“Religion ought to be a beautiful thing, not a political thing” – Israel and the Religious Hurting Judaism

[OPINION] – By David Suissa/JNS.org – reprinted in part without explicit permission

Israel’s Religious Parties Hurt Judaism

On the surface, the fact that Israel is headed back to an election only weeks after the last one looks like a system failure. It’s never happened before in Israel. The Israeli government will now have spent the bulk of a year in election mode rather than governing mode. There’s something wrong with this picture.

And yet, if we look at the reason for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to cobble together a coalition — one party’s refusal to kowtow to religious parties — this “do-over” election presents a unique opportunity for a political upgrade.

Israel’s religious parties crave political power because it enables them to fulfill their religious agenda, from refusing to enlist in the IDF to forcing Torah laws on the public. Over the years, because Netanyahu has desperately needed their seats to form a majority coalition, he has tolerated their demands.

He probably figured the same thing would happen this time around — but one man stopped him. Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beiteinu party, decided he had had enough and refused to compromise on a bill to draft haredi(ultra-Orthodox) Jews into the IDF.

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Normally, Netanyahu is able to pull things together at the last minute, because Knesset members are loath to jeopardize their positions by going to new elections. In this case, it didn’t work. The religious parties threw a few bones of compromise, but Lieberman held firm, sticking to the original draft bill.

This dispute is rooted in the founding of the Jewish state, when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion made the fateful decision to exempt ultra-Orthodox men (only a few hundred at the time) from enlisting in the IDF. A well-known modern Orthodox rabbi in Israel once told me that this decision did more to turn off secular Jews to religion than anything else.

This makes sense. If you’re an Israeli parent whose children are risking their lives to defend the state, why should ultra-Orthodox citizens be exempt? And if you see ultra-Orthodox leaders fighting to keep their community out of the army, how would that make you feel about religion in general?

There are countless other ways that political power in the hands of ultra-Orthodox parties has become corrosive.

 

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Did Netanyahu Agree to Gender Segregation in Public – Selling his Soul to the Ultra-Orthodox Minority

PM agreed to ultra-Orthodox demand for gender-segregation in public — report

Netanyahu reportedly agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand for gender segregation in public places during the coalition negotiations last month, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

According to the report, Netanyahu sought to soften the demand in his talks with his would-be coalition members, but ultimately agreed to the condition laid out by Shas, United Torah Judaism, and the Union of Right Wing parties.

The Likud denies the report, telling Kan that no such agreement was made.

From the Times of Israel

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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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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Benny Gantz – Israel Resistance Party, An Honest Chance to Unseat Netanyahu

Benny Gantz

 

BENNY GANTZ – To Our Readers

The following articles are the latest information available in a series of recent articles regarding Benny Gantz, Israel’s best chance of unseating Binyamin Netanyahu. Bibi, as he is affectionately known, stands to be Israel’s longest running Prime Minister if elected again in April of 2019. He has been mired in controversy, not the last of which are the allegations that lead to the toppling of his government. 

Sources close to us in Israel have advised us that in advance of registering his own political party, the Israel Resistance Party, a firm was engaged to try and dig up information on Gantz, which may have included fabricating stories intended to dirty and otherwise clean reputation.

 

Popular Israeli military chief Benny Gantz emerges as potential Netanyahu challenger

JERUSALEM (AP) — A popular former Israeli military chief jumped into the political fray Thursday, announcing he would run for office in the upcoming election and instantly injecting a potent challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lengthy rule.

Retired Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has been polling favorably in recent weeks, emerging as a fresh, exciting face in Israel’s staid political landscape. By officially registering his new party, “Israel Resilience,” Gantz shakes up a snap three-month election campaign that has been widely seen as Netanyahu’s to lose.

Even before officially announcing his candidacy, several polls showed Gantz’s hypothetical party coming in second only to Netanyahu’s ruling Likud in a crowded field of contenders in the April 9 vote. A second-place finish would position Gantz for either a top Cabinet post in a Netanyahu government or to be a high-profile opposition leader.

