Last week was all about coalition negotiations and pressure politics, last-minute deal breakers and deal makers. When it was all over, a coalition government was formed. But, no one passed out the cigars. One coalition partner is ready to agree to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state. Also, there was lots of busy-ness and preparations for the visit of President Obama. We lost two of our finest in a helicopter crash and Muslim clerics told the President of Israel that they were opposed to terrorism against Jews.
We have a coalition government. But, at what price?
P.M. Netanyahu demonstrated his ability to retain control of the cabinet, despite tremendous pressures from the emerging parties of Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) and Habayit Hayehudi (Naftali Bennett). But, the makeup of the coalition is a recipe for disaster. The combination of those two parties (whose leadership worked hand-in-hand through almost the entire period of coalition negotiations), coupled with Hatnuah (Tzippi Livni), is enough to stymie any decision that Netanyahu may choose to make. He may have control of the cabinet, but he clearly does not have voting control of the coalition members. It is a disaster waiting to happen and it will be a miracle if the coalition survives for Netanyahu’s entire term, even for half a term.
In the final analysis, Lapid agreed to accept the position of Minister of Finance. Now, when the question is asked “Where’s the money?”, he won’t be the one asking, but rather, the one explaining. He has a lot of homework to do, so that he can not only give intelligent answers to financial questions, but also make rational suggestions regarding future government spending. He campaigned on social justice issues and he will have a genuine opportunity to deal with them now. Some people have once again taken to their tents, with signs seeking “social justice”. This was a major movement that took place during the summer of 2011. The problem then, as now, is that there was no agreed-upon definition of “social justice”. Every type of special interest group tried to get into the picture. Public figures appeared at “tent city” rallies, along with actors and popular singers. When the tents finally came down – most of them voluntarily, some more forcibly, very little was actually accomplished. It will be interesting to see how Lapid will respond to the situation, if the “tent protest” starts up again in earnest.
In the meantime, the coalition is made up of partners, who don’t really trust each other. The negotiations wore everyone out, with each side claiming victory of one sort or another. It was an exercise of flexing muscles, trying to show who is stronger, who can hold his breath longer and who is willing to hold everything up in order to finally get the “job” that was sought after.
It should also be pointed out that smooth sailing is not on the horizon for Likud-Yisrael Beytenu. There are rifts in the rafters and the once relatively strong “partnership” between the two parties may be heading for dissolution, with each party going its separate way. That would make life for Netanyahu even more precarious than it is now. His party may have control of the cabinet, but it does not reflect the overall weakness of his position vis-a-vis voting power in the Knesset itself. The coalition is built on eggshells and it won’t take much for it to crack and for a coalition crisis to develop that can quickly and relatively easily bring down the government. The politicians played their games until the very last moment. Instead of having a strong government, which is needed in these days of national, regional and international turmoil, we have a government made up of partners with differing world views that are really worlds apartment.
But, coalition-partner problems are not all that await Netanyahu. His negotiations, that eventually resulted in forming this fragile coalition, left long-standing political allies as casualties within his own party and some of those who were injured may return the “gesture” before too long. Stay tuned for the next episode.
No ultra-Orthodox in this coalition.
It is anticipated that Shelly Yachimovich, head of the Labor party, will become the leader of the opposition. She will be joined by the religious parties, who were ousted from the government at the behest of the dynamic duo, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi, and who vowed to make the new government’s life miserable. Of course, the Arab parties will continue to be part of the opposition.
Aryeh Deri, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party attacked Netanyahu and stated: “You cannot wash your hands of this … I have no doubt that history will harshly judge the person who participated in this situation. True, there are plenty of excuses … but these excuses won’t survive the stringent test of history. The sole blame lies and will lie with you.The result is that 2,000,000 people, all of whom are citizens of the second Israel, the Israel of the disadvantaged sectors … all will remain without representation in the incoming government. They will all see how you, their prime minister, boycotted them.” It is rumored that Deri will now seek to become the Mayor of Jerusalem.
