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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘yariv levin’

MKs to Submit Bills to Annex Jewish Blocs in Judea, Samaria

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Two Knesset members are set to formally propose the annexation of Jewish blocs in Judea and Samaria today (Monday) in the Israeli parliament.

The bills will reportedly be submitted Monday by Likud MK Yariv Levin and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) MK Orit Strook.

Bayit Yehudi party chairman Naftali Bennett has already gone on record saying he supports annexation of Jewish blocs in Judea and Samaria. He said in a statement last Friday, “We are pushing to apply Israeli law unilaterally over Gush Etzion, Ariel, the Jordan Valley, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ofra, Alfei Menashe, the Ben Gurion envelope, Samaria, Judea and the rest of the Jewish settlement enterprise. It is time to do what is best for Israel.”

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz meanwhile said that he plans to present a bill to expand the Jerusalem municipal boundaries to include surrounding Jewish suburbs in “Area C” under the Oslo Accords.

Specifically, Katz wants to absorb the communities into a “greater metro Jerusalem” region similar to the Los Angeles or New York city models. Under the Katz bill, the city of Jerusalem would grow to include the Gush Etzion bloc and Beitar Illit to the south, and Givat Ze’ev and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast. The move would add more than 150,000 residents to the capital’s growing population.

Last Thursday, Justice Minister and former Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party, slammed Bennett’s unilateral annexation plan. She threatened to leave the coalition over it, claiming it would lead to “the end of Zionism.”

But there is a growing movement to support the idea and it may finally outshout her.

The united capital itself has never been recognized by international leaders — though the millions of tourists who come to Israel each year to visit the holy city don’t seem to be bothered much by that. More than 60 percent of those who visit the country, in fact, are Christians, according to the latest statistics, underlining the freedom of worship guaranteed to all faiths since Israel reunited the city after the 1967 Six Day War.

But since the Jewish State is anyway roundly condemned for what it does — despite the defense of its citizens or benefit to visitors — it appears Israeli lawmakers have realized annexation is not optional and the sooner to get it over with, the better.

In fact, the idea gained a great deal of traction after the collapse of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority last month – and the PA’s instant embrace of the Hamas terror organization. Although Hamas has ruled Gaza with an iron grip since 2007, the Iranian-backed group has also long since slowly infiltrated the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. Hamas is now set to present a strong challenge to Ramallah-based PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his Samaria capital come the next election — and PA Arabs may soon find themselves ruled by Hamas regardless of where they live, with a side order of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terrorists helping out for good measure.

The current situation presents a deep and pervasive security threat to Israeli citizens throughout Judea and Samaria in their current situation, without the protection of a national status. It also presents a dangerous threat to Israeli citizens living within the 1949 Armistice Line, the area of Israel that existed prior to the 1967 Six Day War, many of whom travel daily on roads in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to reach work places.

The Arab population in Area C — which probably has also been infiltrated — totals approximately 300,000 residents, including 74,000 in Jerusalem – some of whom also carry blue Israeli identity cards. That population has the right to vote in two elections; those of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. United Nations officials estimate that some 67,000 Arabs also live in the Area C section of the Hevron area as well.

MK Ze’ev Elkin to Chair Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

Monday, May 12th, 2014

At last, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has a new chairperson: Likud Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin.  It’s taken six months to get there.

Elkin will chair in rotation with senior Likud lawmaker and coalition chairperson Yariv Levin. Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi is expected to replace Elkin as deputy foreign minister.

To soothe the ruffled feathers of Yesh Atid chairman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, his choice for the post – Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah – will instead be made a senior deputy minister.

Lapid has been negotiating with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the issue, forever and a day. The position remained vacant since Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was forced to leave while facing corruption charges in a trial that acquitted him of the allegations last November.

The appointment now goes to the Knesset House Committee for ratification. If approved, Elkin will take the first rotation, until January 1, 2015. Levin will then serve 17 months, until June 1, 2016. Elkin returns at that point, and remains until 2017. Levin will also continue to serve as coalition chairperson until November 2014, and simultaneously chair the Knesset House Committee.

