Annex it Already

Discussions of “annexation” by Israel’s new unity government have triggered shrieks of outrage from the usual suspects, from Mahmoud Abbas to the EU to Joe Biden. The Arab League announced that it would be a “new war crime…against the Palestinian people.” The Israeli Left is up in arms. Even the American Union for Reform Judaism got into the act.

They should calm down.

What is proposed isn’t new, it directly affects virtually no Palestinian Arabs, it is not “illegal under international law,” and it isn’t a “war crime.” As part of the Trump plan, it is perhaps the most practical path to ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs that doesn’t involve war.

What is to be annexed is only part of Judea and Samaria: the Jordan Valley, with the exception of the city of Jericho, and Israeli communities in the rest of Judea and Samaria. There are almost no Palestinians living in these places. The map will be complicated, and in order to provide contiguity for Jewish and Palestinian areas, will include bypass roads and tunnels. The Palestinian area will get as much autonomy as possible, consistent with Israel’s security: it will be something less than a completely sovereign state, since it will be demilitarized and its borders will be controlled by Israel.

It’s interesting to note that this is not a new idea, or a uniquely right-wing one. Indeed, its biggest proponents have been left-wingers.

The plan is an implementation of the idea originally expressed in the famous UN Security Council resolution 242, which called for Israel to withdraw from parts of its conquered lands, and to establish “secure and recognized boundaries” for all states in the region.  Shortly after the war in 1967, Yigal Allon, a former general and a Labor Party minister in the Israeli government, proposed a map similar to Trump’s which envisioned a “two state solution” with Palestinian control of the Arab areas. Later, he modified it for Jordanian control, but the map was similar. Of course both Jordan and the PLO rejected the idea. But for years, the “Allon plan” was the paradigm accepted by the Israeli Left.

After the signing of the Oslo Accords, and almost exactly a month before he was murdered, another former Palmach commander and left-wing hero, Yitzhak Rabin made a speech to the Knesset in which he described the Interim Agreement that had been signed with the PLO, and his understanding of what the final status would be like. Among other things, he said,

We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines. [My emphasis]

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

  1. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
  2. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term. [My emphasis]
  3. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line” prior to the Six-Day War.
  4. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

This too is very close to the Trump plan. It is ironic that some of the same people that call Netanyahu a hard-liner or even a criminal for his stated intention to annex the Jordan Valley are those that celebrate Rabin as a progressive peacemaker.

Until 2000, this was more or less the Israeli understanding of “two-state solution.” The PLO, naturally, had a different vision. For them, it meant that Israel would remove both the IDF and civilian communities from all areas conquered in 1967 including the Jordan Valley and eastern Jerusalem (perhaps with very minor adjustments), and that Arab refugees would have a right to return to Israel or to receive compensation. They saw Oslo as a very great compromise of principle, since they believe that all of Israel should be in their hands. But as Arafat said shortly after, once this was accomplished, the rest would soon follow (see also here).

Israel, under pressure from the US and Europe, and still in the grip of the Oslo delusion that the PLO could be a partner, ignored the threats from Arafat and other PLO members as well as the murderous terrorism that ramped up during the 1990s, and made concession after concession to the PLO. In 2000, the plan as envisioned by Rabin was almost forgotten as Ehud Barak offered almost all of Judea and Samaria to Arafat – and was still turned down. Arafat’s strategy had always been to alternate diplomacy and terror, and now, after the diplomatic gains he had achieved by pocketing the Clinton-Barak proposals, he unleashed the greatest terror offensive of all, the Second Intifada.

But he went too far. The IDF crushed the revolt and the Israeli people, at long last, gave up on the Oslo process and the political parties that had been telling them that peace was just around the corner if they would just give up a little more. When the evacuation of Gaza was followed by rocket barrages, it only emphasized that a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be even more disastrous. The last gasp of the “Clinton parameters” was an abortive attempt at surrender in 2008 by Ehud Olmert, Israel’s worst PM ever. Anti-Israel President Barack Obama tried to revive the concession process, but Israel, now with Binyamin Netanyahu as PM, maintained the status quo.