Livni ready to sign an agreement “today” with the “Palestinians”
The Chairwoman of Hatnuah, Tzippi Livni, who is also the Justice Minister to be, spoke last Tuesday at a conference organized by The Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. She rejected the contention that negotiations with the “Palestinians” could not move forward because if the instability in the Arab world. According to one major, Hebrew language daily, she stated: “the attempt to stop the two state vision because of the changes in the Arab world is similar to an animal that stops because she sees the headlights of a moving car.” She also said that she decided to join the government due to the “urgent need” to sign a policy arrangement with the “Palestinians”: “I want to sign today because I know who are the heirs of today’s leaders. It should have been done before.”
It has already been mentioned that such an attitude is problematic. Negotiation means that there is a give and take in the discussion. So far, all that has happened in the last dozen and a half years is that we have given and the “Palestinians” have taken. But, there has not been any reciprocity. Nor can there be, as they don’t have anything to give us.
What is missing in Livni’s statement, as in statements by of the left-wing politicians and media and, of course, by spokesmen for the “Palestinians” is that the two-state solution relates to two states for two peoples. As long as there is no recognition of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, not only is there nothing to talk about, there is no one to talk with!
President Barack Hussein Obama’s visit to Israel and the region
When U.S. President Obama first announced that he was planning to visit Israel, the news was received in Israel with mixed emotions. Why is he coming? What does he intend to accomplish? What are his real motives for making this trip and why now? Time after time, it was reported that he is coming as a show of unity between our two nations. Time after time, it was reported that he does not have any new agenda regarding the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Time after time, it was reported that his primary purpose is to discuss matters relating to Iran and Syria. Then, little by little, a report here and a report there began to reveal that progress with the “Palestinians” and a renewal of the dead and buried “peace talks” are major items that will be discussed.
He is scheduled to arrive here in the morning on Wednesday, March 20th. He will be shown an “Iron Dome” battery, which was moved to the airport for lack of time in his schedule to see it in the field. This is a gesture to him for the funds invested by the U.S. in this defense project. He is supposed to be joined by P.M. Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres at this time. After the photo op at the Iron Dome battery, he will go to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem and meet with President Peres. Following that, he will meet with Netanyahu and, perhaps, several members of his new government. The following day, Obama will visit the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and then move on to Ramallah, in the West Bank. Upon his return from there, he will address Israeli university students at the Binyanei HaUma International Convention Center in Jerusalem, this being part of his efforts to speak directly to the people of Israel. (note: you may want to look at 2 Kings 18:26-36) But, even here, there is politicking, as students from “over the green line” were not invited to attend, because they are from what is considered “occupied territory”. On Thursday evening, Obama will visit the American Consulate in east Jerusalem and then meet with American and Israeli figures for dinner. The following morning, he will lay wreaths at the grave of Theodor Herzl, who led the Zionist movement, and then at the grave of assassinated Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. From there, he will visit the National Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem, following which he will meet with the leader of the Knesset opposition and move on to the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem in the West Bank. He will leave Israel Friday afternoon.
Much can be said about each stop of the President’s visit. Many would like to read into them Obama’s affirmation of Israel’s history as the “People of the Book”, who have a long-standing connection with the land, with Jerusalem as its Biblical and perpetual capital. Some see the laying of the wreath at Herzl’s grave as his affirmation of the Zionist movement that led to the eventual establishment of the State of Israel, as well as a slap in the face to those who want to equate Zionism with racism. And so on. In reality, however, there is little international, political significance to his visiting this place or that. It won’t affect the hearts and minds of anti-semites, nor of our regional enemies, nor of those who would not blink twice if Israel were to no longer exist and who would even encourage her demise. The visits to this site or that, be it Biblical, or otherwise historical, cannot be seen as giving tacit assent to any fact, other than Obama being a distinguished tourist in and around Israel.
Obama never enjoyed high ratings among the people in Israel. His background and relationships with those opposed to the Jewish state has always been a cause for genuine concern. The fact that he visited the region during his first tenure as President, but avoided making a stop here, also did not warm the hearts of the people to him. So, why a visit and why a visit now? Certainly not to cater to potential, U.S. Jewish voters in 2016. When Netanyahu visited the U.S., he was not treated by Obama with the respect that is due to a head of state and, particularly, to a leader whose country is strategic friend of the U.S.
