A Changing of the Guard in Israel Necessary for Accountability – Keeping Israel from Radicalization

Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu in conversation with the Jerusalem Post

LIBERMAN TO DEMAND HEALTH, INTERIOR MINISTRIES

Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman declared Tuesday night that his party would seek the interior and health ministries in the next government, two portfolios currently held by leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

He took direct aim at current head of the health minister Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman by describing Israel’s health system as “very sick” and said that the interior ministry must be wrested from the hands of current minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri to restore “normalcy” to matters of religion and state in the country. 

Liberman also vowed not recommend any candidate to form a coalition after the next election if they do not promise to establish a national unity government without the ultra-Orthodox, Arab parties, and left wing and right wing parties. 

Speaking at Yisrael Beytenu’s convention of central committee members in Tel Aviv, Liberman took fierce aim at the haredi political parties, in particular Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman promising to replace him with a respected professor of medicine. 

He also promised to cut child subsidy payments for a fifth child and upwards, saying that large proportions of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab population do not work because child subsidies make it too financially viable not to seek employment. 

“The occupation of the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs is basically to have children and for their children to have more children, and it is bringing us to the point of collapse,” said Liberman. 

The Yisrael Beytenu chairman made sweeping promises about what his party would demand in the coming government, including a a raft of measures “to restore Israel to normalcy” on matters of religion and state. 

Liberman said that after the elections he would demand the interior ministry for Yisrael Beytenu so as to dismantle local religious councils which currently provide religious services such as marriage registration, kashrut supervision and many others, and replace them with a department for religious services in local government authorities instead.

He also said that obtaining the interior ministry was crucial to allowing local municipal authorities the right to decide if they want more grocery stores and other commercial activities available in their jurisdictions and vowed to overturn the so called “mini-mart law” advocated by the haredi parties which stops local authorities from making such a decision. 

And Liberman said he would demand his party get the health ministry and would appoint Prof. Leonid Eidelman, currently president of the World Medical Association as minister, saying Israel’s health system needed “a professional” to deal with its challenges. 

Liberman’s comments seemed designed to provoke Litzman who is fiercely defensive of his record as minister and has spoken proudly of his achievements there. 

In promises which will further antagonize the ultra-Orthodox parties, the Yisrael Beytenu chairman promised he would demand that haredi schools teach core curriculum subjects such as English and Maths, as part of his conditions of entering a new government. 

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To Serve or Not to Serve – the IDF, Haredim one Enlisted Now Do not Want to Be Associated With Enlistment…

A photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, an ultra-Orthodox who fought in the Six Day War, is shown in a Yisrael Beytenu campaign ad calling on ultra-Orthodox to enlist. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, an ultra-Orthodox who fought in the Six Day War, is shown in a Yisrael Beytenu campaign ad calling on ultra-Orthodox to enlist. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Liberman pulls clip calling for Haredi enlistment but featuring Six Day War vet

Granddaughter of Rabbi Elisha Levi outraged to see a photo of him illustrating Yisrael Beytenu campaign spot; ultra-Orthodox MK blasts ‘incitement’

Avigdor Liberman was forced Friday to remove a campaign ad by his Yisrael Beytenu party calling on ultra-Orthodox Israelis to enlist to the military, after coming under fire for including footage of a rabbi who had fought in the Six Day War in 1967.

Yisrael Beytenu has been focusing its campaign on criticizing the ultra-Orthodox community and presenting his party as right-wing and secular, after a disagreement over a law regulating the drafting of seminary students into the IDF prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition in the wake of the April elections. This led to another round of Israeli elections scheduled for September 17.

In the campaign spot published Friday morning, various photos of ultra-Orthodox men are seen with slogans such as: “We’re not demanding that you enlist to [elite commando unit] Sayeret Matkal, only that you enlist,” and “We’re not demanding that you work extra hours, only that you work.”

However, Facebook user Michaela Levi was outraged when she recognized one of the people in the clip as her grandfather Rabbi Elisha Levi, who served in the IDF in the 1960s and took part in the Six Day War against invading Arab armies.

“How ugly can this election cycle be?” she asked in a post. “This morning I saw the video Avigdor Liberman published. Probably without thinking too much about the people behind the photos, he allowed himself to drag my grandfather’s name through the mud… How do you allow yourselves to generalize like this?!

“My grandfather, who served and fought in the Six Day War, worked all his life in education and dedicated every free moment he had to volunteer work, and thousands of graduates of kindergartens and schools around Jerusalem can testify to that,” Levi added.

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Anger Over Ultra-Orthodox Freeloading and Power of Minority “Kingmakers” Could Destroy Israel

It’s Thursday night at the Mahane Yehuda market in west Jerusalem, where the music is thumping and the drinks are flowing. When a bottle breaks, the crowds erupt with a chorus of “mazel tov”, or congratulations.

But as some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in traditional black suits, side locks, and thick skullcaps pass by, Ad Shamsi’s face sours. “What do they have to do here?” asks the 56-year-old Jewish Israeli, who is kicking off the weekend at an outside bar.