With the advent of Trump, it became possible to restore considerations of Israel’s security and other interests into discussions of the future of Judea and Samaria, which had become focused entirely on Palestinian demands. Israel’s experience with Gaza has shown that we cannot afford to give up military control to a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the high ground opposite our population centers. Geographical considerations make it clear that Israel also has to occupy and fortify the western slope of Jordan Valley, in order to defend the state against conventional attack from the east. Strategic depth is required even in this day of threats from nuclear-armed missiles, because it is needed for early warning and interception systems. The Jordan Valley also must be under our control if we are to maintain the demilitarized status of the Palestinian entity.

Some on the Right argue that the Trump plan is unacceptable because it calls for a Palestinian state of some kind, and that allowing any such entity in Israel’s heartland will ultimately prove destructive. I can sympathize. But today it is not necessary to accept and implement the Trump plan as a whole. It is still absolutely clear that whether or not there will be a Palestinian entity and what its degree of sovereignty will be, the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria are essential to our defense. It is still certain that we can never again allow the expulsion of Jews from their homes as happened in Gaza. And while we have a window of opportunity to move today to establish facts on the ground, we can’t be sure that it will persist beyond the next American election.

Therefore there is only one course of action that makes sense today, and that is to move forward with the annexation. Whatever happens, our security demands it.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, US-Israel Relations | 3 Comments

Jews and Evangelicals: it’s Complicated

I have lived a large part of my life outside the Jewish bubble. I have known many Evangelical Christians, and some of them have been good friends. So I wasn’t surprised to hear about “God TV” and its attempt – which apparently did not succeed, although it came very close – to initiate a Hebrew language TV channel on HOT, Israel’s largest cable provider, that is an unabashed attempt to “broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language” (video here). The channel is called “Shelanu” [ours] to remind us that Jesus was one of us, a Jew – as if this is an argument for Jews to adopt Christianity!

Many Israelis and Jews are outraged by missionary activity aimed at us. From our point of view it is deeply insulting. How dare they try to subvert Judaism, especially considering the history of Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) Jew hatred? Arguably, the very wellspring of all antisemitism is the response of non-Jews – leaders of the early Church, Mohammed, Martin Luther, the Inquisition, et al – to the stubborn refusal of Jews to replace their traditional beliefs and rituals with the “better” ones proposed by the various religious innovators. So naturally we vehemently reject modern-day attempts to convert us.

Jews are generally not judgmental toward those who practice other faiths (they specialize in criticizing other Jews). We do not go around telling Christians that they are practicing idolatry, nor do we attack Hindus for their polytheism. In modern times, most strains of Judaism do not engage in proselytizing. And so we have little patience when it is directed at us.

The legal discussion concerning whether the channel should be permitted will be interesting. Israel has freedom of religion, as indicated in the Declaration of Independence. The courts have upheld the right of free expression of religious beliefs, on the basis of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. There are, however, laws forbidding anyone from providing material benefit to someone for changing their religion, and forbidding attempts to persuade a person under 18 to change religion. Tourists can be prevented from entering the country or even deported for missionary activity.

Religious programming on TV is permitted. Even, theoretically, proselytizing programming. But if it is determined that it may influence young people, then it may not be allowed.

In order to understand why Evangelical Christians – who are otherwise supportive of Israel and may be quite friendly with Jews as a people and as individuals – would do something that is guaranteed to anger Jews and damage their relationship with them we need to look at some of their beliefs.

There of course is no one “Evangelical Christianity.” But Evangelicals generally believe that salvation requires an act of “conversion” or acceptance of Jesus as one’s savior and a renunciation of sin. The sometimes sudden life-changing experience is what some call being “born again.” Unlike Judaism, which requires above all observance of mitzvot [commandments], Evangelicals emphasize a radically powerful belief, which completely changes a person’s relationship to this world as well as his future in the world to come.

Along with the personal aspect of belief is the universal aspect, by which Evangelicals believe that one of their most important personal tasks, indeed one of the morally best things that they can do, is to bring others to the realization of the “good news.” If someone is resistant to the message, it can only be that they simply don’t understand what the stakes are; they don’t know what they are missing in this life, nor what will happen to them when they die, if they don’t accept Jesus while they still can.