The Iranian threat endangers not only Israel and the region of the Middle East, but the entire world. Irrespective of how much dislike and/or distrust may exist between the present leaders of both the U.S. and Israel, there is an overriding realization that they need one another, at least as regards the potential for a military strike upon Iran. The U.S. has, in the past, favored diplomacy, but has also indicated that there is a limit beyond which even it must act. Obama’s deadline is October, 2013. If no one does anything by then, we may all awaken one day to the reality that we’ve all missed it and that Iran has gone “nuclear”. Israel has indicated that it has its own “red lines” that are rapidly being approached and is committed to act for the protection of our nation, whose very existence is threatened by the religious zealots in Iran. A nuclear Iran, added to a nuclear North Korea, cannot be ignored by the U.S., by Israel or by the rest of the world.
Given the way that Obama behaved during his first administration, namely, with an attitude of “let’s get all of the governments of the world to sit down and talk, so that we don’t have to get involved in fighting”, it could be that he will follow the same line and make an effort to convince Netanyahu not to try to “go it alone” against Iran. It could be that he will try to buy more time for his diplomacy to work. It could also be that he would be barking up the wrong tree and that Netanyahu will back up his “red line” with action. Then again, he may have a different strategy this time – a strategy of making promises that he hopes he’ll never have to fulfill.
But, this is the Middle East, where almost everything is negotiable. One hand washes the other. Obama knows it and Netanyahu knows it. What will move the U.S. to abandon diplomatic efforts to get Iran to cease its nuclear ambitions and to actively, or passively, pursue a military stance vis-a-vis Iran? A trade off sounds reasonable. “We’ll help you with Iran and in return, you help us to bring about an end to the Middle East conflict, by agreeing to the establishment of a ‘Palestinian’ state in the heartland of Israel.” Pressure will be placed on Netanyahu to agree, whether immediately, or by an understanding, followed by an agreement with the U.S., by a specified date that will still be during the second term of Obama’s presidency, so that he can be in the center of the photo of another “historic hand-shake”, this time regarding the time-table for establishing a “Palestinian” state. There is a good possibility that there will be an “undisclosed agreement” between the two leaders regarding this eventuality, the exact terms of which will be put into a formal understanding and agreement sometime after Obama leaves the region. The task of overseeing that agreement will probably fall on Secretary of State John Kerry, will be responsible to follow it through and “make it happen”. But, the reality of the “understanding” concerning this agreement and the outworking of the agreement itself will be seen in the intensified efforts here to get the “peace process” back on track, even though almost everyone realizes that it needs to be raised from the dead. We must also have the understanding that the world as a whole is tired of the Arab-Israeli conflict and is involved more and more in other, pressing national and international issues. The ones who are primarily concerned are Israel and the “Palestinians”, along with our immediate neighbors. And so, the inclusion in the coalition of Tzippi Livni, who is ready to sign “yesterday”, takes on added significance. Then again, this is all speculation, isn’t it?
Or is it? Last Monday, Obama met with Arab-American leaders, who urged him to encourage the “Palestinian” people during his trip to Israel, Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) and Jordan. There is disappointment among the “Palestinians” that Obama failed to advance a peace agreement, even though Middle East “diplomacy” was supposed to rank high on his list of priorities when he took office. So, while he’ll be in our neighborhood, Obama will meet not only with Netanyahu, but with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah, of Jordan. Last Monday, a White House official reported: “He (Obama) underscored that the trip is an opportunity for him to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the “Palestinian” people in the West Bank and Gaza, and to partnering with the “Palestinian” Authority as it continues building institutions that will be necessary to bring about a truly independent Palestinian state.” Then again, maybe Obama just wants to tell them that one day in the future, everything will work out, but not to hold their breaths until that happens. On the surface of things, we need to ask the question whether Obama’s visit to Israel at this time is good for us. Everything in my gut tells me that it will not be.
Before leaving this subject, here are a few words that express my personal opinion about Obama’s visit. You should be able to pick up the melody line fairly quickly. The emphasis should be on the first syllable – O’ ba ma:
Obama is coming to town!