Gantz has yet to comment publicly on the new party. Though he has yet to lay out his worldview or political platform, he flaunts stellar military credentials — a must in security-centric Israel — and a squeaky-clean image to contrast Netanyahu’s corruption-laden reputation.

Although still short of the kind of widespread support likely needed to become prime minister, Gantz’s candidacy captures a yearning in Israel for a viable alternative to emerge against the long-serving Netanyahu, who has been in office for nearly a decade and is seeking a fourth consecutive term.

With a commanding lead in the polls, and a potential indictment looming against him, Netanyahu called early elections this week, seeking to pre-empt possible corruption charges and return to office to become the longest serving premier in Israeli history.

Police have recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery and breach of trust in three different cases. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office.

Israel’s attorney general is now weighing whether to file criminal charges. Analysts say that Netanyahu hopes to win re-election before a decision is made, believing it would be much more difficult for the attorney general to charge a popular, newly elected leader.

Even with Netanyahu’s legal woes, he remains popular in opinion polls, while Israel’s established opposition remains splintered and unable to produce a viable challenger.

Like most retired security officials, Gantz is believed to hold moderate positions toward the Palestinians, which would set him apart from Netanyahu, who has largely ignored the issue while focusing on Iran’s influence in the region. But Gantz has been cagey about voicing his opinions, wary of alienating conservative voters crucial for a political upheaval.

Early opinion polls indicate that Gantz would take away votes from all the major parties and may not tip the scales away from Netanyahu just yet. But the emergence of the tall, telegenic ex-general with salty hair makes things more interesting, as he could spark new alliances with other moderate parties to give the hard-line Likud an honest fight.

“It’s too early to tell, but he definitely strengthens the center-left camp,” said Mina Tzemach, a leading Israeli pollster, whose most recent survey gave Gantz’s new party as many as 16 seats in the 120-seat Parliament. “He projects security and integrity. And the fact that he looks good doesn’t hurt either.”

Gantz, 59, was a paratrooper who rose up the ranks to head special operations units and other various commands before serving as military attache to the United States and ultimately becoming Israel’s 20th military chief between 2011-2015. His term was marked by two wars with Hamas militants in Gaza and a covert air campaign in Syria against Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Since his discharge, he has been aggressively courted by several Israeli political parties, but ultimately decided to go it alone for now as the leader of his own party.

Despite his impressive pedigree, Gantz remains a political unknown, which explains part of his appeal in such a highly partisan climate.

“There seems to be about 20 percent of the public that is fed up with what’s out there. He appeals to those who don’t want Netanyahu but can’t bring themselves to vote for the others either,” said Reuven Hazan, a political science professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “He’s the flavor of the election.”

Israel is no stranger to such would-be saviors. In the 2013 elections, former TV anchor Yair Lapid came out of nowhere with his centrist Yesh Atid party to capture 19 seats and become Israel’s second-largest faction. Last time, in 2015, Moshe Kahlon’s economy-focused Kulanu became the unlikely kingmaker. Both, however, decided to join Netanyahu’s coalition rather than oppose him and their years in the system have taken off some of the shine since then.

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Netanyahu rival registers his own political party

A leading rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a step toward running in Israeli elections called for April 9. Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, hasn’t declared a run for office yet, but recently he registered his own political party. The Hosen LeYisrael party will be known in English as the Israel Resilience Party. Gantz has not issued any kind of political platform or said what kind of political outlook a party led by him would have. But ex-military leaders like him have proven popular at the polls, and few long-time opposition politicians appear to have emerged from the pack of potential rivals. Several existing parties courted Gantz to run with them in the upcoming election. The center-left Zionist Union – which includes Labor – reported offered him the position of party leader. Gantz, 59, served in the IDF as a career army official. Commanding several units, including special operations units, before serving as the head of Israel’s military from 2011 to 2015.

