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Latest News in Israel – 28th May

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Netanyahu: We have 48 hours to avoid elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Monday night to do everything possible to build a new governing coalition in the next 48 hours and avoid going to a September 17 election.

That was the date set for the next election by the special committee that legislated the bill to disperse the Knesset.

In a speech at the Knesset, Netanyahu forcefully criticized Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, whose long-awaited meeting with the prime minister on Monday evening ended after 22 minutes, leaving little remaining hope of building a coalition by Wednesday night’s deadline and avoiding an election. Netanyahu said Liberman needed to accept a compromise that the prime minister had worked out on the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill.

“There is no reason to paralyze the country for another year and a half and waste billions when there is a solution [to the dispute over the conscription bill],” Netanyahu said. “For semantics, you don’t go to elections. It can be solved in two minutes.”

In response, Liberman told Netanyahu on Twitter: “These are not merely cosmetic changes but a surrender to the haredim,” and reiterated his demand to pass the conscription bill as is, with no changes.

The prime minister responded to Liberman’s tweet by telling Likud ministers to “open fire on Liberman” after earlier telling them to hold back.

Netanyahu spoke to the Knesset while it was debating creating a special committee to legislate to disperse itself and hold another election. The bill passed a preliminary reading by a 65-43 vote with six abstentions, after the Knesset’s Organizing Committee allowed the vote to take place by waiving the required 45-day minimum after it was proposed. The bill must still pass two more readings.

In a faction meeting earlier on Monday, Liberman promised that his party will support the bill to disperse the Knesset and not back another candidate to form a coalition.

Liberman rejected the Likud’s allegations that he has refused to join Netanyahu’s government for personal reasons. He said his party’s view on the haredi conscription bill has been consistent since February 2018.

“Everyone with a brain understands that our view is principled, not revenge or anything else,” he said. “I have never seen someone who won an election so convincingly not reach an agreement with any party. They are trying to take the easy way out and blame it on me. If Likud wants to blame someone, they should look in the mirror.”

Liberman said the coalition Netanyahu is building with United Torah Judaism and Shas is not a right-wing government but a government of Jewish law.

“What is right-wing about responding to 700 rockets by upgrading the money given to Hamas from NIS 15 to 30 million?” said the former defense minister.

Liberman noted that he supported Netanyahu, and agreed that he should remain prime minister if indicted, enabling him to expand the cabinet and the Likud candidate for comptroller.

He denied any conspiracy with Blue and White’s No. 2 Yair Lapid, a conspiracy he called “science fiction.” Liberman also said Yisrael Beytenu would keep the same Knesset candidates and not run together with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Liberman said an election would be cheaper than the coalition agreements signed with the other parties would have been. He also noted Tuesday, August 27, was a bad day for elections, because families are abroad for summer vacation.

The lead headline in the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom that called Liberman a fraud on Monday upset Liberman, who called the paper “less objective than Pravda in the days of Stalin.” He said the newspaper was a sign that Netanyahu had no intention of compromising.

The Likud responded to Liberman’s charges saying that if he joined the government, all the agreements with the other parties were ready, so he should sign immediately.

Liberman dismissed the Likud’s response as political spin.

A Midgam poll broadcast on Monday on Channel 13 found that in the general public, 41% blame Netanyahu for elections, 27% blame Liberman, 16% the haredi parties, and 16% do not know.

But among self-defined right-wingers, 50% blame Liberman, 26% Netanyahu, 14% haredim and 10% do not know. (Jerusalem Post) Staff

Bill to dissolve Knesset, call snap election approved in its first reading

Legislators on Monday night moved one step closer towards dissolving the 21st Knesset less than a month since it was sworn in, with MKs approving in its first reading a bill to disband the legislature amid a coalition-building crisis.

Sixty-four MKs voted for the motion, with 44 voting against and one abstaining.

The bill must now be passed in its second and third readings for new elections to be called. Those readings will likely be held by Wednesday night if no agreements are reached: the deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cobble together a Knesset majority.

