Electioneering is over, but no government yet – TWTW … ending 26 January, 2013

Shalom all,

Thank You!
I would like to thank all those who wrote, called, visited and encouraged Orit and me following my second hip-replacement operation in seven months. This surgery was a bit more complicated than the first and took an extra hour to complete. Following 10 days in the hospital and another 2-1/2 weeks in a rehabilitation facility for intensive physiotherapy, I was discharged and returned home last weekend. I will continue with physiotherapy through the national health clinic that we belong to, starting Monday, the 28th. This will be for 2-3 times a week for several months. My projected time to return to work is March 1st, unless my progress allows me to return earlier. There is a lot to deal with between now and then and I would covet your prayers for much grace and that all would go well.

Israeli Elections
The electioneering is now over and all the votes have finally been counted. For the first 2 days immediately following the elections, it appeared that the voting brought about a stalemate, with an equal number of Knesset seats becoming available to the political right and left (60 -60). But, when absentee ballots were counted, the right gained an extra seat, resulting in a 61 to 59 representation. The majority now includes the Likud part (Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu), Habayit Hayehudi (Naftali Bennett), Shas (religious) and Yehadut HaTorah (religious). Technically, P.M. Netanyahu can form a coalition government, without having to compromise on core principles of the Likud.

Realistically, however, the results of the national elections held this week have left Netanyahu still  at the helm, but somewhat weakened. His goal is to build a broad-base coalition, something which will require all of his skills to reconcile conflicting views of the “center left”, represented by “Yesh Atid” (There is a Future, represented by Yair Lapid) and of the religious “right”. The extra 2 Knesset seats provide a safety net for Netanyahu, in the event that coalition negotiations with the “opposition” fail, or, if they succeed, but the “opposition” later withdraws from the coalition over anticipated ideological conflicts.

The big surprise winner of the elections was Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid party), who received 19 seats and now heads the second largest political party after the Likud. His success shows that he understood the issues affecting a large section of the population and spoke to those issues, namely social matters, sharing the military responsibility and economics. 

Netanyahu wasted no time in contacting various “opposition” leadership in an effort to start coalition discussions, including, of course, Yesh Atid. It is the reality of numbers that would appear to guide Netanyahu in deciding who to pursue first. With Lapid on board, only 11 additional seats (who will provide supporting votes in the Knesset) will be needed for a majority to pass legislation. It would be reasonable for Netanyahu to make Lapid his first coalition partner.

Some issues find common ground between Netanyahu and Lapid, such as those affecting the budget. Lapid leans more towards the “social justice” issues presented during the summer protests of 2011. But, his constituents are also those who will bear the brunt of a major budget deficit in the very foreseeable future. Interestingly enough, Netanyahu may find support from Lapid regarding the government’s dealings with the “Palestinians”, provided that Netanyahu does not negate the “vision” he presented in his Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, where he expressed a willingness to resolve the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict by the establishment of two-state solution.

It will be interesting to see how Netanyahu will balance the perspective of Lapid, who is in favor of renewing negotiations with the “Palestinians”, with that of Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, who is not opposed to negotiations with the “Palestinians”, as long as Netanyahu doesn’t agree to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state. 

Another “issue” that loomed large in the election campaigns concerned the enlistment of yeshiva students into the IDF. While this was and remains a primary issue with Lapid – and his joining the Likud-coalition would probably be based on reaching a preliminary agreement on this issue and the recruitment of the ultra orthodox – there is a degree of flexibility on this issue by Bennett and it would not be unreasonable to expect that if both Lapid and Bennett join the coalition, then the Knesset would be able to amend the enlistment law to make the sharing of the military burden more equitable. If such an amendment would be passed, then at least one, if not both of the religious parties could then join the government, which would substantially increase the size of the coalition. If, in addition to wooing Lapid, Netanyahu can close deals with the 3 other parties that make up the political right, then the coalition will be well on its way to becoming a fact, even before P.M. Netanyahu is given authority by President Peres to form the next government.

But, there are rumors that there may be some conflicts that would prevent, or at least delay, Bennett’s party from joining the coalition. Bennett was formerly very active in the Likud and much relied upon by Netanyahu, before he left the fold to become involved with other, lesser parties, and, eventually, became head of Habayit Hayehudi. This created a personal rift between the two of them that will have to be put aside, if Bennett is to become part of the coalition. If the rumors turn out to be true, then, of course, Netanyahu would have to press the religious parties to join before trying to amend the legislation regarding enlistment of yeshiva students. This could cause an early coalition crisis and it would be in Netanyahu’s best interests to resolve potential conflicts with Bennett and bring him on board early. No matter how we look at it, ideological issues of the different parties could result in a lengthy negotiation process, which would mean that Netanyahu will have to compromise in different areas in order to create a smooth path for all of the coalition partners.

Additional rumors have it that Shaul Mofaz, presently the head of the Kadima party (that was the largest opposition party in the last Knesset under Tzippi Livni), who barely made it back to the next Knesset with 2 seats, may rejoin the ranks of the Likud. Mofaz was a former head of the IDF, but it is far too early to talk about a cabinet position with the new government, such as Secretary of Defense. Time will tell. Politics do, indeed, make for strange bedfellows.

When the time comes, in all likelihood, the greatest issue that will face the coalition partners is the division of ministerial posts. The shortage of such positions will probably require opening new positions in Israeli embassies and consulates to absorb the new faces and to placate some Knesset Members who, as a result of the election results, are now, in a sense, political refugees.