We’d better be good, we’d better not cry,
We’d better not pout, they’re telling us why:
Obama is coming to town.
He’s gonna arm twist, he’s gonna insist,
“If you want my assist, then follow my list”,
Obama is coming to town.
He’ll help us with Iran now, and give us what we need,
To remove its threat from o’er our head, if we’ll agree to bow our knees.
Oh, we’d better be good, we’d better not cry,
We’d better not pout, they’re telling us why:
Obama is coming to town.
Don’t try to complain, he’s gonna explain,
He’s making it plain that it won’t involve pain,
Obama is coming to town.
He’ll lay out his plan, he’ll claim “yes, we can”,
It’s to trust in him to divide our land,
Yes, Obama is coming to town.
He’ll push to have two states now, who side by side will live,
They’ll take and take and take some more ’till we’ve nothing left to give.
Oh, we’d better be good, we’d better not cry,
We’d better not pout, they’re telling us why:
Obama is coming to town.
So, don’t be drawn in and don’t lose your cool,
Reject the smooth speech and don’t be a fool,
‘Cause Obama is coming to town.
If we stand our ground, if we take a stand,
If are hearts turn to God, He’ll save also our land,
Even if Obama is coming to town!
Israel threatened by Syrian rebels
On the whole, with minor incidents here and there, the border between Israel and Syria has been quiet since 1974. Now, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, expressed concerns about the potential for a radical Sunni Moslem take-over of Syria, after President Bashar al-Assad is removed. The reason for the concern is that Syrian rebels threatened that after getting rid of Assad, they will focus their attention on “regaining” control of the Golan Heights from Israel. An on-line video showed one of the rebel fights, who said: “[We] are in the occupied Golan Heights, which the traitor Hafez Assad sold to Israel 40 years ago. These lands are blessed and the despicable Assad family promised to liberate them, but for 40 years the Syrian army did not fire a single bullet. We will open a military campaign against Israel. We will fire the bullets that Assad did not and we will liberate the Golan.”
In an interview with the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, in Jerusalem, Palmor said: “There is a great concern that uncontrolled elements at the service of extremist ideas will manage to take over smaller or bigger separate territories inside the Syrian borders … The ‘Somalization’ of Syria is a great concern. We hope that this war ends as quickly as possible, with a central power emerging that will rule all Syria … We don’t have any pretext to [militarily] intervene in what is going on in Syria. Nobody wants us to do that and we don’t want to do that. We stay on the sidelines, except where our vital security interests are threatened. We reserve our right to limited intervention.” Palmor further disclosed that Israel coordinated with the Red Cross in an effort to send humanitarian aid into Syria, but was told that the refugees refused to receive Israeli aid.
In July of last year, IDF Director of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi warned: “The Golan area is liable to become an arena of operations against Israel in much the same way the Sinai is today, and that’s a result of the increasing entrenchment of global jihad in Syria”, while another senior Israeli intelligence official reported last December that jihad groups were preparing near the Israeli-Syrian border and were “stockpiling huge amounts of lethal weapons for a fight with Israel … The main problem is not the local rebel groups but fighters coming from outside Syria. Hundreds of fighters have begun streaming into Syria from Jordan and Iraq. They come from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, and many other countries. We’re talking about very dangerous people with experience fighting the U.S. army in Iraq as well as fighting the regime in Libya. We estimate that there are between 3,000 to 4,000 rebel fighters belonging to radical Salafist groups who all belong under the al-Qaida umbrella … We expect these rebels to stockpile a large amount of rockets, a situation which will return the northern Israeli communities into the line of fire. We assess that once the foreign rebels have finished fighting Assad’s army they will all turn their attention to the border with Israel. There is no question about it. Once the Assad regime falls, we will start seeing incidents on our border. I assess that it will start with a trickle of incidents, like we see on the Egyptian border, and further down the line we’ll start seeing the firing of anti-tank missiles at IDF vehicles, roadside bombs against patrols, and these are only the incidents I can reveal. I believe we will see much worse things.”
Two of Israel’s finest died in a helicopter training exercise.