The prospective date for the new national poll is September 17, though that date could yet change.

On Monday last-ditch coalition talks between Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman failed to produce a breakthrough.

While Netanyahu prefers a new election if he cannot form a coalition, opposition parties would rather the president task one of their own with attempting to form a government.

This led to the odd sight of right-wing lawmakers voting for fresh elections, weeks after triumphantly declaring victory in the April 9 vote, while opposition lawmakers defeated in the polls voted to keep the parliament intact.

Holding two elections at such a short interval would be unprecedented in Israel, and there have been concerns over the cost and prolonged political paralysis that would result.

While the bill to dissolve the Knesset breezed past its preliminary and first readings, Netanyahu may face a tougher battle getting it through its final readings, as some of his party’s legislators fear for their political future.

With Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu crashing to four seats in the most recent election, it is all but certain to merge with Likud if new elections are called. This could push some of Likud’s backbenchers to unrealistic spots on the party’s roster, and Netanyahu would now be calling on them to effectively be voting to kick themselves out of parliament. Though party discipline held in Monday’s votes, the premier could face something of an internal revolt at crunch time.

Blue and White, which has vowed that it will not join a government led by Netanyahu, is tied with Likud as the largest party in the Knesset. On Monday, its leader, Benny Gantz, said that if Netanyahu cannot form a government, he should be given a chance.

The centrist party has no clear path to forming a government, as it has ruled out an alliance with Arab lawmakers, and ultra-Orthodox and right-wing parties have said they will not join a Blue and White government.

Blue and White, along with the other opposition parties Labor and Meretz, voted against unraveling the Knesset in the preliminary vote.

Netanyahu has yet to ink a deal with any of his prospective partners, and progress has stalled amid an impasse between the secular Yisrael Beytenu party and ultra-Orthodox parties on the question of a bill regulating the military draft among the ultra-Orthodox.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Liberman has repeatedly said he backs Netanyahu for prime minister, but will only join the government if there is a commitment to pass, unaltered, a bill regulating the draft of ultra-Orthodox men into the army. The bill is opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties, which want to soften its terms. Netanyahu needs Yisrael Beytenu and both the Knesset’s ultra-Orthodox parties to form a majority government.

Likud won 35 seats in the April 9 election. The two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, each won eight seats. Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu won four. And the hawkish Union of Right-Wing Parties won five. Together, these parties hold 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset, and Netanyahu also needs the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, with its five seats, for a majority.

Netanyahu on Monday night upped pressure on Liberman to compromise, saying in a statement to the press there was “no reason” to go to new elections and “paralyze the country for another half a year.”

He said the specific dispute over the ultra-Orthodox draft bill was a matter of “cosmetics” and “semantics” that by no means justified a resort to new elections. “You don’t hold elections over cosmetics,” he said.

“I hope the benefit of the state will trump any other consideration or interest,” he added.

Netanyahu faces a Wednesday night deadline to form a coalition. But should he fail to build a coalition by then or dissolve the Knesset, the prime minister may be able to buy himself another 14 more days, exercising a never-before-used legal provision, analysts say.

As the deadline expires — and should the Knesset remain intact — Rivlin would be able to task another lawmaker with forming the government. But since the prevailing assessment is that nobody else would be able to secure the 61-seat majority needed, that scenario too would likely lead to fresh Knesset elections, months after the April 9 vote. (the Times of Israel) Staff

IAF destroys Syrian Missile Launcher after missile fired at Israeli plane

The IAF destroyed a Syrian launcher that fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli plane, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Monday night, stressing that Israel will not tolerate any aggression against it.

“A short time ago, the Syrian army tried to hit an Israeli plane, it did not succeed,” Netanyahu said in a video statement. “The air force in response destroyed the launcher from which it [the missile] was fired. Our policy is clear: we will not tolerate any aggression against us, and we will respond to it with force and firmness.”