Evangelicals believe that the Bible, including the Jewish Tanach, is the Word of God, either literally or by divine inspiration; and they study it carefully for guidance in all matters. Many Evangelicals are much more familiar with the Tanach than Jews, even Jews that have had Jewish educations. This naturally leads them to believe in the spiritual importance of the Jewish people. Often they quote biblical passages as the justification for their support and even love of Israel and the Jewish people. And how better to show your love for someone than to try to give them a better life, and save them from a horrible, eternally painful, doom?

It’s often said that Evangelical support for Israel, as well as their desire to convert Jews, is based on a belief in certain prophecies about the “End Times,” and they are acting in ways that will bring it closer. Some may believe this, but most of those who do accept such prophecies believe that the great upheavals and mass conversions that will mark the End Times are predestined, and not affected by human actions.

I think it should be clear that trying to explain to Evangelicals that it is inappropriate to proselytize among Jews will not be successful. Sharing and spreading their faith is a fundamental part of that faith itself; we can no more get them to renounce it then a Christian could get us to accept the Trinitarian nature of God.

At the same time, Jews have a right not to be bombarded with attempts to persuade them to abandon their own faith (I know Christian missionaries say they are just adding something to it, but that is disingenuous). The people behind the Shelanu TV channel are guilty of what popular psychology calls “bad boundaries.” One of the reasons for the existence of a Jewish state is to provide a place in which we can fully realize the Jewish dimension of our personal identity, something that is difficult or impossible in the diaspora. Part of the problem is the continuous pressure, even coercion, by the majority population, to give up our spiritual uniqueness. Missionary activity reintroduces that pressure. And the fact that it happens here in our own country diminishes our sovereignty.

Although it is important to protect the rights to freedom of expression and religion, no rights can be absolute, because of conflicts among them. Here in the Jewish state, unlike in the diaspora, there are special rights, or privileges, or benefits, for Jews and Judaism. We’ve tried to express some of this “specialness” in the controversial Basic Law: Israel – the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

So I think that if it becomes necessary to limit some of the rights exercised by those who love us so much that they find it acceptable to trespass on our boundaries, we might look to this law as a justification for that limitation.

That’s a job for the lawyers and judges. Meanwhile – and I really mean this – with the utmost respect for my Evangelical friends and strong supporters of Israel, I would like to see “God TV” out of the Jewish state.

Posted in Israeli Society, Media | 2 Comments

One Small Enemy

I was looking at my Twitter feed this morning in search of something interesting to write about, and I came across yet another tendentious anti-Israel tweet from Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). Friedman will always pick up anything that makes Israel look bad, or can be presented so that it does, from EU threats to the latest Palestinian blood libel. But what is FMEP, I wondered?

FMEP was founded in 1979 by Merle Thorpe, Jr., a lawyer and investor, who died in 1994. According to the organization, he began to be interested in the “complexities of U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians” after the attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces in 1967 (the FMEP site refers to the “sinking” of the Liberty, but she did not sink).

This is notable for two reasons. One is that I doubt that Thorpe was thinking about the Palestinians in 1967, when the PLO’s KGB-developed identity as a “liberation movement” was in its infancy. The conflict at that time was universally characterized as being between Israel and the Arab states. And the other is that Thorpe doesn’t mention the USS Liberty at all in his memoir (written just before his death) about his involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or in a 1984 interview. What he did stress was a visit he made to the region in 1975 with his law partner, Senator J. W. Fulbright, a well-known opponent of Israel who said in 1973 that the US was “subservient” to Israel and that the US could not leverage its aid to influence Israel’s behavior, because “Israel controls the Senate.” Thorpe echoes these and other similar themes, such as the pressure exerted by the American Jewish establishment on Jews who criticized Israel.

The mention of the Liberty incident is troubling. It is a flashpoint for antisemitic and extreme anti-Israel groups. Conspiracy theories surround it. And if an extreme anti-Israeli interpretation of it was the basis for Thorpe’s views about the appropriate American policies toward Israel and the Palestinians, then the  justification for his organization – supposedly to “promote a just resolution to the … conflict” – is tainted.

Shortly before his death, Thorpe and FMEP gave prizes of $5000 each to ten individuals that he called “major players in the search for peace.” They included Mahmoud Abbas [!], Hanan Ashrawi, Nabeel Shaith, and Faisal Husseini, along with several left-leaning Israelis and an American Peace Now activist.