Defining Israel as the Jewish State

Monday, May 5th, 2014

On Thursday, May 1st, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his intention to press for the adoption of a “basic law” that would define Israel as a Jewish state.

Even though Israel was founded as a Jewish state—the 1947 UN resolution on the partition of the British mandate describes it as such—Israel has yet to adopt the definition in its own legal code. Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu’s Justice Minister and erstwhile negotiator with the Palestinians, announced she would oppose the law.

The proposed law goes to the heart of the basic issue that divides Israeli society: Is Israel a Jewish state, meant to protect the interests of the Jewish people, or is it a generic-brand democracy in which a lot of Jews happen to live—perhaps like Florida?

The great majority of Israel’s Jews want to live in a Jewish state. For them, Israel is their state, meant to protect what is dear to them. At the same time the great majority of Israel’s Jews want to live in a free country, where every individual’s rights are respected and leaders are elected or dismissed at the ballot box.

As against the majority, a vocal minority insists that to define Israel as a Jewish state, charged with protecting the Jewish people’s interests, is undemocratic by definition.

This week Ha’aretz, Israel’s hard-left daily newspaper, published an editorial arguing that the main purpose of the proposed law was to eliminate Israeli democracy and legitimize “the occupation, the settlement enterprise and the apartheid regime [sic] imposed on the Palestinian population.”

A lot of symbolism is thus involved in the “Jewish State” law’s passage, or defeat. But the law is not just about symbols; it’s about power.

Political power in Israel is divided between two poles. At one pole are the people’s representatives, elected at the polls, who form the Knesset and the government. At the other, are a range of unelected elites who dominate academia, the press, and most significantly the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.

Unlike the United States, in Israel, judges are appointed by other judges. The people’s elected representatives have little to say about who sits on the bench. For the last 30 years the judiciary and Justice Ministry have been dominated by Israel’s wealthy, secular, liberal left-wing elite. They are a bastion of those who believe that Jewish identity is, at best, a private matter for individual citizens. The believe the state of the Jews should not be defined as either Zionist or Jewish. As a rule of thumb, Israel’s secular left-wing elites lose at the polls but win in the courts, which usually have the last word.

In 1992, the Knesset passed a civil rights law, the “Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.” The courts have interpreted “human dignity and freedom” to mean “liberalism,” usually in the sense of “not Zionism.” The courts have stymied policies approved by the Knesset and government that do not fit the judiciary’s liberal agenda. Right wing politicians such as MK Yariv Levin, chairman of Netanyahu’s Knesset coalition, accuse the judiciary of working consistently to weaken Zionism in Israel.

The proposed new law is meant to even the balance a little. By formally defining Israel as the Jewish state, and defining the Land of Israel as the Jewish homeland, supporters of the law hope to make it hard for the courts to rule against policies rooted in the Zionist idea—from using public land to create communities for Jews to upholding the Law of Return. Furthermore, while the judiciary has traditionally been dominated by Israel’s secular left-wing elite, this dominion has been weakened of late.

Israel’s Supreme Court now has a few junior judges of a conservative bent—conservative not only in their philosophy, but in their view of how the courts should respect elected representatives’ authority to decide public policy. Proponents of the law hope that eventually judges such as Neal Hendel and Noam Solberg will use the “Jewish State” law as a tool to reverse some of the Supreme Court decisions of the past generation.

Coalition Chair’s Letter of Praise for 100 Shofars Protest in NYC

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Protesters who plan to demonstrate today at the world’s largest shofar-blowing event in history in New York City have drawn praise from the Israeli government coalition chairman, who expressed his admiration for their “courage.”

Israeli government coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin  is “deeply moved” by demonstrators who are to gather to protest participation in the Israel Day Parade of groups promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In a letter sent to Richard Allen, founder of JCCWatch – organizer of the rally being held in New York – Levin praised the rally, set for Tuesday April 29 at  5 pm, “courageous stance of so many friends of Israel involved in the parade, calling to delegitimize those who delegitimize Israel.