Netanyahu’s message came just two hours after he spoke live to the cameras about the current political crisis stemming from his inability to form a coalition, just 48 hours before the deadline to do so expires.

The IDF spokesman said the Syrian missile did not hit the Israeli aircraft, which was conducting a routine flight over northern Israel, and fell within Syrian territory. The mission was completed as planned, the IDF said.

Arab media, meanwhile, reported on air strikes near Quneitra.

Syria’s SANA reported that “a military source confirmed that at 2110 hours the Israeli enemy targeted one of our military positions east of Khan Arnabeh in rural Quneitra.”

The source explained that the aggression resulted in the “martyr’s death and wounding another fighter.”

According to Syrian media, the strike took place near Khan Arnabeh, which is very close to the Golan border.

The attempt represents an escalation on the Syrian side. It is not the first time that Syria anti-aircraft missiles have targeted Israel, nor the first time they have been detected heading toward Israeli airspace.

In January, Iron Dome was activated on Mount Hermon to intercept a rocket. In December 2018, a Syrian anti-aircraft missile was fired toward Israel from Syria. In November of 2018, fragments of a Syrian rocket were found in the Golan.  An F-16 crashed in the Galilee after being targeted by Syrian air-defense in October 2018. Rockets from Syria fell inside Israeli territory in July 2018.

David’s Sling was used operationally for the first time that month to defend against the rockets. In March 2017, Israel used its Arrow defense system against Syrian air defense.

In late March, Syrian media claimed Israel attacked a site near Aleppo and on April 13 and May 18, Syrian state media made similar claims.

Israel said last year that it had struck hundreds of targets in Syria, primarily Iranian targets related to weapons shipments. In January, former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told The New York Times that Israel had struck thousands of targets in Syria.

But for Syria to target a routine patrol inside Israel is unusual. Syria is already embroiled in new air raids in Idlib against Syrian rebels and the US and Iran are involved in major tensions in the region. (Jerusalem Post) Seth Frantzman and Herb Keinon

Palestinian authorities thwarted an ISIS terror attack in Israel

A 23-year-old Palestinian woman from a village near Kalkilya, who joined ISIS through “Telegram” and was planning to execute a terrorist attack in Israel, was arrested by Palestinian authorities beforehand for “attempting to shake regional stability,” Ynet reported on Sunday.

According to the exclusive report, Ala’ Bashir joined ISIS, who then taught her – through manuals sent through the Internet – how to assemble large explosive devices that she could strap to herself and commit a suicide terrorist attack in the heart of Israeli territory.

“Yes, it is the same Palestinian Authority that cooperates daily with the Israeli defense establishment,” the left-wing Peace Now said on Sunday about the arrest. “The same Palestinian Authority that the Right is fantasizing about, and is working to weaken and dismantle it. The same Palestinian Authority that, if dismantled, will be replaced by far more extreme elements. Remember this the next time right-wing leaders lie to the public.”

Bashir was arrested two weeks ago by PA security officers in a mosque in the village of Jainsafout, east of Kalkilya. Witnesses said 25 security officers raided the Othman Bin Affan mosque and arrested Bashir while she was teaching children the Koran.

The PA’s Preventive Security Service (PSS), whose members arrested Bashir, said she was taken into custody on the basis of information that “certain parties operating outside the national consensus, and which had contributed to the destabilization of surrounding Arab countries, had exploited her difficult psychological and social condition.”

The PSS did not name the alleged parties. However, it said that they had sought to “incite and recruit the woman, with the help of some members of illegal armed militias, to harm the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.”

Bashir was arrested in order to save her from this exploitation attempt, the PSS added.

“She was arrested in accordance with the law, and her arrest has nothing to do with political affiliation,” the PSS said, adding that her lawyers and a representative of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights have been allowed to visit Bashir in prison.

However, some Palestinian lawyers complained that their request to visit Bashir in prison has been turned down by the PA security forces.

One of the lawyers, Muhanad Karajah, said PA security officials informed him that he would not be permitted to represent or see Bashir because he had reported her case to the Palestinian media.

