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|Wednesday, Dec 23 ’09, Tevet 6, 5770|
1. Shaping Up: Kadima Headed for Likud-Initiated Split
The Likud’s efforts to divide the party that caused the Likud’s own division four years ago appear to be successful.
Though most of the main players in the anticipated political shake-up are publicly denying it, it appears that seven Kadima MKs – the minimum necessary for an official breakaway from the party – are strongly considering splitting off, forming their own faction, and then joining the Likud in one way or another.
Party leader Tzipi Livni, who is also leads the Opposition in the Knesset, has met with some of the MKs who are said to be interested in leaving. It is not known how her efforts to convince them to remain in the party were received.
Livni Jabs at Netanyahu
Livni’s public response was this: “While the public believes that Netanyahu is busy every minute with the Shalit affair and his difficult deliberations, it turns out the he feels that there are things that are even more important to him. The Opposition has acted with its eye on the common good, while Netanyahu is the first prime minister to deal obsessively with the Opposition instead of affairs of state.”
The Livni-led Opposition in fact withdrew a proposed no-confidence motion in the government this week, because of the tense and ongoing negotiations for the exchange of hundreds of terrorists for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
Among the Kadima MKs mentioned as possible Kadima breakaways are Otniel Schneller, Ruhama Avraham-Belila, Yaakov Edri, Zev Boim, Eli Aflalo, Marina Solodkin. MK Schneller has said recently, “The issue of joining the Likud is complex and not simple.”
Others, such as former Likudniks Belila-Avraham and Edri, have denied the story more strenuously. The former said that Netanyahu would have an easier time getting all of Kadima to join the government than just parts thereof.
A Matter of Time
Despite this, many in the political establishment say that the deal has basically been concluded and that it is just a matter of time before it happens. Netanyahu has apparently offered ministerial portfolios to three of the seven, deputy minister-ships to another three, and the head of a Knesset committee to the last one.
In addition, Netanyahu is promising that he will ensure their political future within the Likud – though it is obvious that the results of Central Committee votes for positions on future lists of Likud Knesset candidates cannot be guaranteed.
How Many are Needed?
In order to form an official breakaway faction, at least a third of the party’s MKs. but not more than seven, are required to split off from Kadima, which currently has 28 MKs, one more than the Likud. In the case of Labor, where talk of a split has also been rampant, only five of its 13 MKs – more than one third – are necessary for a breakway, two less than needed in Kadima.
Kadima was formed in late 2005 by then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon after he faced strong internal party opposition over his Disengagement/expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Samaria. Most of Kadima’s legislators were Likud party MKs, and their departure led the Likud to drop from 29 Knesset seats to 12 in the 2006 election.
It is therefore clear that the Likud would find sweet political revenge if it succeeds in splitting Kadima.
2. Peace Now Introduces the ‘Informers’ Hotline’ in Judea, Samaria
The leftist Peace Now organization has come up with a new way to lure residents of Judea and Samaria into helping to trap friends and neighbors who might be building a porch or other carrying out other construction on their property — encouraging them to call on a new hotline set up for the purpose. The group is inviting Israelis living in the area to use the new voice mail to report any violations of the government’s building freeze they see in their own or other Jewish communities anywhere in Judea and Samaria.
Peace Now explains on its web site, “Observing the building freeze on settlements is in Israel’s interest. Not in Obama’s. Not in the world’s. The settlements are our problem." The group’s web site also mandates the members of its movement to check all information on illegal construction that violates the freeze orders “and to submit it to the authorities that track violations.”
Attacks on the ‘Informer Hotline’
In response, Jewish residents in the region have begun building in numerous areas in Judea and Samaria while their supporters are urging people to flood the voice mail system with reports of illegal Arab construction. The anti-Jewish building voice mail system has been dubbed the “Peace Now Milshonun.” The term “milshonun” is a Hebrew slang name derived from the word “malshin”, the Hebrew word for “informer.”
Some nationalists, besides reporting on building violations carried out by Arabs in different parts of Judea and Samaria, have called and filled the voice mail machine with meaningless messages until it was unable to hold any more.
Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer was philosophical about the tactics: “There are interesting voices,” he said. “There are callers whose hobby it is to release aggression. There are also amusing incidents. There are jokes,” he added, offering one example: “One woman from Ofrah reported that she took out chickens from her freezer. That’s nice. They have a right to kid around.”
Oppenheimer said, however, that there are also callers who express the desire to break the machine or to block the voice mail, and “that I excuse less.” In addition, he said that “between the slanderous messages” are those that are legitimate reports of illegal Arab construction activity.
Oppenheimer: ‘We Needed Real Answers’
The real question is why the organization established the “Informer Hotline” when obviously the government is spending hundreds of thousands of shekels gathering its own data.
The simple answer, Oppenheimer says, has to do with the group’s ability to respond to requests for independent hard data: “Many people ask us, from both the right and the left, if there is really a freeze or not, and we are determined to be able to give a clear answer to this answer,” he said.
“We are therefore gathering information and checking out whether the construction sites in the region are those which were approved before the government’s decision or whether we are talking about violations of the government’s decision.” He estimated that in about two weeks the group will be able to coordinate its material into an organized statement “that will either confirm or deny the existence of the freeze.”
‘Man of the Right’
Ultimately, Oppenheimer said, it may have been preferable for Netanyahu not to have announced a building freeze in the first place. The Peace Now director offered a litany of complaints against the Prime Minister’s handling of the matter.
“Since the announcement, Netanyahu has approved building plans, he said he would continue to build at the end of the [10-month freeze pe even if the political process will continue, and said he won’t do anything about the outposts,” Oppenheimer complained. “Some of [the outpost were even granted approval. In addition, the new national priorities map was announced.
“At this rate, we probably would have preferred that his freeze would never have been announced to the world. Netanyahu is still a man of the right,” he said. “If anyone thinks that he has changed become a man of the left, he is wrong. If he should turn out to be otherwise, I will be the first to bless it.”
Answers for Whom, to Whom?
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) announced earlier this month that Philadelphia attorney Lee Bender filed a request with the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation on claims that Peace Now is acting as an unregistered agent of foreign governments. ZOA reported in its news release that the Norwegian government has supported the organization with “millions of Kroner over the past seven years – totaling, in today’s money, over $1.2 million.”
The European Union itself as an entity has donated at least NIS 451,600 ($119,000) to Peace Now, and the British government, another generous patron, has provided more than NIS 540,000 in funding for its “Settlement Watch” project. Another Scandinavian nation, Finland, is also a patron.
In October, Likud Knesset member Danny Danon announced he intends to introduce legislation to criminalize the political activities of the organization, and all others that are funded by foreign entities. MK Danon, who also chairs the World Likud Movement, made the announcement after an incident in which three Peace Now activists posed as students in order to obtain material to be used against nationalist Knesset members.
3. Failing Israeli Newspaper Fears US Billionaire’s Competition
The financially-plagued Maariv is afraid the success of U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson will put it out of business. Adelson’s lobbyists are fighting a bill aimed at closing down his newspaper by barring foreigners from owning Israeli media.
Communications Minister Moshe Khalon estimates that the bill, sponsored by 19 Knesset Members, will not pass, but Maariv, which has been losing money for years, is conducting a campaign that blames Adelson’s success for its problems.
Ofer Nimrodi, publisher of Maariv, told MKs that the continued existence of Adelson’s Yisrael Today (Yisrael HaYom) free newspaper could lead to the closure Maariv in the coming year. The two-year-old newspaper has gained nearly 30 percent of the market share and is making inroads on the popular Yediot Acharonot newspaper.
Adelson and Netanyahu Adelson is a supporter of the Likud party, and his newspaper is the only leading print media that generally favors a more nationalist policy.
One opponent of the law suggested that if MKs are worried about foreign influence, they should consider shutting dozens of organizations such as Peace Now, which are heavily funded by European Union countries.
Writer and musician Dudu Elharar told Arutz 7, “Maariv is a failure because it has no clear editorial policy and does not appeal to any particular readership. Maariv could not support itself long before Yisrael HaYom began, and now Nimrodi is trying to blame it for his problems.