Thorpe funded the organization himself until 1987. After that, he says, 5% of its budget came from “Jewish benefactors” and “Arab business interests.” Since it’s a 501(c)(3) organization, it isn’t required to disclose its contributors. But it’s possible to see from its 2018 IRS Form 990 that in that year it only received about $142,000 in contributions and grants. The rest of its income (about $408,000) came from investments, and the sale of some of its assets. After paying employees, contractors, and other expenses, and apparently taking about $423,000 out of the bank, it made grants and contributions of about $350,000.

This isn’t exactly Rockefeller Foundation territory, but it’s very precisely targeted. For example, in that year, FMEP gave grants to Americans for Peace Now, Truah, Churches for Middle East Peace, B’Tselem, J Street, the New Israel Fund, If Not Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, UNRWA, and numerous others, almost every one of which can be characterized as anti-Israel. Last year, they added Breaking the Silence, Adalah, +972Magazine, and others.

The president of FMEP is Lara Friedman, formerly director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now (AFPN), and prior to that an employee of the US State Department who served in several Arab capitals, and the so-called “US Embassy to Palestine,” the Consulate in eastern Jerusalem. She is very active in writing and speaking, always presenting the Palestinian position against Israel. She tweets and retweets multiple times a day, as she did on behalf of Americans for Peace Now, always highly critical of Israel.

FMEP’s Board of Directors is composed mostly of retired Foreign Service and military people, like Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, who is a former president of FMEP and now serves as chairman of American Friends of UNRWA. They belong to a group of Middle East experts that Michael Oren described as “Arabists” in his book, “Power, Faith, and Fantasy.”

FMEP also paid $110,000 to Peter Beinart as a “consultant.” Beinart, a very well-known personality in the Jewish anti-Israel network, has developed a career based on the contrast between his Jewishness – he has claimed to attend an orthodox synagogue – and his hostility to Israel.

Both Friedman and Beinart would take strong exception to my calling them anti-Israel. Beinart in particular would claim that he loves Israel, is even a Zionist. They would both say that they support the continued existence of a Jewish state, while opposing “occupation” and “oppression” of Palestinians. They both say that they wish for Israel to be truly democratic, and that the present government is extremist, undemocratic and racist. They both argue that there is a reactionary American Jewish establishment that uncritically supports the policies of the Israeli government, and that most American Jews are alienated from it. They both wish the American government would pressure Israel to surrender the territories, and draw parallels between Trump and Netanyahu.

The combination of speaking and writing, along with a highly competent social media presence, has enabled the relatively small financial investment to produce a great deal of anti-Israel propaganda. And they do it quietly. Compare, for example, the amount of controversy surrounding FMEP (essentially none) and that about the Zionist Organization of America. The ZOA, incidentally, has about four times the assets and ten times the income of FMEP, and about half its twitter followers. I don’t know how to measure their relative effectiveness, but my feeling is that FMEP gets far more bang for its buck.

These are smart people and they make sophisticated arguments. They are careful to position themselves as mainstream, unlike their clients Jewish Voice for Peace or If Not Now. Beinart says he does not support BDS in general, although he has called for boycotting products of “settlements.” As far as I can tell, Friedman has not publicly stated an opinion on BDS as head of FMEP (AFPN shares Beinart’s position), but she has lobbied and written extensively against anti-boycott legislation in the US. And her organization provides financial support to organizations that do support it, like JVP.

FMEP is just one of numerous similar unofficial organizations dedicated to “peace,” but whose actual goals are to help Israel’s enemies by chipping away at support for her in the West. Their objective isn’t peace, it’s the end of the Jewish state. And if they think about it – and I can’t imagine that the likes of Lara Friedman and Peter Beinart don’t – that would entail more than a little blood on the ground.

Posted in American Jews, Information war, US-Israel Relations | 1 Comment

Mourning for Terrorists

In Israel, Memorial Day (yom hazikaron) is the day before Independence Day (yom ha’atzmaut). It makes sense: you can’t think about the miracle of our Jewish state without remembering the 23,816 soldiers, police, and other security people who lost their lives so we could get it and keep it, or the 4,166 civilians who were murdered by terrorists who want to take it from us.

Israel is a small country. An equivalent number, adjusted for population, would be over 1 million Americans. Every Israeli knows someone who has lost at least one family member to war or terror.