Bashir’s mother, Asmahan, said that the PA security forces first raided the family home in search of her daughter. “They stormed our home around 5:30 p.m. and identified themselves as members of the Preventive Security Service,” she said. “They said they had a warrant to search the house, but did not show it to me. They conducted a thorough search of the house and confiscated our computers. They asked about my daughter, and I told them she was teaching in the mosque.”

The mother said she has no idea why her daughter was arrested, and complained that the PA security forces were holding Bashir in solitary confinement and preventing family members and lawyers from visiting her.

Several Palestinian factions and social media users launched a campaign calling on the PA to immediately release the woman. The campaign is being held under the banner “We are all Ala’ Bashir.”

The organizers of the campaign accused the PA security forces of “desecrating” a mosque and arresting the woman for teaching the Koran. They also called on Palestinian and international human rights organizations to pressure the PA to release Bashir.

The Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK warned the PA and its security forces against torturing Bashir in order to force her to make false confessions. It also called for allowing her family members and lawyers to visit her in prison.

“The organization holds Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh responsible for the safety of Ala’ Bashir,” the group said in a statement that also demanded her immediate release.

Bashir is the second Palestinian woman to be arrested by the PA security forces in the past few months. Late last year, 31-year-old Suha Jbara was arrested and held for two months on suspicion of funding “illegal organizations” and “collaborating with the enemy.” Amnesty International quoted Jbara as saying she had been beaten and threatened with sexual violence by her Palestinian interrogators.

“Suha Jbara has described her torture in harrowing detail,” said Saleh Higazi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. “In her testimony she gives an account of ruthless interrogators who have shamelessly flouted Palestine’s obligations to treat prisoners humanely and violated the absolute prohibition under international law of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” (Jerusalem Post) Staff and Khaled Abu Toameh

We Will Never Submit,’ Rivlin Tells German Official Who Advised Jews Not to Wear Skullcaps

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued a defiant statement on Saturday after Germany’s top official on fighting anti-Semitism suggested that Jewish men should limit the wearing of skullcaps in public.

“We will never submit, will never lower our gaze, and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism,” Rivlin said.

His statement came after the German government’s Commissioner on Anti-Semitism, Felix Klein, said on Saturday, “I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippa everywhere all the time in Germany.”

Klein blamed this situation on “the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society,” and said, “The internet and social media have largely contributed to this — but so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance.”

“The statement of the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, that it would be preferable for Jews not wear a kippa in Germany out of fear for their safety, shocked me deeply,” Rivlin responded in a statement.

“Responsibility for the welfare, the freedom, and the right to religious belief of every member of the German Jewish community is in the hands of the government of Germany and its law enforcement agencies,” he said.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the moral position of the government of Germany and its commitment to the Jewish community that lives there,” Rivlin added, “but fears about the security of German Jews are a capitulation to anti-Semitism and an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil.”

“We will never submit, will never lower our gaze, and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism — and we expect and demand our allies act in the same way,” the president concluded. (United with Israel) Benjamin Kerstein

Israel’s Fire Authority Declares All Blazes, Both Wildfires and Arson, Have Been Extinguished

Israel’s National Fire and Rescue Authority announced on Saturday night that it had succeeded in containing the massive rash of fires that ripped through the country in recent days, causing the evacuation of 3,500 people, the destruction of dozens of homes and more than 500 acres of woodlands.

A whopping 1,023 fires were extinguished over the past three days by approximately 1,000 firefighters and 300 volunteers.

Though help arrived from Egypt, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus in the form of 120 aerial missions, the town of Mevo Modi’im in the Ben Shemen Forest was almost completely destroyed and Kibbutz Harel lost 10 buildings.

Some of the blazes, including the one that consumed Mevo Modi’im, began on the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, which is marked by the lighting of bonfires. Additionally, a powerful heat wave hit Israel, raising temperatures by as much as 20 degrees in some locations, and drying out brush and grasses.

