Budget is always connected to politics, but this time around it seems more so than usual — because of the instabilities of our current situation. As I write this, after midnight Israel time, the Cabinet, after 12 hours of deliberation, is deadlocked on budget issues. This has the potential to bring down the government. Whether it actually will, remains to be seen.
A key issue is cuts demanded of the Defense Ministry, which Barak is fighting for all he’s worth (which, in this instance, whatever the politics, I do not fault him for). Tension between Barak and Olmert is exceedingly high, with Barak threatening to quit if his ministry doesn’t get the funds it needs and Olmert threatening to fire him if he doesn’t vote for the budget.
Then there’s Shas, which is opposed to a budget that doesn’t increase child allowance sums, a key issue for its haredi constituency with its large families.
So convoluted are the issues at present, that there have even been suggestions from Labor that Finance Minister Roni Bar-On is sabotaging his own budget in order to bring down the government for Livni’s sake.
So it will be an Obama-Biden ticket…
Joe Biden is getting mixed reviews here. Viewed as a friend of Israel in many regards, he is, none-the-less causing concern because of his positions on Iran (which may also give us a hint as to how he might position himself with regard to Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas).
In 1998, Senator Biden was one of only four senators to vote against the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, a bill designed to act against foreign companies or other entities that sent Iran sensitive missile technology or expertise. In 2007, he was one of only a handful of senators to oppose the bipartisan 2007 Kyl-Lieberman Amendment labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. In a December 2007 debate, Biden said “Iran is not a nuclear threat to the United States of America.” On MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Biden said he “never believed” Iran had a weapon system under production.
Oh joy! Condoleezza Rice is due here tomorrow afternoon.
During her visit of just over 24 hours — during which time she will meet with Barak, Olmert, Livni, possibly joined by Qurei (as Livni’s negotiating counterpart), and then Abbas and Fayyed in Ramallah — she is expected to check on the state of, and attempt to advance (i.e., push) “peace negotiations.” She is reportedly seeking a document that states what each side has agreed to so far and where differences remain, in order to demonstrate that progress has taken place. There are rumors that she wants this not just by the end of the year but almost immediately so that it can be presented to the opening session of the UN on September 18; US officials are denying this.
According to Israeli officials cited in the Post, Tzipi Livni, our chief negotiator, is opposed to such a document and hopes to dissuade Rice to forget it. Her concern is that it would make it harder for Kadima to win an election.
Got that everyone? Livni doesn’t want the nation to know what she has already verbally agreed to, as the people would not be happy about it.
Just a brief mention here of the “Free Gaza” ships, which came into Gaza yesterday. The ships carried a group of over 40 left-wing “activists” with an agenda that conveniently ignores Hamas terrorism; they claimed to be intent on “breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza.” While Israel was entirely within its rights to stop the ship before it reached the Gaza port, a decision was made to let them through as long as it was known that they were not carrying weapons. That decision was based on the awareness that the group would have promoted a PR free-for-all had they been stopped.
Hopefully more details soon, and a bit more background.