“If it bothers Nimrodi that foreigners influence Israeli politics, he should shut down dozens of groups, such as Peace Now. He also can close down the Peace Centers" that bear the name of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and President Shimon Peres,” groups that Elharar said damage the country.
4. Hesder Yeshiva Quits Army
The “unanimous” Hesder Yeshivot declaration of earlier this week was apparently not so unanimous – and has led at least one yeshiva to quit.
The head of the Yeshivat Hesder in the Negev city of Arad, Rabbi Yinon Ilani, has sent a letter to the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, asking to be removed from both the Union and the Hesder arrangement with the army. Rabbi Ilani explains, “I apparently do not understand the decision that was made in the honorable forum of all the Yeshiva deans on Sunday, and therefore, to my great sorrow, and despite the great price our yeshiva will have to pay, I cannot be a party to something that I do not understand.”
The “price” referred to by Rabbi Ilani is a monthly per-student stipend of hundreds of shekels from the Defense Ministry to the Hesder yeshivot.
Rabbi Ilani was one of the very few Hesder yeshiva heads who did not take part in the meeting on Sunday. The decision made there stated clear opposition to protests within the army, and also resolved to work to restore Yeshivat Har Bracha, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, to the Hesder arrangement. The statement did not say that Torah law stands above army commands.
Meanwhile, an IDF memo reported on IDF Army Radio indicates that the Hesder declaration has not brought about the desired conciliation with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Defense Ministry; the opposite is the case. The memo states that the students of Har Bracha have 60 days in which to find another Hesder yeshiva, or else they will be drafted for full three-year service.
Hesder students generally serve for five years, including about 18 months in active duty, and the remainder studying Torah.
‘Deans Can’t Find Way to Integrate Both?
The final straw for Rabbi Ilani and his yeshiva was apparently words of explanation added after the Sunday meeting by Union spokesman Rabbi David Stav.
“Rabbi Stav said to the media that the Union is obligated to both State law and Torah law,” Rabbi Ilani wrote, “but that it is not yet clear how to integrate both of them. If the Yeshiva heads cannot decide the proper approach, then what can be expected from a simple soldier? Why not say clearly: ‘We are loyal to the State and its laws as long as they do not contradict our holy Torah; every law that opposes the Torah is blatantly illegal?’”
Rabbi Ilani feels that ideally, protests against orders to evict Jews and destroy their property should be carried out by the rabbis and not by the students – “but since we, the rabbis, did not sound our opinion clearly, the students burst out in ‘holy brazenness’ and do our work [by protestin… It is the government that is responsible for these protests, by ordering the soldiers to carry out political missions that are against Jewish Law.”
Rabbi Nixes Anti-Protest Call
“The call [by the rabbi against protests in the army is not appropriate for this period,” Rabbi Ilani wrote, “especially when we are beginning a campaign for the very existence of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and when the approach towards the residents is as if they were genuine enemies – to the point where I cannot even be sure that orders will not be given to fire on opponents of the construction freeze orders.”
The reference is to an IDF plan that was publicized this week, showing that the IDF is planning something close to war against the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria (Yesha) regarding the enforcement of the construction-freeze orders. The document indicates that the army is planning to enforce the freeze with the help of six brigades, the entire Border Guard forces of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, Israel Air Forces helicopters and drones, the Shabak (Shin Bet) and police, intelligence forces, and IDF reserve units.
5. Barak: Hesder Arrangement with Har Bracha is Over
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that the IDF’s cooperation with the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva was over. He made no mention of the fact that the yeshiva’s dean, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, signed a declaration against political protests in the military – an act which Hesder yeshiva deans hoped would mollify the minister’s anger at Melamed.
"After two attempts to demonstrate within the army, it turned out that there is a yeshiva whose head openly preaches for refusal of orders, and is unwilling to denounce acts of protest within the IDF,” Barak said in a speech before high school students in Rishon LeTzion.
"One of the foundations of a democratic state is a monopoly on the use of force on the one hand; on the other is the state’s authority over the citizens,” he lectured the students. “The citizens express their stances through political activity and the ballot box. The State has an army and the army is under the authority of the State, and of no other body.”