An unknown number of fires, however, are believed to have been set intentionally, including a raging blaze that broke out Friday in the northern Jordan Valley and ultimately burned all the way into neighboring Jordan.

Some of the fires were attributed to incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip, launched despite a pledge by Hamas to end the practice as part of a ceasefire with Israel, while other fires were blamed on electrical problems.

On Saturday, 3-year-old Elad Prizat was killed and 14 others injured when a fire broke out in a fifth-floor apartment in Tzfat. The cause of the fire has not been determined. (JNS)

Palestinians Build Fake ‘Ancient’ Village with the EU’s Help

In one of its latest ploys, the Palestinian Authority (PA), with support from the European Union (EU), took control of a strategic area in the heart of the Etzion Bloc, between the Jerusalem-Hebron highway and the Jewish village of Neve Daniel.

Named “Shoshkhalah,” this brand new “village” was created over the past two years by Palestinians attempting to create “historic” facts-on-the-ground where none previously existed.

Yishai Hemo, Field Coordinator for Regavim, an organization that advocates legal accountability for national land use and the return of the rule of law, explained in a video the process for the creation of Shoshkhalah:

“Over the course of the last two years, activists from the Arab town Al Khader, backed by Palestinian Authority and European Union funding, occupied the ruins of two ancient ‘shomerot’ (watchman’s huts) – primitive stone structures used by passing shepherds or farmers as shelter from the elements during the changing seasons that dot the landscape in the Jerusalem and Sataf areas. They renovated these abandoned structures and turned them into homes – and from that point, in very short order, totally new structures have been added in the surrounding area.”

In an act of defiance, the refurbished buildings display the European Union’s emblem. There are sign posts describing the site as an ancient village.

Aerial photos prove, however, that more than 15 homes have been built in this area in the past two years. Aerial photos taken in 1967, as well as maps dating back to 1880, confirm that there was never a settlement in this area.

“This is another phase in the Palestinian Authority-European Union program to seize control over strategic areas,” continued Hemo. “We are all too familiar with the program – from illegal construction in the Adumim Region, from land-grabs and highly-developed construction projects on IDF training grounds in the Hevron Hills and Gush Etzion, and from the extensive agricultural work that the PA is carrying out as a means of securing ownership rights to tens of thousands of dunams that have been illegally seized for Roots Project activity.”

Hemo continued, “When the State of Israel fails to regulate and register land in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority takes advantage of the opportunity to seize this land and annex it, de facto, to its jurisdiction.” (United with Israel) Staff

Mossad team that swiped Iranian nuclear archive to get defense prize

The 2019 Israel Security Prize will be awarded to the Mossad for its success in breaking into a Tehran archive last year and spiriting out thousands of documents that proved Iran had worked on developing nuclear weapons long after the Islamic Republic said it had stopped.

The decision, announced Sunday, was made by a committee that took into consideration many factors, including the significance of the intelligence material found, the level of risk in the operation, and how much its success meant to the security of the country.

The group was headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister.

Israel shared the archive’s information with the U.S., giving the Trump administration additional ammunition to back out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which it did shortly after. The documentation was therefore of prime importance to Israel’s security, as Netanyahu had stated for years that the deal was a strategic threat to the Jewish state.

The extreme riskiness of the operation is also unquestioned. A number of operatives had to sneak into the capital city of Israel’s most powerful enemy, break into a warehouse, crack its safes, pack half a ton of binders and compact discs onto a few trucks, and drive them out of the country without being noticed or even pursued. According to reports, they did indeed have Iranian security forces “hot on their tails.”

The fact that the Mossad even discovered the location of the archive is considered an intelligence coup. The archives were hidden in a nondescript building.

“From the outside, this was an innocent looking compound. It looks like a dilapidated warehouse,” said Netanyahu on April 30, 2018, during a now-famous, 17-minute presentation at the Ministry of Defense. A fraction of the more than 100,000 documents and disks were displayed behind him.

