First, an important housekeeping message. There had been some trouble with linking to my website. Several repairs/adjustments have been made and now access should be possible without a problem. (In the unlikely event that you still encounter difficulty, it will be because of a lag time in when the repairs show up in the system.)
I urge you to see the website, bookmark it, and share the URL with others. Even if you read my postings regularly, you will find my site helpful. It contains important background information, providing a better understanding of our current situation: on the Temple Mount and the “status quo”; the problems with some – not all – Israeli Arabs; our legal rights to Judea & Samaria; the “two-state solution”; and much more.
You will find marvelous videos about Israel, links to other websites, and a host of other resources.
As to what is moving slowly, as slow as molasses taken from the refrigerator: it is the formation of the new government. It will be officially established in due course, but the process has been tortuous.
All factions that will make up the new government – Religious Zionists, headed by Bezalez Smotrich; Otzma Yehudit, headed by Itamar Ben Gvir; United Torah Judaism, headed by Moshe Gafni ; Shas, headed by Aryeh Deri; and Noam, headed by Avi Moaz – have come to terms with Likud regarding basic arrangements, but have not yet formally signed on to a coalition agreement.
What is holding matters up is the insistence of three of the factions that certain legislation first be amended. This legislation – on three different matters – in theory could have been amended after the coalition was sworn in. But there’s a catch. Those demanding the adjustments in legislation do not have confidence that Netanyahu would adhere to his promises to follow through once he had his coalition in place. This is painful, but they are not wrong. There is a history here. The faction heads recognize Bib’s well-honed political and diplomatic skills – and are ready to work with him. But they know they have to cover their bases first.
As the Jewish Press described the sought-after amendments:
“Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri must have an amendment in the law that sets a difference between real jail time and probation when it comes to allowing a convicted criminal to serve as a government minister. Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich must receive the Knesset’s legal approval to his taking control over the civil government in Judea and Samaria, which used to be the absolute domain of the IDF and the defense minister. And Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben Gvir wants the Knesset to flip the relationship between the National Security Minister and the Chief of Police so that the minister decides the police agenda.”
Deri, I could do without. But Netanyahu cannot, because Shas has 11 mandates and there is no coalition without this party. Such is coalition politics.
The changes that Smotrich and Ben Gvir seek are important.
In order to pass this legislation a new speaker of the Knesset had to be put in place, as MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), outgoing speaker, would never have participated in putting forth the bills that Likud is seeking. All members of the incoming coalition signed a request for a new speaker – an interim speaker, as the new government has not yet been officially formed.
It was decided that Yair Levin (Likud) would be that interim speaker. How this decision came about is worthy of mention: Netanyahu wanted to give Levin the Justice portfolio, but before he would accept it, Levin wanted Netanyahu to commit to moving forward on certain reforms – including an override clause and changes in how justices are elected. Once Netanyahu refused to do this, Levin declined the post.
At that point, Netanyahu selected him as interim speaker – a position of critical importance. Levin has served in the role of speaker before. He will resign when the government is in place; he may be reappointed permanently, or may receive a different position.
This situation is noteworthy for two reasons. First, because it’s important to see that not all of those eager for judicial reforms are in the Religious Zionist and Otzma Yehudit parties. Levin, who is a very influential man in Likud, second on the list under Netanyahu, is strongly to the right on these issues.
And then we see that Netanyahu is putting on the brakes. He told Levin he wants reforms to be advanced slowly, with the more dramatic reforms held for later. I had written recently that those panicking about all of the changes Religious Zionists and Otzma Yehudit want to make should keep in mind that it is Netanyahu who will be prime minister and calling the final shots.
In some instances, moving judiciously may be the best way to go, as long as there IS movement. In other instances, Netanyahu may pull back too much. It is my understanding that he is on board with regard to Smotrich’s plans regarding the Civil Administration.
Likud approved Levin’s appointment as Speaker, preparing the way for the vote in the Knesset plenum. That took place today, Tuesday, with all 64 members of the incoming coalition voting for him. This is a day later than expected because of delaying tactics by Levy.
Now that Levin is in place (phew!), he will have to move with all due speed: Netanyahu has only eight more days until his mandate to form a government expires. When he saw that he was not going to be able to compete formation of his coalition within the 28 days allocated by law, he appealed to President Herzog for an extension. Legally the president can grant an additional two weeks. Herzog granted 10 days. This seems to be a compromise on Herzog’s part: Arguments were made by the opposition that Netanyahu already had a coalition but was requesting more time for the reasons I have described above, which did not justify an extension.
The next step is for the coalition to speedily convene the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, in order to fast-track the legislation. Look for drama ahead.
If all of this makes your head spin, my friends, don’t worry. That is a reasonable response. Here in Israel this entire process has felt interminable. It seems as if there is never-ending game-playing.
Lapid obviously believes in the tyranny of the minority. His side didn’t win the election, but he thinks he and his cohorts have the right to disrupt proceedings at every point possible, never honoring the democratic process.
