Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties are holding up approval of the budget over a conscription law they are determined to see pass this session, threatening to destabilize the coalition.
Ultra-Orthodox protesters take part in a demonstration against a process whereby members of their community are being forced to serve in the Israeli army, Jerusalem, March 28, 2017.
Ultra-Orthodox parties are pushing for the adoption of a bill exempting the ultra-Orthodoxfrom conscription, even threatening to block the approval of the 2019 budget over it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes these threats seriously, since in Israel rejection of a budget is synonymous with a non-confidence vote against the government.
But can Aryeh Deri’s Shas party find a compromise and prevent a decision to dismantle the government and move to an early election? The latest polls don’t flatter Shas, and the party is already on the brink of the vote threshold for representation in the Knesset. One of Deri’s close associates told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that going to an early election now would be the dumbest move possible for all the coalition parties.
The Purim holiday gave Yisrael Beitenu’s leader, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, an opportunity to needle the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties — his rivals in the political conflict over the conscription law. Liberman posted a video Facebook message for Purim. Dressed up as an ultra-Orthodox man, he said, “When the month of Adar is on us, we enlist with joy. With the help of God, Litzman would be in the Sayeret Matkal, and Gafni in Shayetet 13.”
It’s doubtful that the two ulta-Orthodox politicians he named, Knesset members Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni, appreciated Liberman’s joke about their joining Israel’s elite army and navy units. The prank added fuel to the fire of the conflict that threatens the coalition.
A November 2015 amendment to the conscription law removed the criminal consequences for yeshiva students who evade military service — the penalties that had been added by the previous Knesset in 2014. In September 2017, the Supreme Court struck down the amendment, objecting to the way the amendment undermined the authority of the defense minister to set quotas for enlisted ultra-Orthodox as he sees fit. The court gave the Knesset a year to pass an alternative law.
After the ruling, the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties made it clear that legislating a new conscription law was critical. However, it seems that if it weren’t for the embroilment of the prime minister in an array of criminal investigations, they might have waited until the Knesset’s summer session instead of setting an ultimatum for passing it during the current session.
Until two weeks ago, the ultra-Orthodox had seemed satisfied with their achievements in the current government and would not have turned the question into a crisis. Deri said that the law must pass and Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages called for pressure on Netanyahu, but there were no threats or ultimatums.
Early last week, the tone changed. Liberman announced Feb. 27, “Regarding the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox, Yisrael Beitenu’s position is clear. We will only support legislation formulated by the professional staff assembled by the Defense Ministry.” The staff includes only professionals and there is no ultra-Orthodox representation. Gafni quickly responded by threatening the coalition: “We entered the coalition with the central issue being yeshiva students. The state cannot exist without students whose learning is their faith. We legislated to regulate the issue. The Supreme Court rejected the law for the fourth time. We said we’ll legislate a basic law but Yisrael Beitenu opposes it. From now on, we will no longer vote for the senseless laws you introduce.”
Litzman then directly addressed Netanyahu and informed him that in accordance with the instructions of the Council of Torah Sages, he cannot support the government budget until the conscription law passes. In response, Liberman said, “The conscription law is a draft-dodging law. The decision of Yahadut HaTorah is no less than blackmail. Yisrael Beitenu will not give in and will not allow this to happen.”
Netanyahu, in the midst of interrogation preparations, urgently gathered the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties and promised to try to find a solution.
The ultra-Orthodox are also directing their anger toward Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whom they accuse of promising to support the law but then reneging. “It is Kahlon’s doing that the Supreme Court continues to run this country,” a senior Yahadut HaTorah member told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
Kahlon insists on passing the budget during the current session, which ends March 18, and his party, Kulanu, announced that it will not hesitate to go to elections if that doesn’t happen.
On March 3, Culture Minister Miri Regev of the Likud warned, “There’s only one party in the coalition that has no reason to fear an election. It’s called the Likud. We have a very high degree of trust from the public and bogus threats will not work against us.” There is something to her claim. Most polls show the Likud keeping its power as the largest party in the Knesset. In comparison, almost all of the other coalition parties would weaken.
Within the Likud, members wonder what caused the ultra-Orthodox to harden their line. A Likud minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that when party leaders sat with leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties to understand why they made the ultimatum, their answers were evasive. One of the ultra-Orthodox politicians said, “The possibility that in the next few months Netanyahu will be forced to vacate his seat is causing us to lose sleep, and it’s clear to us that in such an event there’s no chance that we would get a conscription law that we could live with. Liberman is waiting for us in a corner because he owes his voters some achievements before the election or he will not pass the vote threshold. With all our achievements, without an acceptable conscription law, it would be as though we got nothing done during the current term.”
The Likud minister has no doubt that Netanyahu’s interrogation on March 2 riled up all the coalition parties, and the whirlwind of threats and counter-threats is almost unstoppable. “The prime minister needs superhuman political power to be able to deal with this crisis while he is occupied by the investigations,” said the minister.
Netanyahu won a few days’ respite with his trip to the United States to participate in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference and meet with President Donald Trump. Upon getting on the plane, he said that there is no reason to go to an early election and all that is needed from the coalition parties is goodwill. Until Netanyahu returns, Ministers Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin, with Deri’s help, will be hard at work on a resolution.
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.