“But from the inside, it contained Iran’s secret atomic archives locked in massive files,” he added. “”Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis.”

President Reuven Rivlin will present Israel’s most prestigious defense prize to the Mossad and two other security bodies next month in a ceremony at the presidential residence.

The Mossad will be honored as an institution. Though it is safe to assume that the actual team which carried out the James-Bond-style heist will be invited to the closed-door event.

The prize is often given to anonymous undertakings that must remain shrouded in secrecy for decades if not in perpetuity. In this case, however, the prime minister announced the January 2018 operation to the world in a news conference and revealed the archive’s most salient details.

After sharing the intelligence with Israel’s allies, he then reiterated its highlights at the fall opening of the General Assembly at the United Nations. (WIN) Batya Jerenberg

World Health Organization’s singling out Israel over health conditions in disputed territories a ‘fantastic lie’

The 72nd assembly of the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO) voted 96-11 this week for a resolution, co-sponsored by the Arab bloc and the Palestinian delegation, which singled out Israel over “health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east[ern] Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

The assembly in Geneva gathers annually to discuss internal and external questions facing the U.N. health body, with topics including market transparency for medicines; vaccines and other health technologies; the rise of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; World Health Organization reforms; strategies for addressing snake bites; the shortfall of health workers; universal health coverage; and, finally, a condemnation of Israel for treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Syrians in the Golan Heights.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based non-governmental organization U.N. Watch, condemned the delegates’ abuse of the U.N. body as a forum to target Israel. “Singling out Israel is a perversion of the truth and a perversion of the values under which the World Health Organization was founded,” he told JNS.

“This is the annual meeting of health delegations around the world, focusing on communicable diseases like tuberculosis to AIDS, and suddenly, out of nowhere, there is this peculiar politicization where suddenly one country is singled out and effectively portrayed as the only violator of health rights,” he commented, calling it a “thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat Israel.”

“Out of 21 items on the meeting’s Agenda, only one—Item No. 14 against Israel—focused on a specific country. There was no agenda item or resolution on any other country, including Syria, where hospitals and medical infrastructure have suffered devastating bombings by Syrian and Russian forces; Yemen, where 19.7 million people lack access to health-care service due to the current crisis; or Venezuela, where the health system has collapsed, causing millions to flee the country.”

Neuer called the resolution a “fantastic lie,” maintaining that the United Nations has “reached new heights of absurdity by enacting a resolution which accuses Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, even as in reality Israeli hospitals provide life-saving treatment to Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the [Bashar] Assad regime’s barbaric attacks.”

“In some places like Ramallah, Palestinians are doing better than most other countries in the region,” said Neuer, noting that while there are indeed health challenges in the Palestinian Territories that need to be addressed, and that while Israel is not above criticism, Palestinian health challenges are largely Hamas’s own doing.

“Gaza could be like Singapore, but Hamas has chosen to direct all their resources to building terror tunnels and rockets, instead of investing in hospitals and schools,” he said.

‘Others who push back can make a difference’

The report ignored the leading role of Hamas and other terrorist groups in orchestrating violent riots and deliberately encouraging demonstrators to approach the hostile area of the Gaza-Israel border.

Seeing through the absurdities and omissions, opposing the measure were the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, and, of course, Israel.

Those that voted “no,” like last year, were the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Guatemala and Israel, while those that changed their votes to “no” this year were Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Honduras and Hungary.

“It’s significant that these countries changed their vote,” said Neuer, who has been heavily involved in exposing U.N. bias against Israel in the German media, in particular. “It’s very encouraging and goes to show that groups like U.N. Watch and others who push back can make a difference, and we will keep doing it.”

Neuer will travel to Oslo next week for a public lecture following its “shameful” vote for the WHO’s resolution, which Neuer said “encouraged this hijacking of the annual world health assembly, and diverting precious time, money and resources from global health priorities, in order to wage a political prosecution of Israel, especially when, in reality, anyone who has ever walked into an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that they are providing world-class health care to thousands of Palestinian Arabs, including last week to Palestinian leader Jibril Rajoub, as well as to Syrians fleeing Assad.”