"The idea of a military and refusal to do army service are not compatible, and we do not intend to accept this,” Barak went on. “This must be clear everywhere. After studying the case and reading the recommendations of the heads of the IDF, I reached the conclusion that the right path is to end the Hesder [arrangemen with this particular yeshiva. Make no mistake, the Hesder yeshiva boys are the IDF’s finest soldiers, in all units, and have been for decades. They are also a very important core group in the reserve force afterward. They are excellent people, but just as one should not make generalizations, we should not shut our eyes where there is unworthy and improper behavior.For this reason, the arrangement with this yeshiva is finished. Soldiers from all the other yeshivas are received with a blessing [an apparent pun on the word bracha, or blessing, which is part of the name of Har Bracha – ed.
Barak also hinted that IDF soldiers would continue to participate in evictions from outposts. “We are not the only country in the world in which the army is called upon to carry out civilian assignments. When a state reaches the place in which it needs to enforce the law on citizens, in has no choice but to use its army. This instruction must also be carried out and obeyed, this is the true basis of democracy.”
6. New ‘Street Name’ Law to Streamline Benefits, Taxes
It’s now the law: All towns and villages, not only cities, must assign street names and house numbers. It will help citizens to receive benefits – and Arab cities to collect taxes.
The Knesset passed the final readings of the new law on Monday, instituting into law the proposal by MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union). Until now, only full-fledged cities were required to assign street names and house numbers.
"This law is very important from several aspects," Eldad explained. "It will help both the citizens and the authorities. It will enable the latter to enforce the law in an efficient manner, and to collect various fines and fees that various sectors in Israel – and especially the Arab sector – were able to systematically avoid, using the excuse that there was no address or house number."
In addition, Eldad said, "The Health Ministry, for instance, has had trouble locating many citizens who don’t have an address, and many who are eligible for various benefits sometimes lose out on payments they deserve to receive."
Local government bodies that do not fulfill the law and do not assign names to every street and numbers to every house will have to answer to the Interior Ministry, Eldad said, "and they certainly will not receive stimulus payments or grants from the Ministry."
7. Netanyahu Puts Decision on Shalit in Hamas’ Hands
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and six senior Cabinet ministers have told a German mediator that 100 terrorists must be deported to Arab countries or Gaza before Israel can agree to free nearly 1,000 terrorists and prisoners for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. A newspaper in Lebanon stated that Qatar and European countries have agreed to accept more than 20 terrorists, and Israel has insisted that most of the others be sent to Gaza instead of Judea and Samaria.
Hamas officials said that the German mediator in negotiations will meet with the terrorist organization on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced Tuesday, "There is no deal for the release of Gilad Shalit and I don’t know if there will be." He in effect has thrown the powder keg of the highly charged issue of Shalit back to Hamas, whose officials stated Tuesday that they cannot accept the idea of deportations. The same issue was a major factor in the Cabinet’s rejection last February of a similar proposal aimed at bringing Shalit back home.
Although most statements from Hamas have come from Gaza, the ultimate decision will be made by Khaled Mashaal, the Syrian-based leader of the terrorist organization. One associate, Beirut-based Hamas leader Osama Hamdan, declared Tuesday night, "Because Hamas, or any other Palestinian faction, cannot agree to the expulsion of Palestinians, we insist that all the prisoners are released to their homes and families."
The government has kept silent on any public statements on the negotiations for the return of Shalit, but most reports indicated that the mini-Cabinet of six ministers and the Prime Minister drew the red line on deporting more than 100 terrorists while refusing to release seven or nine others. Foreign media stated that among them are Marwan Barghouti, sentenced five times to life in prison, and Ahmed Sadat, who assassinated Tourist Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, and three Hamas terrorists.
Israel recently disclosed to the High Court that it might free 960 terrorists and prisoners, many of them with “blood on their hands,” for involvement in killing dozens of Israelis. Intelligence officials have warned that allowing them to return to their homes in Judea and Samaria might leave the lives of millions of Israelis in danger. Terrorists who previously have been released have murdered nearly 180 Israelis after being freed and promising not to return to terror.
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