad coalition in order to attain the special majority of 80 MKs required to amend Basic Laws on the Knesset and elections.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/coalition-grumblings-political-posturing-or-first-signs-of-splintering/2012/05/14/

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