“Countries that care about international organizations should be the first to ensure that they do not become hijacked by a political agenda, which undermines the very purpose of the organization,” concluded Neuer. (JNS) Eliana Rudee

On the one hand:

Netanyahu is not the problem this time

Calls for unity are a lovely sentiment and there is a time and place for them. But in this case, they’re based in a deep misunderstanding of the political reality, along with a disregard for voters.

by Lahav Harkov       The Jerusalem Post


Some Blue and White Party members have been saying in recent days that if anyone else but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were leading the Likud, the country would not be going to another election this year, Blue and White and Likud would form a government together, and everything would be perfect.

“The public wants a national unity government,” Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid said in a faction meeting. “Netanyahu is an obstacle to a unity government. If someone else stands at the head of Likud – anyone except Netanyahu – we can form a national unity government [that is] functioning, without extortion, without extremists, without billions in political bribes.”

Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel even approached Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz in the Knesset cafeteria on Monday evening and told him that if he joins their side, they’ll have a broad government “in two minutes.” Katz shot him down. In a tweet, Hendel expressed the same sentiment, but widened it to include Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein or MK Gideon Sa’ar as possible alternative Likud leaders.

Calls for unity are a lovely sentiment, and there is a time and place for them. But in this case, they’re based on a deep misunderstanding of the political reality, along with a disregard for voters and the democratic process.

First of all, Blue and White’s refusal to sit in a Netanyahu-led government is based on the potential corruption charges against him. But if that were the main issue in coalition talks, then we would already have a government. There’s already a majority on the Right willing to keep a coalition together even if Netanyahu is indicted, and that same majority is willing to vote in favor of expanding MK immunity. So while this is a matter of democratic values that should be part of a public discussion, it is not the reason that we may go to another election this year.

Then, there’s the idea that Blue and White and Likud could easily form a government together, if only Netanyahu were gone. Because Blue and White is not an ideological left-wing party but rather a mishmash of mostly centrists, some leftists and a smattering of the Right, some may think that the gaps between them and the Likud are easy to bridge.

But unity governments are not known either for their effectiveness or longevity. Lapid himself was part of a mixed right-center-left government after the 2013 election, so he may remember that it wasn’t quite as simple as he made it out to be on Monday.

The coalition parties were constantly at each other’s throats. In the end, Netanyahu couldn’t stand his dysfunctional government anymore and fired Lapid and Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni, calling an early election only two years after the last. And those issues happened before Netanyahu was under investigation. There’s no reason to think that a Likud led by Sa’ar, Edelstein or Katz would somehow be easier to deal with when it comes to other issues.

Next, there’s the will of the voters. How quickly people seem to have forgotten what happened in the April 9 election.

Blue and White ran on an anti-Netanyahu platform. Yes, they had a policy platform, but much of their campaign was focused on attacking the prime minister – just as much of the Likud campaign attacked Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. There haven’t been direct elections for prime minister in Israel since 2001, but this election was very focused on personalities. It was Benny or Bibi.

The Right lined up behind Netanyahu. Throughout the campaign season, every right-wing party that ended up passing the threshold committed to recommending Netanyahu, including Yisrael Beytenu that is now holding up coalition negotiations. Shas ads even featured the slogan “Bibi needs a strong Arye,” playing on party leader Deri’s first name, which means lion.

Therefore, it’s fair to say that the 65 Knesset seats for the Right were also very much 65 seats for Netanyahu, or at the very least, expected to line up behind Netanyahu.

It’s also worth pointing out that unlike Blue and White, Likud is a party with a democratic system for choosing both its leader and its list for the Knesset. Netanyahu may loom very large over the Likud and the Right in general, but unlike Gantz or Lapid, he is not self-appointed.

And while it is completely legitimate for Blue and White to focus on potential corruption charges against Netanyahu, a majority of voters supported parties that promised to recommend Netanyahu remain prime minister despite those accusations being made public before the election.