Last Monday, the nation was alerted to the deaths of two Israel Air Force pilots, who died when the “Cobra” helicopter in which they were flying crashed during a training exercise six minutes before they were supposed to land. Because Israel is such a small country, almost everyone knows someone who was killed, or knows someone who was close to a soldier who was killed. Such is the case with one of the pilots, who was the instructor of the son of a family whom we are close with. The older of the two pilots had a brother who also served as a helicopter pilot and who died following an accident in the Judean desert 16 years ago. Both pilots were survived by their wives and children. As stated by an army reserve Colonel, who is himself a fighter pilot and aircraft accident investigator: “This is not just a helicopter that crashed. These are two families that have been crushed … Every pilot in the air force lives with the full knowledge that something like this can happen to him or his friends at any given minute … It is not something that should come as a surprise — it is extremely dangerous to be an air force pilot, even during exercises. I can guarantee that the day after the mourning period ends, the squadron will resume full activity.”
Muslim clerics “strongly condemn” terrorism against Jews.
Some 16 Muslim clerics reportedly told President Shimon Peres in France last Sunday that they “strongly condemn” terrorism against Jews. Imam Hassen Chalghoumi informed Peres: “We would like to calm the concerns of our brothers, the Jews … We are not affiliated with terrorism against Jews, and we strongly condemn it … We believe in the sanctity of life … Life is more important than the Vatican, Mecca or Jerusalem.”
In his response to the Muslim clerics, Peres stated: “We, the Jews, have been victims of discrimination, and that is why we aspire for a world where everyone is free of it … We have a shared interest in resolving our disputes in peace rather than allowing terrorism destroy any chance for peace. The Jews and Muslims share a father, our father Abraham.”
Peres then referred to the “peace process”, stating that “when the new government is sworn in, an opportunity will arise to renew peace talks.” Either this is an expression of something that he hopes will happen, or, alternatively, he knows something that he is not sharing. He added: “We evacuated the settlements in Gaza, but the “Palestinians” turned the territory into a terror base.” There seems to be something missing in his relating to this issue. If, on the one hand, it is a given fact that the “Palestinians” used the evacuated area and turned it into a terror base, why in the world should there be more opportunities to renew peace talks? Has something happened between then and now that we’re not aware of that would change their perspective?
British Member of Parliament blames the Jews for his legal problems.
In 2009, Lord Nazir Ahmed, 55, was arrested and convicted of reckless driving, because he was sending text messages just before his vehicle was involved in a fatal crash. The court sentenced him to 12 weeks in jail. He was one of the first Muslim peers in the U.K. when he was appointed in 1998 by former Premier Tony Blair.
It was reported by the British media that Ahmed was quoted as saying that the Jews were responsible for his conviction, which was the result of a Jewish plot formed because of “Jewish disapproval of my support for the ‘Palestinians’ in Gaza”, adding that the judge who pronounced sentence upon him was appointed to the High Court following the help that the judge gave to a “Jewish colleague of Tony Blair during an important case.” Ahmed continued that his actual imprisonment was due to “pressure placed on the courts by Jews who own newspapers and TV channels.”
Ahmed was suspending by the Labor Party pending an investigation into the above allegations. A spokesman for the Labor Party said: “The Labor Party deplores and does not tolerate any sort of racism or anti-Semitism. We will be seeking to clarify these remarks as soon as possible.” It should be noted that this was not the first time that Ahmed was disciplined by the Labor Party. In April, 2012, he was suspended following his offer of $14 million reward for the capture of U.S. President Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is now Pope Francis 1.
Israel received a new government and the Vatican received a new Pope – this time, a Jesuit. I’m still trying to digest both events, especially the second one, so I’ll hold off on commenting at this time until I have more information and a clearer understanding of how this appointment will impact on Israel and the Jewish people. May God grant that we will all be like the sons of Issachar, who “understood the times” (1 Chr. 12:32).
And That was The Week That Was.
“Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored. Renew our days as of old.” (Lam. 5:21)
“Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isa. 40:31)
Have a truly blessed week.
Originally sent to email list on March 19, 2013