When I cook or putter in my little workshop, I listen to the radio, to reshet bet, the news and talk channel of Israel’s public broadcast corporation. My favorite radio personality is a guy called Yigal Guetta. Guetta was born in the northern development town of Kiryat Shmona in 1966 to a family that immigrated to Israel from Morocco. He wears a black kipa and served in the Knesset on behalf of the Sephardic Haredi Shas party in 2016-7, but was forced to resign by his party after he revealed in an interview that he had attended the gay wedding of his nephew. He didn’t dispute the rabbis who demanded that he quit. He was and is a traditionally observant Jew. But family is family. Some years before that he was fired from a job as CEO of a small city when he accused the mayor of corruption. Like me, he likes to cook and sometimes describes traditional Moroccan recipes on the air. This is who he is.

But yesterday, I learned something about him that I did not know. He talked about one day when he was 8 years old, April 11, 1974. That was when Palestinian Arab terrorists (PFLP-GC) infiltrated Kiryat Shmona from Lebanon, and murdered 18 people, including 8 children. The terrorists first entered a school building, but it was closed for the Passover holiday. Then they moved on to a residential building, shooting everyone they saw and throwing grenades. The army was late to arrive, and Guetta’s brother and sister-in-law were among the victims.

He described how his parents were never the same after that. I can’t come close to imagining how it was for them.

You would think things would have changed since 1974, but because of our failure to take a consistently severe stand against our enemies – in Jabotinksy’s phrase, our failure to build an “iron wall” – Palestinian Arab terrorism continues. Just yesterday, maybe while Yigal Guetta was describing 1974’s events in Kiryat Shmona, a 62-year old woman was stabbed seven times, in the street in Kfar Saba. Fortunately she will recover, but less fortunately the terrorist, who was shot by a civilian security guard, will also live. Israelis all know the drill – he will get the best medical care available in the Middle East, spend a few years in probably the most comfortable prison regime in the world outside of the Scandinavian countries, and receive a handsome salary from the PA, funded by generous donations from the EU.

Terrorism won’t end until Israel finds the gumption to eradicate the Palestinian Authority that sponsors, funds, and promotes it. Indeed, the PA’s official media recently praised the terrorists that killed Guetta’s relatives as “martyrs” and “heroes.”

But you haven’t heard the worst part. The psychopathological post-Zionist contingent in Israel, combined with various American leftist groups and supported by the New Israel Fund, holds an annual “Alternative Yom haZikaron ceremony” which “mourns the loss of all those who fell in the context of the conflict – both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Do you understand? The PFLP-GC terrorists, the great “martyrs” and “heroes” of the Palestinian movement, who murdered 18 people in cold blood, including 8 children, including Yigal Guetta’s brother and sister-in-law, are mourned by some of their Jewish targets.

And not only them. The terrorist that exploded his bomb in the Sbarro Pizza restaurant in 2001, killing 15, including 7 children. The ones that hijacked the bus on Israel’s coastal highway in 1978, and killed 38, including 13 children. These Jews pray for them.

I simply cannot wrap my mind around this. I cannot understand why an Israeli Jew or indeed any Jew would mourn for those who met their ends when they murdered or attempted to murder us. Do Americans hold ceremonies to mourn the 9/11 terrorists? Do Russians cry for Hitler? The only word that adequately describes this is “insanity.”

It isn’t surprising that extremist anti-Israel groups like If Not Now and J Street would participate in this lunacy. But the largest Jewish organization in North America, the Union for Reform Judaism, is one of the event’s cosponsors. They even retweeted an announcement by the organizers of this event, and added their own words, asking people to “… Join us and thousands of others from all over the world as we join together in peace.”

One of the feelings invoked in me by yom ha’atzmaut is that the re-establishment and survival of a sovereign Jewish state in our historic homeland is a highly unique and remarkable event. If I were a religious person, I would say it is miraculous. Surely it was accomplished at great cost, and it continues to exact a cost in blood. We owe so much to the families who have lost their sons and daughters in the struggle against an implacable enemy, that to mourn the very ones that ripped the hearts out of those families is an obscenity.

The long struggle has been too much for some of us, and there are those who have descended into a syndrome of madness, who choose to draw close to their murderers by adopting their point of view. They hope, perhaps, that by sacrificing their own people they will purify themselves from the evil they have come to believe is inherent in their nation-state, and if truth be told, in themselves as Jews.