“It is not logical or reasonable for Israel supporters to condone or overlook or indirectly cooperate with BDS groups which represent the antithesis of support for Israel. Refusing to recognize the State of Israel’s sovereign right to develop and maintain an independent legal position on any issue of national importance is not legitimate.”

The UJA-Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) which sponsors the annual Israel Day Parade, agreed this year to permit a number of anti-Israel groups to march this year in the parade, setting off a tsunami of protest over their participation. Among those  are:

  • Partners for Progressive Israel: which encourages the public to boycott Ahava Cosmetics, SodaStream and wine from nine Israeli vineyards.
  • The New Israel Fund: which finances NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that promote BDS activities against Israel. NIF funds Machsom Watch, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Women Against violence, Social TV and Mossawa, all of which signed a letter to the Norwegian government pension fund, urging it to divest from Israel.
  • B’Tselem: A major recipient of funds from NIF, the group has produced the anti-israel video shown at Israel Apartheid Week events held at various universities around the world. The organization’s board chairman, Oren Yiftachel, has publicly called for “effective sanctions” against Israel.

The rally, promoted as the “largest shofar blowing event in Jewish history,” is set to take place this afternoon (April 29) at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time (New York City) in front of the UJA-Federation building at 130 East 59th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. Participants are urged to bring their shofars to the rally. Those who do not have a shofar but who wish to participate can receive one to use on site.

Scheduled speakers include Rabbi David Algaze from the World Committee for the Land of Israel / Havurat Yisrael; Richard Allen, JCCWatch; Dr. Paul Brody of the Jewish Political Education Foundation; Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel; Beth Gilinsky of National Conference on Jewish Affairs; Mort Klein, head of Zionist Organization of America; Robert Muchnick of Manhigut Yehudit, and Lauri Regan of Endowment for Middle East Truth.

‘Jewish Taliban’ Ordered to Return to Quebec

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

There is a small, tight-knit and strict community of Jews currently in Canada who call themselves “Lev Tahor,” which means “pure heart.” The group is also known by the nickname “the Jewish Taliban.”

This sect is considered an extremist group even by haredi standards.  Probably a short hand way to explain that is the women members wear clothing that resemble burkas. The group has about 200 members.  It is anti-Zionist and has been residing in Quebec, near Montreal, for the past ten years.

However, there have been difficulties between the Canadian authorities and the Lev Tahor sect, primarily over the issues of educating their youth.  In addition, there are ongoing child welfare investigations prompted by outsiders or relatives of the sect members who allege the children don’t have proper hygiene, are neglected and suffer from psychological abuse.  There are also rumors of forced marriages.

The primary issue, according to Nachman Helbrans, the sect leader’s oldest son, is education.  The Lev Tahor’s belief system rejects evolution and the Quebec school requires that all children within the province, even those who are home-schooled, must have curricula that is equivalent to the public schools. Failure to comply with that requirement could mean that the children of group members could be removed from their families and placed in protective services.  That is not something Lev Tahor could tolerate.

The group left Quebec for Ontario last week.  They all left at once, in the middle of the night, in rented buses.

Critics said the group fled a child welfare investigation, while Helbrans said it had been a planned departure because there was no way the group could accede to the Quebec education requirements, and Ontario’s standards are more relaxed.  Leaving in the middle of the night ensured that most of the children would sleep through the trip.

Monday, Nov. 25, a Quebec judge ordered two of the Lev Tahor families who are now in Ontario to return to Quebec for a hearing with child protection officials.  That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Nachman Helbrans told The Star that the families would attend the hearing.

“Legally, they don’t have to go back to court, but they decided to go back just to honour the court.”

Canada is not the only country doing battle with the Lev Tahor.

Actually, the sect has its roots in Israel. The senior Helbrans was born in Kiryas Yoel.  He moved to the United States where he and his followers formed Lev Tahor.  In 1992, Shlomo Helbrans was convicted of kidnapping a 12 year old boy from the Yeshiva where Helbrans taught. His defense was that the boy wanted to be part of Lev Tahor. Helbrans served two years in prison. Following his release, Helbrans was deported to Israel in 2000.

