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.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
New immigrants to Israel arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.
A top Israeli minister called on the government on Sunday to craft a “comprehensive plan” to encourage the aliyah of French Jews.
In Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s view, there has been a “historic missed opportunity” in recent years to bring more French Jews to Israel as immigrants.
“There are 200,000 French Jews who want to come here, and the state bureaucracies simply aren’t prepared for it,” Bennett, who also serves as education minister and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi party, claimed at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “These are ethical people, Zionists, lovers of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it is our moral obligation to help them.”
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)