This is a glimpse of the intra-religious tension that in part led Israel’s parliament last week to dissolve itself and hold a fresh election – just seven weeks after the last one – following a deadlock between two rightwing factions at odds over a proposal to draft the ultra-Orthodox into Israel’s military.

Since Israel’s founding, the ultra-Orthodox – also called the Haredim – have been exempted from military service, which is mandatory for all Jewish Israeli school leavers. The various ultra-Orthodox sects see it as a religious commandment to only study Jewish texts and separate themselves from modern society. They consequently receive government subsidies to study rather than work, along with general social services and benefits relating to unemployment, poverty and their large numbers of children.

Today the ultra-Orthodox, an umbrella term for different sects and communities, are 10% of Israel’s population of more than 8.5 million – and are growing fast.

They have strategically cultivated a role as kingmakers in Israeli politics, making or breaking coalitions based on which politicians best support their interests.

The military symbolises the antithesis of traditional ultra-Orthodox principles. It represents time away from studying, a mixing of genders against religious prohibitions and a vast melting pot in which young people are taught to be a certain kind of Israeli. For average Jewish Israelis, to be a good citizen is to serve in the military. (Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of the population, are exempt from service because of the ongoing conflict.)

Shamsi is an avid supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, and his rightwing, national religious policies. He wears a kippa, or Jewish head covering, thinks shops should close on the Sabbath in keeping with strict Jewish law, and supports Israel’s presence in the occupied Palestinian Territories. He lives in Ramot, an increasingly ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem considered an illegal settlement under international law.

He has no patience with the ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not serve in the military yet receive subsidies from the government, all while not actually studying — in his mind epitomised by the young Haredi men coming to check out the secular bar scene on a Thursday night. “Why do I need to do three years [in the military] and him not?” Shamsi asks. “Why do I need to pay for everything and not them?”

A few minutes’ walk from the bars of Mahane Yehuda is Mea She’arim, historically the most intense ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Here, men dress in various styles of black hats and suits, depending on their sect, and walk fast, so as not to appear to be wasting time away from studying. Plastered on walls along narrow streets are posters listing deaths and other notices – a key source of information for communities that shun the internet.

A sign near a bustling supermarket informs passers-by: “It is forbidden to participate in elections.”

Some ultra-Orthodox sects do not recognise the state of Israel, saying the Bible prescribes that it can only come into existence with the coming of the Messiah. For others, there is a more pointed boycott of elections now in protest over what they see as the Haredi parties’ failure to be hardline enough on the issue of conscription.

 

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The Ultra-Orthodox Free-Loaders in Israel Posing Existential Threat to Israel and to Jews

Israel Headed Toward Political Meltdown as Shasniks Refuse to Submit to Mandatory IDF Service Like all Israelis

The New York Times

With 2 Days Left, Israel’s Netanyahu Struggles to Form a Government

 

JERUSALEM — With just two days left before the deadline for forming a government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was struggling Monday to sign up coalition partners, thrusting the country into a political crisis and raising the possibility that it could be forced to hold a new election.

The drama stemmed from a battle of wills between two political forces that Mr. Netanyahu needs to form a right-wing coalition: the ultra-Orthodox religious parties that won 16 parliamentary seats in the April 9 election, and Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won five seats and whose constituents are mostly secular, Russian-speaking Israelis.

Having long sparred over issues of religion and state, the sides are now wrestling over legislation to replace a military draft law that exempted ultra-Orthodox men. Mr. Lieberman supports a law that sets modest quotas for enlisting them, which the religious parties oppose.

A new law must be passed by late July, according to a deadline imposed by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, which won 35 seats, needs the ultra-Orthodox parties, Yisrael Beiteinu and two other parties to assemble a 61-seat majority.

Analysts said it was entirely possible that the parties could resolve their differences, allowing Mr. Netanyahu to announce a new government by midnight Wednesday, which would not be the first time Israeli coalition negotiations have gone to the wire.

But the alternative threatened to catapult Israel into uncharted political terrain: Israel has never had to hold a new national ballot because of a failure to form a government after an election.

“Right now it looks as if we are at a deadlock because everybody has climbed to the top of a tree and nobody’s ready to get down, especially not Lieberman,” said Abraham Diskin, professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Putting the chances of a new election at 50-50, he added, “Definitely there is a possibility that we will have early elections even before the government was formed.”

On Sunday, Likud submitted a motion to disperse the newly sworn-in Parliament, paving the way for new elections. While questions arose over the legality of an interim government taking such action, the move seemed like a canny negotiating tactic in a game of political chicken.

By Monday, one newspaper, Maariv, had already published a poll asking, “If elections were held today, who would you vote for?”

On Monday evening, the motion passed a preliminary vote in Parliament; possible dates were being bandied about for a new election in about three months.

Even as his party moved toward a new election, Mr. Netanyahu insisted he didn’t want one.