However, by 2003, Shlomo Helbrans and his family moved to Canada.  They entered that country after receiving refugee status. Helbrans claimed he was being persecuted in Israel. The Lev Tahor believe there should not be a Jewish state until the coming of the Messiah, and until that time Jews should not have power in Israel.

A son of the group’s leader fled the group and moved back to Israel.  According to Nachman Helbrans, this brother was in a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, left for Israel, and then claimed his children were being neglected.  Several children from that family were removed and sent to live in Israel with the father.

This month a Knesset committee scheduled hearings on the Lev Tahor sect. Knesset member Yariv Levin called the group before the Child Welfare Committee.  Among the charges raised against the group are: placing people in solitary confinement, forcing little girls into marriages with old men, forcing loving couples to divorce, and hitting children with tire irons.

Following Lapid-Bennett Deal, Likud Facing Civil War

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

At 12:55 PM Wednesday, the prime minister’s office leaked a message so subversive and so clever, it insisted the editor of the 1 PM news edition at Kol Israel attribute it to anonymous “Likud circles.” That’s one notch below “senior Likud officials” and well below “circles close to the prime minister,” which is, basically, the prime minister. I heard it in my car, driving up to Jerusalem, but didn’t pay attention to the special wording. Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi paid attention, and realized the PM people were using the Atomic option.

The Likud circles, according to the leak, threatened that if there won’t be a breakthrough in the coalition negotiations within hours, the Likud would initiate an accelerated negotiations with the Haredi parties for a right-leaning new government without Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

In addition, a higher level source inside the PM’s circles, told Haaretz that Netanyahu believes the reason Lapid has upped the ante of his demands was his buyer’s remorse. Somehow he ended up agreeing to the Finance portfolio, and now, seeing the mess he would have to deal with, he wants to back out, so he’s making it impossible to come to an agreement.

That’s not such an outlandish surmise. Lapid, ever the glitzy charmer, had had his heart set on the Foreign Minister’s job. And he would have made a great FM, kissing hands and raising champagne glasses and all the other fun stuff FMs get to do in Paris, London, Rome, DC, and, of course, Moscow.

Except Avigdor Liberman, Netanyahu’s faction partner, already had dibs on the Foreign Ministry. Liberman couldn’t serve in the government for now, not until the silly corruption suit against him is resolved in court. But Bibi had promised Ivet to hold on to the seat for him, and breaking that promise would have been a deal killer all around.

So Lapid backed off and agreed to take another of the top three portfolios—Finance.

Customarily, the Foreign, Defense and Finance ministries belong to the party of the Prime Minister. It is a rare occurrence, usually driven by a national crisis (such as when Moshe Dayan was invited, from the opposition benches, to become Defense Minister in 1967). So, giving Lapid this high honor was a big thing.

But the job of Finance Minister is not going to make Lapid many friends this time around. No hand kissing and champagne here for the teen idol. The Netanyahu government has accrued a 40 billion shekel (just under $11 billion) deficit which has to be cut from the next budget. Unlike the U.S. government, which can run deficits in the trillion, Israeli governments are prohibited by law from running a deficit that’s higher than 3 percent of the budget. The new deficit constitutes 5.10 percent, and so some cutting has to take place.

And lover boy Yair Lapid will have the dubious honor of deciding what gets cut:

Should it be the new raises to hospital nurses? Low-cost education? Environmental improvements? Social Security benefit increases for the elderly? Highway construction? Train service?

There’s no two ways about it – in the end, someone is going to hate Yair Lapid for whatever cut he’ll make. And since he’s an avowed free market and anti-tax type, he won’t be able to fix things by taking more money from business (although Teva, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical conglomerate, received close to a billion dollars in tax break from the outgoing Finance Minister – that should pay for a few hot lunches).