Israel’s Knesset voted unanimously on Dec. 20 to dissolve and go to early elections. Netanyahu, the subject of corruption investigations, is still expected to be at the top of the Likud ticket. The party will hold its primary in early February.

 

Rampant Corruption and Israel’s Eroding Core Values, Former Spymasters Speak

Ex-Mossad chief: Israel ‘dangerously sick’ under Netanyahu’s leadership

TIMES OF ISRAEL 28.March.2018

Five former spymasters say PM eroding country’s core values, decry ‘pervasive’ culture of corruption under his tenure

 

Top row: Former Mossad chiefs from L to R: Danny Yatom, Tamir Pardo, Zvi Zamir, Shabtai Shavit, Nahum Admoni and Efraim Halevy.  Bottom row: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin host a candle lighting ceremony for of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the President's residence in Jerusalem on December 18, 2014. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Top row: Former Mossad chiefs from L to R: Danny Yatom, Tamir Pardo, Zvi Zamir, Shabtai Shavit, Nahum Admoni and Efraim Halevy. Bottom row: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin host a candle lighting ceremony for of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on December 18, 2014. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Five former chiefs of the Mossad spy agency leveled harsh criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, with one saying that Israel was “dangerously sick” under his leadership.

“I feel so bad about what is happening in the country, the corruption is so deep, so pervasive,” Shabtai Shavit told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in an excerpt of a joint sit down interview ahead of Independence Day. “There are no red lines, no taboos and add to that the deepening rift among the people.”

Shavit was joined by Zvi Zamir, Nahum Admoni, Danny Yatom, Efraim Halevy and Tamir Pardo in expressing serious concerns about Israel’s future.

“As intelligence people, our most important skill is being able to anticipate the future,” Shavit added. “So I ask myself what kind of country will my grandchildren inherit, and I cannot give an answer to that.”

“It’s a problem of values, of divisions,” Pardo said. “We need leadership that is able to navigate between crises at the right places, but unfortunately, that does not exist today.”

Zamir, the oldest of the group at age 93, fired off the sharpest criticism of Netanyahu, saying the prime minister and his powerful cronies were only serving their own interests.

“I’m not sure that for the prime minister and the senior officials surrounding him that public interests prevail over their personal interests of more money and more power,” he said.

“We are dangerously sick,” he said. “Netanyahu may have inherited a country with symptoms, but he has ushered it into a state of malignant disease.”

Yatom echoed Zamir’s sentiment, saying it was unsurprising that Netanyahu and a growing number of his associates are under investigation for corruption, because they put their own interests ahead of the country’s.

Israel, he warned, was “on a downward spiral,” and called on the prime minister to resign.

In his interview, Halevy criticized Netanyahu, saying his “need for headlines and obsession with his public image verses running the country and managing its security matters is problematic.”

“I think something very bad has happened to leadership in Israel,” he added. “There is a major flaw in the political system that everything that isn’t illegal is kosher.”

88-year-old Admoni said his main concern with Israel today is the growing rift between Israelis, asserting the divide between religious and secular populations was “worse than its ever been.”

“The divide just keeps growing,” Admoni lamented.

Nearly all of the former intelligence officials have publicly censured Netanyahu in the past, though the extensive criticism leveled against him in Yedioth on Tuesday was unprecedented.

The full interview with the six former Mossad chiefs will run in Yedioth’s weekend magazine, 7 Days, on Friday.

Netanyahu is embroiled in several corruption scandals and was questioned again by police on Monday in connection with the Bezeq scandal, known as case 4000.

The probe involves suspicions that Netanyahu, who has served as communications minister for several years over his past two terms as premier, advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

In addition to Case 4000, Netanyahu is also suspected of wrongdoing in so-called cases 1000 and 2000, in which police have recommended he be indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, allegedly in return for certain benefits.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in all the cases.