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Monday, March 04, 2013

Arlene Kushner On Behind The Scenes Of Netanyahu's Coalition Building

From Arlene Kushner
March 4, 2013

A Heavy Struggle

There is a lot of hard work to do, a lot of heavy pulling, to bring our nation to where it needs to be.  I hold on to hope that all will yet be well, but am sorely disheartened.
Yesterday, I quoted Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, thus:
"for days after the election the Likud refused to speak to the Jewish Home. They boycotted us… we expected to be a natural partner and to be the first to enter the Netanyahu government."  The message he claims he got was, "the religious Zionist party won’t enter the coalition, at any price."  
What Netanyahu did was foolish, I said. Rude.  Conveying to the newcomer Bennett a sense of being excluded.  But, I asked, now that Netanyahu had contacted Bennett was the prime minister's original rudeness sufficient reason for Bennett to have fashioned his current policy as he has? 
Today, I have a likely answer, from someone very close to Habayit Hayehudi. 
Bennett, I was told, understood that once he broke his alliance with Lapid, Netanyahu would take in Lapid, and leave him out.
Oh.
Bennett's impression that Netanyahu was determined that the religious Zionist party would never enter the coalition was not just a response to a snub early on; Bennett apparently recognized this behavior as a reflection of a deeper Netanyahu intention.
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Today I also heard another story about Netanyahu's intentions. This is the second time I have heard it.  At first I discounted it as hearsay.  Now, although I cannot confirm with absolute certainty that the charge is accurate, I no longer can discount it.
Someone inside of Yesh Atid maintains that Netanyahu told Lapid that if he breaks with Bennett and comes in by himself, it will be easier to take down settlements.
Uh huh.
The endorsement of the Tekuma rabbis makes a whole lot of sense now.
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And still I am not done.  The AIPAC convention has been going on in Washington, and lame duck Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed the thousands gathered there.
A "full fledged peace deal with the Palestinians" was not possible now, Barak said.
Good that he says this upfront, I thought.
Then he said that an interim agreement should be attempted to protect Israel's security.
I was no longer sure this was good, depending on what he was referring to.
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And then...he said that if this couldn't be achieved, it might be necessary for Israel to take unilateral steps to prevent a bi-national state: Israel may need to "consider unilateral steps that would include demarcating a line within which Israel would keep the settlement blocs and ensure a Jewish majority for generations to come." Israel would establish a "long term security presence on the Jordan River." (Emphasis added)
Say what???  UNILATERAL steps??  We did that once already, when we pulled out of Gaza.  We saw what that brought us.  What he's suggesting here is that without an end of conflict agreement with the Palestinian Arabs, without a mutually agreed upon border, Israel should pull back from some parts of Judea and Samaria and fully turn over land to them. 
A very very bad idea.  I can only touch here upon all of the reasons why it's a terrible idea.
Note first that he refers to settlement blocs, so be certain that there are many Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that would be demolished under such a plan.  Many Jews who would be torn from their homes.
We would be relinquishing rights to the land -- something we should not do.
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But beyond this, we would be diminishing Israel's security.  A border is only an internationally recognized border if parties on both sides agree.  Israel "demarcating a line" would not be recognized internationally and would certainly not be recognized by the PA, which would demand we keep pulling back until we were behind the '67 armistice line. 
Once we pulled back, we would be UNILATERALLY relinquishing the practice by the IDF of doing  operations to take out terrorists and training centers, and weapons caches and weapons manufacturing sites in Palestinian Arab areas.  The fact, my friends, is that the IDF does these operations nightly.  It's what has kept things quiet, because the PA security forces will not do this.  (I'll come back to this in more detail in a future posting.)  Without an IDF presence in these areas, security and intelligence and military officials agree, there is a great likelihood that Hamas would take over.  Abbas is very weak.  And so then we would have Hamas on our eastern border as well as at our southwest in Gaza.  
Great idea!
Please note that Barak refers to a security presence in the Jordan Valley (to prevent smuggling of weapons and entry of foreign forces).  But he says "long term," not permanent. But how long is "long term," and what happens after that?
With all of this I still haven't mentioned the question of what would happen to certain high places in Samaria if there were a pullback.  All Barak spoke about was retaining settlement blocs, not retaining land for security purposes and strategic depth. If Arabs had control of those high places they could even hit the airport. 
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No done deal here. Just an idea floated -- perhaps even a trial balloon.  We must respond and be vigilant to the greatest degree possible.
I assure you, Barak did not speak without Netanyahu's go-ahead.
I provide here the e-mails of key members of Likud-Beitenu.  Please!  write to them. Tell them that you know about Defense Minister Barak's outrageous suggestion at AIPAC that unilateral withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria might have to be considered. 
Provide a couple of lines on why this is a terrible idea.  Say that Barak is lame-duck, on his way out, and had no business speaking for Israel in an international forum at this point.  And urgently request that they do everything within their power to assure that there are no withdrawals:


Click on each address; write one message and copy and paste to each, with an individual salutation added.

The new government must not be a one-man show. The actions of key members of the Knesset will be critical in helping to keep the prime minister accountable and honest in his political dealings.  Members of the ruling faction must be roused to take a responsible role here.
Please, share this broadly.
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One other significant point must be made here, before I move on:
Barak referred to taking this action in order to "ensure a Jewish majority for generations to come."  Well, it is a crock that if we retain all of the land to the Jordan River we will become a minority, swallowed up by an Arab majority. This is a scare tactic, used as a reason to give up land.
See here with regard to Jewish and Arab birthrates and their implication for Israel: Jewish-Arab Demography Defies Conventional “Wisdom”
And here, information about misrepresentations in the PA census, which leads people to believe there are more Arabs in Judea and Samaria than there are: The Two-State Religion
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The other concern I have had in these last few days has to do with sinat hinam.  Causeless hatred, which, we are taught, is what brought about the destruction of the Second Temple.  If we do not love our fellow Jews, do not unite for common causes, then we cannot be strong.
I have been vastly uncomfortable with the notion that the haredi parties, which are fighting for the status quo in yeshiva exemptions, should be excluded from the coalition.  That exclusion will not bring compromise or peaceful settlement, but bitterness.
And sure enough, I've seen some very bitter comments from haredi leaders who have said, You don't want us?  Wait until we're in the government again, and see what we'll do to you.  I have even seen threats to vote against retention of settlements.  A bad way to go.
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Only late today did I see a comment by Lapid that offered a glimmer of hope regarding the possibility of moving past this unfortunate situation.  At a faction meeting today, he said that Yesh Atid wants to represent everyone’s interests, including the ultra-Orthodox.
“I hope to establish a good, broad government that’s good for the people, and not for the politicians. And even the ultra-Orthodox will find that Yesh Atid is not only not against them, but takes care of them too.”
A bit audacious for my taste.  HE hopes to establish a government?  And he thinks he can represent everyone's interests?  Not sure about that.  But the tone is certainly conciliatory.  He's saying he cares about the ultra-Orthodox as well.  Now we have to see how he demonstrates this.
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Bennett's statement seems more modest, more in keeping with the tone that might be expected of a newcomer:
"We rolled up our sleeves and are working very hard to help Netanyahu form a government that serves the people."
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In any event, both Lapid and Bennett are saying that while meetings are going well, it is not time to close on coalition agreements yet.
May it come for good things in the end.
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In closing, a correction:  I got fooled. The story about Mick Jagger doing concerts here in Israel in spite of pressure on him not to was a Purim gag coming out of France. Got it from a good source, so I guess a whole lot of people were fooled.  My thanks to David Orbach, who alerted me.
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© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


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