The leak was a lie, of course, Lapid seems just as eager as before to embrace the, arguably, second most important job in government. But the first anonymous threat, about a coalition with Shas, UTJ and Bennett – especially when, reportedly, backed by Bennett himself, who assured Lapid he intended to stay in government, with or without him – that convinced Lapid it was time to call the game and put the cards on the table.

There’s an old Jewish joke about a shadchan who tries to convince a yeshiva bocher to marry Princess Margaret. He answers every one of the poor man’s questions – she would make a great wife, she has money, she will convert for the right man – until the yeshiva bocher breaks down and agrees to the deal. At which point the shadchan sighs deeply and says: Now starts the hard part.

Will the Likud Remain Democratic?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

One piece of political news that probably went unnoticed to most, especially among all the coalition-negotiation rumors, was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering cancelling the Likud’s primaries.

An article about this was first published on Jan. 28th,  just after the Knesset election on Israel’s Walla news site. Then, over the last few days it sprung up again in Ma’ariv/NRG and Yediot. Another Feb. 10 article in Ma’ariv claims that the Prime Minister intends to have the primaries cancelled before ministers are sworn into the government – that is, potentially in a matter of weeks.

To most people this is just internal party politics, but it’s really not. It directly affects the democratic nature of the State of Israel. In Israel, voters do not choose individual candidates, they choose slates. In effect, there are 120 legislators, but not a single representative. The candidates themselves are chosen via internal party processes – sometimes by a committee – a larger “central committee” or a smaller secretariat or selection committee – sometimes by the chairman, sometimes by the membership in an open primary. Those primaries are the only opportunity a citizen has to vote for an actual legislator, the only time a legislator directly faces a citizen and is held accountable for his record.

Unfortunately, only a few parties hold primaries. Likud and Labor do. This past election cycle, the Jewish Home held primaries, but only half of its list was chosen in the primaries, the rest by the central committee of T’kuma/the National Union. Kadima held primaries for its chairman, but cancelled its primaries for its list because it was expected to only get a maximum of 3 seats (in the end it got two). In total, about 42-3 Members of Knesset were chosen in primaries, meaning about  1/3rd of Knesset Members were chosen by actual people and not by party bosses. Even more unfortunate, is the fact that only a small percentage, something like three percent, of the public is eligible to vote in a party primary, and even less actually do vote.

But still it’s a start. If Israel won’t change over to a district-based electoral system (one representative per district), the only hope for the Members of Knesset being chosen by the people is through the primaries.

The alleged reason for cancelling primaries is, reportedly, that there are those who believe that the Likud’s list was too right-wing and that cost it votes and at the same time, not all party members voted for the party. Or in other words, the “settlers” registered to the party to push candidates like Tzipi Hotovely, Danny Danon, Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin and Moshe Feiglin. The problem with that allegation is that there are many factions within the party who behave this way (like unions and members registered by vote contractors); there probably was a higher voting rate among settlers who were registered for the Likud then those who weren’t;  and of the 11 seats the Likud-Beytenu list lost from its prior standing the Knesset, seven mandates worth of votes went to the right. Any internal party player, especially the Prime Minister knows all this.

It is true though that the primaries are intensely manipulated – by the various factions/MKs/branch chairmen/vote contractors (vote contracting, as I have explained elsewhere refers to the practice of registering people to the party and then kind of bargaining with their votes for personal gain). This is a huge problem. But this manipulation can only take place because so few people are registered to the party. Many of them are registered by internal players, who can trade on their votes.

If, on the other hand, a million or 500,000 people  instead of 120,000 were registered to the Likud, and those people were registered by the party itself and not for any specific internal party player, it would be too hard for any vote contractor or even group, such as a union, to register and control the numbers necessary to manipulate the system. Vote contracting in its current powerful form, would be a thing of the past.

That would require an immense registration effort by the party over several years. That is very possible. In Israel, however, long term solutions, are not the preferred solutions. It’s easier and more seductive to maneuver one’s way to power, which in this case may mean canceling the primaries and concentrate power in the hands of an even smaller group of people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/hadar/will-the-likud-remain-democratic/2013/02/14/

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