In the days since I first wrote about the "surprise" unity government arrangement forged by Netanyahu and Mofaz, I've seen next to nothing in the way of expressions of pleasure at this new arrangement.
Could it be that Netanyahu and Mofaz are the only ones truly happy with what has transpired?
On the part of members of both the Likud and Kadima factions there is an expression of frustration with how little they were truly consulted. At some level, it was a "done deal" that they were asked to officially endorse.
That this should be the feeling in Likud is understandable. For, while the party's position may be stronger now, the strength of individual members of the Likud faction -- especially on the right -- has been diluted.
Rumors that have surfaced regarding the possibility that up to three members of Kadima may be appointed as members of the Cabinet particularly irked them: There was no mention of this in the original deal.
All that is certain at this point is that Mofaz, who has been cleared as a deputy prime minister by the Knesset, will also be a minister without portfolio; he will sit in the Cabinet, and, most certainly, the Inner Cabinet as well.
The unrest generated by this rumor -- I cannot say if it is true or not -- is, I think, a reflection of a broader discontent. It's what happens when people directly involved in the political process believe one situation pertains, and a deal that totally changes it is then struck at 2:00 AM, without their participation. Whatever else that is positive might come from the arrangement, the sense of distrust that it has generated is regrettable and will likely have repercussions.
More surprising is that there is some of the same feeling of discontent in the Kadima faction, even though some good percentage of its members would have lost their seats had there been an election in September.
It is coming from the members on the left, most notably -- the sense is that in joining with Likud, Kadima has lost its way.
Ironically, it is Haim Ramon, a founder of Kadima, who gave voice to this feeling most vociferously. (What is ironic is that this former MK is hardly a model of rectitude himself.) He had been serving as head of the Kadima Council until the new arrangement was announced. Now he has resigned from that position and from the party.
"Kadima has reverted to being Likud," he declared. "...Kadima is done being a centrist party."
The background on this is that Ramon had bolted from Labor in order to join Kadima. A strange political situation -- this party was founded with people who left Likud on one side and Labor on the other.
Now Ramon says he may join up with (disgruntled former head of Kadima) Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid to work on a new party. I am assuming he means he and Livni will come under the tent of Lapid's brand-new Yesh Atid.
Political musical chairs. Enough to make one's head spin.
Foreign Minister Lieberman held a press conference in the Knesset yesterday, at which he declared that a major test of the new coalition will be its readiness to pass legislation that would protect Ulpana from being destroyed:
"The residents living on the Ulpana Hill are law-abiding citizens and fulfill all their obligations: They serve in the IDF and do reserve duty, they work and pay taxes. This is not an illegal outpost; it is the government’s mistake."
I could not agree more!
And, I see some reason for hope here, if reports are correct.
Apparently, two versions of a law that would prevent "unauthorized" communities in Judea and Samaria from being summarily demolished are to be brought to the Knesset next week. One was sponsored by MK Yisrael Katz (National Union), with MKs Yariv Levin and Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) and David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu). The other was brought by Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi).
The differences in the two versions remains unclear, as I write. The version I am familiar with, broadly, says that a Jewish community cannot be taken down because of some general assumption that it is on Palestinian land; rather, there must be documentation of ownership by a Palestinian Arab that is certified by the courts. If a certain period of time has passed, and the community has more than 20 residents, then even if Palestinian Arab ownership is documented, financial compensation or alternate property is awarded and the community still stands.
According to Arutz Sheva, Orlev says that there are reports that the prime minister is giving "positive consideration" to the possibility of allowing ministers to vote their conscience on the bill, rather than being bound by party discipline. Orlev had been waiting for this.
Orlev is quoted as saying:
"Based on the count of ministers and MKs who support this law, there is a solid majority for passing it in the Knesset next Wednesday."
What is more, according to Arutz Sheva, Netanyahu will convene a committee tomorrow to seek a solution for Ulpana. That committee will include Prime Minister Netanyahu, Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon," and Minister Benny Begin.
The prime minister is reported to be considering either legislation (as alluded to above) or administrative seizure of the land by the IDF. (If the IDF requires the land, for security or other purposes, it becomes Israeli state land.)
The second option would guarantee that the houses on Ulpana would stand -- but would apply only to Ulpana. The first would be applicable to a number of instances, including Migron. Were Netanyahu throw his weight behind legislation, it would pass.
© 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.