The Labor party, which received 15 seats (a major disappointment for Labor), has already indicated that the ideological and economic issues between it and the Likud make it impossible to be part of a Likud-coalition. Another left-wing party, Meretz (headed up by Zahava Gal-On), said that her party would not join a Netanyahu-led coalition government.

The new Knesset will have more women and more religious representation than any prior Knesset. That should, at the very least, make for lively encounters on the floor of the Knesset.

Neighborhood Watch
The major focus this week was upon Egypt, Syria and, of course, Iran. The situation in all three countries is explosive, in one way or another.

Almost two years after the removal of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the population has again taken to the streets. The latest event left 39 people dead and hundreds injured. The demonstrations began last Friday to mark the second anniversary of the revolution. According to official reports, some ten people, including two police officers were killed by live fire during confrontations with authorities in the city of Suez. Similarly, in the city of Alexandria, confrontations broke out between security forces and demonstrators who called for the overthrow of the regime of Presudent Muhamed Morsi. Hundreds were injured.

But, the spark that started the latest political conflagration was the imposition of the death penalty on 21 people, who were convicted of being criminally responsible for the deaths of 74 soccer fans, including players and even policemen, in a disaster that took place a year ago on the soccer field of Port Said, when the local team surprisingly upset the visiting team and caused the deadly riot to break out. The judgment of the court was the signal for the additional protests, in Port Said, that left dozens dead and hundreds more injured. The military was called out to help the police, but to no avail. Some of the rioters tried to break into the prison to remove the people who were convicted and sentenced to death and wanted to execute them “street style”. Dozens more were arrested in this latest uprising. As a result of these protests, the Egyptian Security Council! Headed up by President Morsi, held an emergency meeting, following which it was announced that consideration is being given to declaring a national emergency.

Every situation that is indicative of the Egyptian government’s potential loss of control becomes a warning for Israel to pay close attention to the causes of the civil unrest and the responses that flow from it. Since the takeover of the government and its control by the Moslem Brotherhood, the demilitarized zone between Israel and Egypt has become a breeding ground for almost every type of anti-Israel militant, with little or no initiative on the part of Egyptian authorities to try to prevent or curtail terrorist activities against Israel. 

And now to our neighbor to the northeast. As of this weekend, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad has been responsible for the deaths of over 60,000 of his own people, including government forces.

Assad has become considerably more bold than in the past, being bolstered by Russian backing and Russian warships anchored off the coast of Syria to prevent any attempt by “the west” to interfere there. Also, Assad is reported to have given instructions to his senior military staff that if he is overthrown, either by the rebels who are backed by the west, or if he is torn apart by an angry mob, like what happened to Gaddafy in Libya, then they are to fire Syria’s missiles (serious stuff) at Israel and Egypt. Israel as a target is understandable, but why Egypt? Because the Moslem Brotherhood there sided with the rebels against his government. In other words, even if he is remembered for having fired missiles upon ither Moslems, he’ll still go down in the Arab history books as someone who tried to destroy Israel with a missile bombardment, as his own legacy to the Arab world.

According to a former CIA agent, the underground explosion that occurred on January 21st at one of Iran’s uranium enrichment plants destroyed major parts of the enrichment plant, and some 240 staff who were trapped inside. The explosion created shock waves over a 5 kilometer area. Unconfirmed reports claim that Iran believes that the explosion was the result of sabotage.

Speaking of Iran, while attending an economic conference in Switzerland, outgoing Israeli Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, was interviewed by a Swiss daily and stated: “The Pentagon prepared a sophisticated operation, direct and sensitive to an attack upon Iran.” Barak noted that “in a worse-case situation, we need to have the preparedness and capability to carry out a surgical operation, which will significantly delay the [Iranian] plans and which will convince them that it won’t work because the world is detained to stop them.” He mentioned that he used to laugh at his American when speaking about a surgical action, because Israel thinks in terms of a chisel, while the U.S. thinks in terms of a 5 kilogram (11 lb.) hammer. He added that “If everything else fails, it is possible that we will end up with a focused surgical strike”, mentioning that the Pentagon already prepared such a plan on the instructions of the White House.

However, in an article that appeared today (27th January) in Israel National News, Iranian Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami was quoted as saying two days ago: “The United States says it will not allow Iran to be nuclear, but it is so blind that it hasn’t noticed that Iran has already become a nuclear state.”  Well, folks. What has been done can be undone. All that is necessary is wisdom and determination.

International Day of Remembrance For Victims of the Holocaust
Seven years ago, in a rare move, the United Nations approved an Israeli proposal to proclaim January 27th, the day that Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated, as International Holocaust Day. By doing so, it rejected every attempt to deny the Holocaust, as well as condemned hatred and violence, based on ethnic or religious affiliation. This day is intended to insure that people everywhere in the world would not only remember what happened, but by so remembering, that it should not happen again. it is particularly important to pass on a true knowledge of history to our children, so that they, too, will take a stand for truth when the time comes – a time which is already here. Hatred of Jews, in general, and of misread, in particular, is again rearing its ugly head throughout the world. The same U.N. that proclaimed this historic day still provides a platform to those who deny the Holocaust and allows them to spew forth their verbal venom to an ever-increasing receptive audience. When the lessons of history are not learned, particularly as regards Israel and the Jewish people, the hypocrisy of fools, who oppose both God and His chosen people, leads them to repeat the same mistakes.
And That was The Week That Was.
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
“Behold, days are coming”, declares the LORD, “when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. in those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the LORD is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
With prayers for a truly blessed week.

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