On the other hand, members of the incoming coalition seem to think they can have it all. I am not sure they have internalized the fact that it’s best sometimes to accept a modified version of what they aspire to in order to move on. Some matters – such as control of the Civil Administration in order to stop Arab illegal takeover of Area C – are critically important. Other matters, less so. I am tired of reading that so-and-so says he will not join the coalition unless…whatever. Yes, I know, it’s often grandstanding from which they will ultimately back down, but yet…
At this point I would prefer to focus on other issues, beginning with some brief good news items:
According to a recent report by Erudera, an education search platform, Israel is the fifth most educated country in the world. Half of our population has completed post secondary school education.
And then, “The Swiftest,” an American insurance comparison website, has identified Israel as the fifth safest country for tourists. How about that?
Speaking of tourists: Some 333,500 tourists visited Israel this past October. This was the highest number since Febuary 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic began. Keep coming, my friends, keep coming!
The above items are in addition to a host of medical advancements. Just one example:
“When neurons are damaged by degenerative disease or injury, they have little, if any, ability to heal on their own. Restoring neural networks and their normal function is therefore a significant challenge in the field of tissue engineering.
“Prof. Orit Shefi (left below) and doctoral student Reut Plen from the Kofkin Faculty of Engineering at Bar-Ilan University have developed a novel technique to overcome this challenge using nanotechnology and magnetic manipulations, one of the most innovative approaches to creating neural networks.”
Additionally there is outreach that Israel does to provide medical assistance to those from other countries. Again, one example:
Ten very young Ukrainian children with cancer are being brought to Israel for treatment, along with members of their family. This is with the efforts of Israeli diplomat Ran Gidor, working in cooperation with MASHAV, an agency fostering international development within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The situation is most daunting as Ambassador Gidor describes it in this video:
Thus are we reminded, as we need to be, that Israel is doing OK. No, more than OK. We are splendid. What matters is that we know it.
The rest of the world? Forget it. There is so much to contend with that this balance in viewpoint is essential.
Arab Israeli MK Ayman Odeh – trouble-making head of the Hadash-Ta’al party – met Friday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (right below) in New York and presented him with a letter. Odeh wrote that the responsibilities that Itamar Ben Gvir will be assuming as National Security Minister create “an extremely dangerous situation that requires international intervention to protect the lives of Arab Palestinian citizens.” International intervention? This is incitement, and yet I have no doubt that Guterres received his message with great sympathy.
Two weeks ago, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Francesca Albanese, gave an address, remotely, to a conference organized by the Hamas-affiliated Council on International Relations. She told those participating that, “You have a right to resist Israel.” Earlier she had declared, “…an occupation requires violence and generates violence. Palestinians have no other room for dissent than violence.”
Subsequently, Odeh tweeted that “[Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad] Erdan does not represent us; we will represent ourselves.” If Odeh and those he presumes to speak for are Israelis, Erdan speaks for them. It’s not just Ben Gvir, it’s a whole lot of us who find his anti-Zionist position vile.
Yoseph Haddad, an Israeli Arab Christian who served in the IDF and regularly defends Israel, put out his own tweet: “Unbelievable, Ayman Odeh went to the USA as a member of the Knesset and a public representative in Israel for one purpose: to harm the State of Israel.” Haddad pointed out that Odeh receives a monthly salary of NIS 52,000, not including benefits. “You are despicable,” he told Odeh.
Haddad is the CEO of the NGO “Together – Vouch for Each Other,” which works to bring the Arab sector closer to Israeli society.
One subject that never seems to die is the shooting on May 11 of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the midst of a gun battle between terrorists and the IDF in Jenin. The IDF has already done an investigation and concluded that it is quite possible that an IDF soldier accidentally shot her, but that there was no way to be certain. The IDF investigation determined that the IDF soldiers had complied with the rules of engagement. That should have been the end of it. Dozens of journalists die every year when covering conflicts.
But anything to publicly tarnish Israel’s international image. Now Al Jazeera has filed with the International Criminal Court in the Hague, claiming that they have “new evidence, based on several eyewitness accounts,” that show that their journalist was “targeted” as part of a campaign by “Israeli Occupation Forces [sic]… to silence Al Jazeera.”
Honest Reporting, however, has uncovered the fact that one of Al Jazeera’s key witnesses is a terrorist affiliated with Islamic Jihad.
This is the sort of information that it is important to share widely to refute the libel against Israel.
Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, ICC Prosecutor, has indicated to his staff that he would like to “visit Palestine next year,” before deciding whether to pursue an investigation of IDF activities. This tells us where he’s coming from.
I would like to end this posting on a positive note. From the left there have been charges about what problems the “radicals,” the “racists,” Smotrich and Ben Gvir will generate, and how the international community, especially Arab members of that community, are likely to shun them.
But recently Smotrich met with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja. He then tweeted that, “We discussed the good relations between the countries and the great potential of deepening the economic cooperation between us for the benefit of the entire region. This is what true peace looks like.” @bezalelsm
And you know what? Even earlier, Al Khaja welcomed Itamar Ben Gvir at an event in his embassy.
Looks mighty warm and friendly to me.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.