By what right do top members of the party that spent the past six months bashing Netanyahu and opposing the Likud get to decide who should lead the Right? How is that not a betrayal of the majority of voters who supported parties knowing that they would get Netanyahu?

As of Monday night, Yisrael Beytenu and the haredi parties are at an impasse over haredi enlistment in the IDF. There is a tiny bit of flexibility on the haredi side, but not nearly enough for Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is not budging at all. Of course, it would be easier if one of those sides could just be left outside the coalition, which would be possible in a Likud-Blue and White unity government.

But that just brings up a whole new crop of problems.

All this is to say that whatever Netanyahu’s pros and cons, it makes no sense to pretend that if he leaves, the entire coalition knot will be instantly untangled. Netanyahu is not the problem this time.

On the other:

The real problem is Netanyahu, no one else

The IDF draft bill and reported disagreements between Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties is just an excuse for why Israel – for the first time in its history – may go back to elections.

by Yaacov Katz    The Jerusalem post


What is the ideological difference between Likud and Blue and White? What disagreements does Benjamin Netanyahu have with Avigdor Liberman when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians or economic reforms?

If that is the case then why are they not all joining together to form a coalition? The answer in two words: Benjamin Netanyahu.

The IDF draft bill and reported disagreements between Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties is just an excuse for why Israel – for the first time in its history – seemed on the verge, as of Monday afternoon, of going to elections just seven weeks after completing one.

Not only will this cost the country – at a time of a growing national deficit – billions of shekels, but it will lead to continued paralysis throughout the government. No legislation, no reforms, no new initiatives. Nothing.

Imagine if after the April 9 election the two biggest parties – Likud and Blue and White, each with 35 seats – joined together and formed a government. There wouldn’t be haredi parties in the government or others from the far-right or Left. It would be a government with 70 seats able to solve Israel’s pressing issues: the growing deficit, the rift with the Diaspora, and the lack of a civil marriage option, as well as what now seems to be the problem at the heart of the coalition talks – the IDF draft bill.

It would be a diverse government supported by more than 2.5 million Israelis who voted for the two parties, and one with the greatest chance of being stable and lasting an entire term – with similar ideologies, there would not be any reason to rock the boat. Moreover, it would be a government capable of accepting the upcoming Trump peace plan and, with confidence, make the needed concessions to the Palestinians.

So why doesn’t that happen? Because of Netanyahu. It is true that Israel has never been as close as it is now to calling another election so soon after the last one, but it is also true that Israel has never had a prime minister-designate whom the attorney-general has decided to indict, pending a hearing on October 2-3. This whole situation is unprecedented – the indictment, the coalition deadlock, and the legislation that Netanyahu wants to pass to undermine the judicial system and save himself from a trial.

Before the April 9 election, Netanyahu claimed that he would not pass legislation to grant himself immunity. In the weeks since, we have witnessed how false that was. In essence, the one objective of the government that he is trying to form is to create a way for him to avoid an indictment. It is that, and only that, currently on his mind.

So, what will happen? That is impossible to know. As of the writing of this, Liberman has dug in his heels and is refusing to budge on the haredi draft bill. On the other side, Netanyahu is threatening to wipe out Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party in a new election.

Is a compromise even possible? Maybe. Israelis are known for having a short-term political memory. After a few weeks as defense minister, who will even remember that Liberman almost prevented Netanyahu from staying on as prime minister.

Then again, Liberman is staring down the possibility that his political career will come to an end after the next election. He barely crossed the threshold this time. There is no guarantee he will again.

It could be that this is his calculation. A government now, with the haredi parties, would not be able to get anything done. Nothing will change on matters of religion and state, nothing will move on the IDF draft bill, and it’s unlikely that Liberman will get the aggressive approach to Gaza that he has claimed is needed. So why bother joining?

The answer is because any move that Liberman makes now is a gamble, whether he joins the coalition or not. By Wednesday evening, we will find out what he has decided.