Likud and Otzma Yehudit overnight Friday reached a draft agreement on the latter’s positions in the next government, bringing closer the signing of the full agreement which will include budgets, resolution of essential issues, and foundational guidelines.
According to Otzma Yehudit, the draft agreement is added to Likud’s commitments of the past week, which include regulating the Homesh outpost in northern Samaria which sits in the 2005 disengagement area, settling the status of the Evyatar yeshiva following the promises of the Bennet-Lapid government, regulating the “illegal” outposts, enacting a law sentencing individuals involved in a protection racket to up to 10 years in prison, and expanding the self-defense Dromi Act to include permission to shoot burglars invading IDF bases to steal weapons and ammunition.
Meanwhile, talks between Likud and Religious Zionism are still stuck, and Kan 11 cited Likud officials who said they miss their negotiations with Naftali Bennett (who ended up at Defense), suggesting Bezalel Smotrich is much tougher. They also said his demands were outrageous and baseless.
But Smotrich does not appear to be giving in to the enormous pressure the Likud propaganda machine is using against him (Religious Zionism: One Thing Is True about our Coalition Negotiations – Likud Lies). On Thursday, Smotrich received much-needed support from the leading national-religious Rabbis Haim Drukman, Dov Lior, Haim Steiner, and David Chai HaCohen, in the form of a declaration:
A Clarification for the Benefit of All Hearers of the Truth
We consider MK Bezalel Smotrich trustworthy in his path of protecting the lives of the Jews in Judea and Samaria and caring for the security of all of Israel.
His demand for the Defense Ministry is not pretentious but reflects his sense of responsibility for all the people of Israel.
We, the signatories, support his path and protest the smearing of all kinds of lies at this harrowing time,
We call on all those who are loyal to the nation and the land to offer their unqualified support to Bezalel.
Rabbi Lior is Itamar Ben Gvir’s personal rabbi, which suggests there’s little chance the Otzma Yehudit Chairman would betray his comrade in arms.
So, what did Ben Gvir get from Bibi? – and, let me remind you, nothing the presumed PM says can be taken to the bank until after his government is sworn in, and even then, Ben Gvir should sleep with one eye open and take Ayala with him everywhere, holstered gun and all.
Otzma Yehudit will receive the Ministry of Internal Security with new, extended powers, and, among other things, the Green Police (enforcing environmental laws), the Green Patrol (the enforcement arm of the Nature and Parks Authority), the Land Enforcement Authority (investigating illegal construction), and the Border Guard of Judea and Samaria.
As befits those enormous changes, the extended portfolio will be renamed the Ministry of National Security. It will be headed by Ben Gvir who will serve as a cabinet minister and member of the various ministerial committees (the most important of which is the legislative committee, chaired by the yet-to-be-appointed Justice Minister).
In addition, the new ministry will establish an extensive National Guard manned by reservist volunteers who will patrol their own neighborhoods, strengthening governance, public order, personal security, and the fight against criminal organizations and protection rackets. In addition, the Border Guard reserve capacity will be maximized.
So far, on paper, it looks like a cogent plan to tackle Israel’s immediate internal security problems, and I wish Ben Gvir much success in navigating what he has just turned into one of the most senior portfolios in the next Netanyahu government.
Earlier in the negotiations, Ben Gvir also demanded NIS 1.6 billion ($470 million) to raise police officers’ salaries and recruit several thousand new police. Time will tell whether he was promised this crucial component of his plan to revitalize internal security.
Otzma Yehudit also received the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, accompanied by an agreement to expand its authority and areas of operation, renaming it accordingly, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee and National Resilience. The new ministry will operate on an annual budget of NIS 2 billion ($585 million) to develop and empower the Negev, Galilee, and the neighborhoods. The ministry will likely be headed by Issac Wasserlauf, who has been active in the south Tel Aviv resistance movement against illegal African migrants. The same ministry will also be in charge of regulating the Judea and Samaria outposts, forever ridding their residents of the frequent harassment by the Shin Bet Jewish section, the police, and the National Guard. (Meanwhile, according to reports, Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri has acquired the Periphery Ministry, but without the resilience part.)
The whole affair reminded me of the old joke about the matchmaker who tries to convince a yeshiva boy to marry the fantastic shidduch he lined up for him: Princes Margaret. He answers all the boy’s objections, saying she is beautiful, educated, wealthy, and for the right husband would definitely convert. Finally, after hours of relentless persuasion, the yeshiva boy breaks down and agrees to give it a try, and the matchmaker sighs deeply and says, “Now comes the hard part.”