“It is still possible to come to our senses,” he said in a televised address Monday evening. “I promise that I will continue to work in every possible way during the time that is still left in order to form the government. I call upon Avigdor Lieberman to reconsider.”

Mr. Netanyahu also quoted a tweet posted on Monday by President Trump endorsing Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts, which many critics described as an improper intervention in Israel’s domestic politics. Mr. Trump, calling Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname, Bibi, wrote: “Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever.”

Calling a new election would pre-empt another possibility, distasteful to Mr. Netanyahu, that Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, could offer someone else the chance to form a government.

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Avigdor Lieberman, the former defense minister, said he was not prepared to be part of a government controlled by religious law.CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times

The opposition is led by Blue and White, a new centrist party whose main appeal was that it was not led by Mr. Netanyahu, who has already served 13 years as prime minister and is facing indictment on corruption charges.

Mr. Netanyahu, who is on track to become Israel’s longest serving prime minister this summer, is also the first to face possible criminal charges while in office. In February, the attorney general announced plans to indict him in three cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The attorney general has set a hearing for October where Mr. Netanyahu’s lawyers can plead his case before a final decision is made.

The Likud nevertheless won five more seats than last time, which Mr. Netanyahu took as a vote of confidence, and together with the right-wing and religious parties that made up his last coalition, seemed poised to form a government with a majority of 65 seats.

He also appeared set to take on another challenge — promoting legislation that would guarantee him immunity from prosecution while in office. Tens of thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday night in a protest against such a move.

Instead, Mr. Netanyahu has found himself at the mercy of smaller parties engaged in a power struggle over the military draft law, which critics said was in any case a mild compromise unlikely to significantly change the status quo.

There is a long history of bad blood between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Lieberman, a blunt, tough-talking politician who resigned as defense minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s last government and was eyeing returning to the post.

Some commentators suggested that Mr. Lieberman was driven by a desire for revenge against his old nemesis, or was counting on the prospect that Mr. Netanyahu could not survive an indictment and was setting himself up as an alternative.

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Jews Creating Our Own Brand of Anti-Semitism and a NYT Opinion Piece

Orthodox Jews with the group Jews United Against Zionism gather outside the office of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MM) in a show of support for Omar’s right to free speech.

Is Anti-Semitism Exceptional?

Like most places, America has always had potent strains of anti-Semitism — crude and polished, K.K.K. and country club. But unlike many places, we have always had important strains of philo-Semitism as well; there is a long American tradition, with both Protestant and Enlightenment roots, of really liking Judaism and the Jews.

And so the story of the Jews in post-World War II America is the story, not just of anti-Semitism’s marginalization, but of philo-Semitism’s triumph. Jewish Americans weren’t just integrated, like other ethnic and religious groups. They also attracted a particular sympathy and admiration, rooted in Holocaust remembrance, affection for Israel, and a distinctive pride in the scope of their success.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

For American philo-Semites, the Jewish experience wasn’t just one minority experience among many, but a signal and elevated case. The outsize success of Jewish intellectuals and scientists and artists and businessmen and activists was an especially good thing, a unique proof of American exceptionalism — because ours was the one country where a people so long persecuted could not only survive but triumph. And attacks on Jewish success and influence, like attacks on the state of Israel, were treated as particularly dangerous, particularly un-American, because they threatened to undo this great achievement, and return the Jews to their historic state of constant threat and peril

This history supplies one way to understand the stakes in the controversy over Ilhan Omar, the Muslim congresswoman who keeps using anti-Semitic clichés in her criticisms of the American-Israeli relationship. The part of the American left that’s defending her, or at least mitigating her offense and accusing her conservative critics of bad faith, doesn’t see itself as defending Jew-hatred, and since many of those defenders are Jewish — including the arguable front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders — it’s reasonable to take them at their word.

But the defend-Omar project is a project that seeks to push us away from the age of philo-Semitism, the age in which both American Jews and the American-Israel relationship were considered special cases among the range of minority groups and foreign policy partnerships.

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TIME TO GET NETANYAHU OUT! Selling His Soul to the Ultra-Orthodox

Ultra-Orthodox parties to ‘unequivocally’ back Netanyahu as next PM

United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman and Shas’s Aryeh Deri meet in Jerusalem, vow not to join Gantz-led coalition ‘under any circumstances’

Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri (right) speaks with United Torah Judaism leader MK Yaakov Litzman (left) during the opening session of the 20th Knesset, March 31, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The leaders of the two major ultra-Orthodox political factions, Shas and United Torah Judaism, announced Thursday they were joining forces to ensure that Benjamin Netanyahu wins the April 9 election and forms the next coalition government.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and UTJ head Yaakov Litzman met in Deri’s office in Jerusalem on Thursday to begin coordinating their parties’ campaigns.

They vowed to back Netanyahu over rival Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

“We continue with all our might to unequivocally support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not Gantz,” the two party leaders said in a joint statement after the meeting.

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