Yesterday I expressed my sense of letdown at the formation of the new government. Today I wish to express something else completely different.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was sworn in late last night, after which he addressed the Knesset.
“It is not with a victor’s joy that I stand here today in front of you, but with a great sense of responsibility,” he said.
I ask for your trust at this time of worldwide crisis of a kind we haven’t known before, and it is with a sense of worry, but also with hope and faith…”
As someone who lies awake at night contemplating “that worldwide crisis of a kind we haven’t known before…,” I find myself keenly attuned to what Netanyahu was saying.
The prime minister then addressed two key concerns facing us: The economy and the attempt by Iran to achieve nuclear weapons.
That’s getting priorities right. As to Iran, he said, “The Jewish people has experience with dictators and it cannot overestimate megalomaniac dictators who threaten to destroy it.”
The worst thing for the State of Israel and the world would be “that a radical regime obtains nuclear weapons.”
Netanyahu just gave an interview to Atlantic magazine in which addressed this very issue. He said the Obama administration had a mission to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but if it failed to do so, Israel might be forced to resort to a military strike on Iran’s military installations.
“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.
“…Iran is a composite leadership, but in that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That’s what makes them so dangerous. Since the dawn of the nuclear age, we have not had a fanatic regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest.”
He is correct, and what I’m seeing is that he is telling it straight. Talking tough to America, actually: saying they have a job to do and they must be on notice that we will do it if they do not.
No tone of submission to the US, no attempt to be conciliatory and “reach out a hand” to the world.
This is encouraging.
It is refreshing, as well, to note that he didn’t — à la Olmert and Livni and Peres — say that our top priority was to give away half our land to form a Palestinian state.
Oh, he spoke about dealing with the Palestinians. But he said that the failure to make peace with them was not the fault of our leaders. Implied: the PA hasn’t really wanted it.
Again, he’s correct.
And he reiterated his position: that we will give them all the rights to rule themselves, except for those that endanger Israel. That’s a whole lot of (figurative) territory.
And so I found myself thinking that Netanyahu is entitled to some modicum of trust from the Israeli people — some space that allows him to demonstrate what he can do and the directions in which he can take us.
There’s another reason why I think this, another problem of huge dimensions that he must confront, but that he didn’t mention explicitly.
The world is at us. As never before, there are international attempts to delegitimize us and weaken us and challenge our rights. This is part of what keeps me awake at night.
And I’m convinced that we here inside of Israel must not be part of that chorus that would weaken the new government. The world hears every word, and turns it on us. This has been demonstrated time and time again.
I don’t want to see Binyamin Netanyahu on the defensive now. I want to take stances that will stiffen his spine and let him know that we want him to stand strong against the world. And that we are with him as he does so.
The new government was presented to the Knesset last night, which passed it 69 to 45, with five abstentions (a protest from Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Eitan Cabel, Yuli Tamir, Amir Peretz and Ophir Pines-Paz).
The only member of the Knesset absent was Ahmad Tibi, of United Arab List-Ta’al. And where was he, precisely? At the Arab League meeting in Qatar. Hopefully, we have not heard the last on this.
The list of members of the government is at the bottom of this posting.
And this is a sampling of what we must cope with:
According to Khaled Abu Toameh, senior Hamas officials in Gaza reported yesterday that Switzerland and Norway are spearheading European efforts to engage Hamas.
Ahmed Yussef, a political advisor in Hamas’s Foreign Ministry, said the two countries were “leading the change in Europe’s position vis-à-vis the Islamic movement.” While another Hamas official said that Hamas sensed a “real change” in the attitude of some EU countries.
Of course, the Europeans at this point are urging that Hamas renounce violence, accept the two-state solution and recognize Israel’s right to exist. But mark my words, now that the shift in thinking has begun, these demands will not hold. Hamas, said Yussef, responded by expressing its readiness to reach a long-term truce with Israel. Eventually, some permutation of this will be seen as sufficient. A long-term truce? Hey, implicitly then, Hamas is recognizing Israel and renouncing violence, no?
Understand that at the same time that the Europeans are inching towards recognition of Hamas, they are jumping on the bandwagon to criticize the new Israeli administration for refusing to overtly embrace that “two state solution.”
It’s perverse and upside down and we must cope with it.
Abbas, of course, is milking this for all he can. At the Arab summit, he declared:
“The Palestinians must tell the world that Netanyahu does not believe in peace, so how can we cooperate with him? We must push the ball to the international court so that the countries of the world put pressure on him.”
The world will be happy to oblige, while turning a blind eye to the fact that the PA textbooks still teach jihad and that Abbas has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
This last, by the way, was right before Annapolis began. Olmert said he wouldn’t negotiate if Abbas wouldn’t recognize this, but then, under pressure from the US, he did so anyway.
This would be a good place for Netanyahu to start.
Our new (32nd) government:
Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) Prime Minister, Health, Pensioners, Economic Strategy
Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) Vice Premier and Minister for Strategic Affairs
Silvan Shalom (Likud) Vice Premier, Regional Development and Development of the Negev and Galil
Ehud Barak (Labor) Defense and Deputy Prime Minister
Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister
Yuval Steinitz (Likud) Finance
Eli Yishai (Shas) Interior
Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) Education
Ya’akov Neeman (Independent) Justice
Binyamin Ben Eliezer (Labor) Industry and Trade
Ariel Atias (Shas) Construction and Housing
Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu) Internal Security
Yisrael Katz (Likud) Transportation
Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) Infrastructures
Shalom Simhon (Likud) Agriculture
Moshe Kahlon (Likud) Communications
Yuli Edelstein (Likud) Diaspora Affairs
Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beitenu) Tourism
Gilad Erdan (Likud) Environment
Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) Science
Sopa Landver (Yisrael Beitenu) Immigration
Limor Livnat (Likud) Culture
Ya’acov Margi (Shas) Religious Affairs
Michael Eitan (Likud) Gov’t Services
Dan Meridor (Likud) Intelligence Agencies
Avishay Braverman (Labor) Minorities
Isaac Herzog (Labor) Welfare
Meshulam Nahari (Shas) Minister without Porfolio (In PMO’s office?)
Bennie Begin (Likud) Minister without Portfolio
Yossi Peled (Likud) Minister without Portfolio
There is still the question of who will sit on the more limited Security Cabinet
Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) – Finance
Gila Gamliel (Likud) – PM’s Office
Leah Ness (Likud) – Pensioners Affairs
Ayoub Kara (Likud) Development of the Negev and Galil
Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beiteinu) – Foreign Ministry
Matan Vilnai (Labor) – Defense
Orit Noked (Labor) – Industry and Trade
UTJ has just signed a coalition agreement and will have two deputy ministers in Health and Education (not clear who will assume these posts — Moshe Gafni will chair the Knesset Finance Committee)
Chair of the Likud faction (in the Knesset): Ze’ev Elkin
Speaker of the Knesset: Ruby Rivlin (Likud)