By forcing themselves to empathize with those who are capable of shooting Jewish children, they believe that they will be better humans, and therefore find a way to communicate with the Other so as to bring peace.

But at the end of the day, this strategy always fails; and they find themselves alone, estranged from their people, while still despised by their enemies.

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Society, Post-Zionism, Terrorism | 4 Comments

Ministers of Silly Walks

I’ve complained several times (here and here) about the number of ministers and deputy ministers in the planned unity government and their cost. But this is only the symptom of the real problem.

What’s truly wrong is that portfolios are given out as bribes and rewards for political support. Who wouldn’t want to be a cabinet minister, with assistants, a driver, a high salary, and other perquisites? Sometimes the selections are ludicrous. Amir Peretz is a dedicated public servant, but he was eminently unqualified to be Defense Minister back in 2006 during the disastrous war with Hezbollah, when he was famously photographed looking through binoculars without removing the lens caps (yes, I know, even Bibi has done this, and Peretz took off the caps after the photo was taken. But the symbolism was accurate).

But take (please!) present Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman, who has no professional medical qualifications, and has allowed his personal interests and those of his community to affect his decisions. He opposed restrictions on tobacco advertising in print media which would  have cut the revenue of a newspaper published by his political/religious faction, and where his wife works. He has been credibly accused of intervening to prevent the extradition to Australia of a convicted pedophile, Malka Leifer. His ministry has recently been sharply criticized by doctors for its handling of the Coronavirus epidemic; Litzman violated his own ministry’s guidelines prohibiting large gatherings and managed to catch the disease himself. He has recently announced that he will be resigning his position, but will be moving to a new post for which he is not qualified, Minister of Construction and Housing:

Litzman told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday he would agree to switch portfolios as long as the Construction and Housing Ministry will include the powerful Israel Lands Authority. Litzman’s rabbi, Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter, told him the Construction portfolio was needed to help his haredi (ultra-Orthodox) constituency.

Litzman clearly agrees with Plato’s Polemarchus that true justice is helping one’s friends and harming one’s enemies. I would like to believe that we have gone beyond that.

Some of the appointments do make sense. Benny Gantz, a former Chief of Staff, knows how to operate binoculars. The Justice Minister will be Avi Nissenkorn, who is at least a lawyer, although he’s expected to undo steps taken by former minister Ayelet Shaked to improve the balance of power between the government and the Supreme Court. Amir Peretz will be Economy Minister; he has been on both sides of the fence, calling strikes as head of the Histadrut labor federation, and trying to keep expenditures under control as Finance Minister. I’m hopeful that highly competent interim Defense Minister and head of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett will find a place in the Cabinet.

The reason that we will get to 36 ministers and 16 Deputy Ministers is simple: the leaders of the various parties that will make up the coalition all demand payment for their participation. If it turns out that the politician to be honored happens to know something about his new job, that’s a plus; but it’s definitely secondary to the main reason for his appointment. When there isn’t an existing ministry for someone to be in charge of, one is created for them. The coalition agreement calls for an equal division of portfolios between Netanyahu’s bloc and Gantz’ faction, which only has 15 members. Most of these, therefore, will become ministers.

It appears that nobody will be left to sit on Knesset committees from Gantz’ party. Kashia [a problem]? Lo kashia! There is a law (the so-called “Norwegian law”) that says a cabinet minister can resign from the Knesset and allow his place to be taken by the next one on his party’s Knesset list. So the new Minister of Silly Walks can concentrate on his ministerial job while a new highly paid position has been created for yet another politician. How charming. One is reminded that cows can die from blood loss due to mosquitos, if there are enough of them.

Everybody knows this is a bad thing, even most of the politicians themselves. But the organization itself, like a swarm of mosquitos, seems to develop a will of its own, even if it runs counter to the will of the individual members – and, needless to say, the will of the Israeli voters that elected them in the hope that they would perform the basic functions of government with honesty, competence, and economy.

These are the three things we expect from every employee or contractor, from plumbers and taxi drivers to corporate CEOs. Shouldn’t we get it from government ministers as well?

Posted in Israeli Politics | 1 Comment