What shall we call it? A lot of hot air? Declarations “signifying nothing”?
Barak said that Labor would resign the coalition if the budget were unsatisfactory. Shas ministers said they’d leave if child allowances weren’t increased. Olmert said he’d fire those ministers who voted against the budget. I see none of these things happening, at least yet.
After I wrote at midnight last night, the budget negotiations continued, way into the night, until a budget that a majority of the Cabinet would accept was arrived at. A razor thin majority: 13 for and 12 against, with Haim Ramon abstaining.
The majority was achieved when members of Kadima — Avi Dichter, Ze’ev Boim and Ruhama Avraham-Balila — and members of the Pensioners Party — Rafi Eitan and Ya’acov Ben-Yizri — who had been opposed were convinced to go along.
The seven ministers of Labor voted against, as did the four ministers of Shas.
It is worth noting that the single Kadima holdout was Shaul Mofaz, who accused Livni of caving under pressure for political reasons. Said he:
“Whoever wins the Kadima primaries will obviously have to bring about a new budget. It’s a pity that the budget passed due to ‘political’ reasons.”
That there is politics involved is indisputable. The Post reports that the five ministers whose reversal allowed the budget to be passed have been promised additional funding for their respective offices.
But, in spite of Olmert’s carrying on, it’s not all politics. There are genuine issues, primarily whether emphasis must be on social issues (and the economy) or on defense. Ironically, while the US economy is floundering, ours is vigorous, and there is concern that it not be sabotaged by a huge budget deficit. Similarly, there are genuine social issues to be attended to — welfare and education.
But in the face of what we are likely to be confronting in our north, as well as in Gaza — not to mention what may be involved with Iran — there is a solid argument to be made for putting defense spending first. This becomes an existential issue — not just for the nation, but also for individual soldiers in the field who require the best of training and equipment. If our nation is not properly defended, all the rest becomes moot.
Said Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel on Army Radio:
“…making this a political issue is a mistake. For the first time in a long time, Labor ministers presented a position, backed it, and did what they should have done in light of the harsh and bad budget proposal…This was not a political battle but a moral issue.”
Right now the vote has gone with a smaller allocation to defense and an eye towards the economy. Child allowances were not increased.
Olmert has no need to fire anyone, no matter his threats, because he achieved what he sought. Shas, which is always threatening, is unlikely to leave. And Labor? They’ll have to answer for why they remain in the government, if they do.
The bottom-line reality here is that it will be months before this comes before the Knesset for final approval. There will, presumably, be a Kadima primary before then. And it is not only Mofaz who believes many changes are likely to be made in this budget before it is actually finalized. There are those arguing that we can’t do justice to everything without allocating additional funds on the basis of anticipated economic growth, and permitting some deficit.
We let out 198 prisoners today in order to “bolster” Abbas.
Before they went on their way, they were all required to sign a document pledging never again to be involved in terrorism. That always blows me away. Has there ever been a terrorist who, though longing to get back into the violence, has declined to be involved because of signing such a document? Is there anyone anywhere who actually believes that this is how a potential terrorist might be dissuaded?
After the signing they all went to Ramallah for a joyous celebration.
And Abbas? He said that:
“There will be no peace without the release of all Palestinians imprisoned in Israel,. We will not rest until the prisoners are freed and the jails are empty…They all have a place in our heart, but there is a special one, senior brother Marwan Barghouti and the leading brother Ahmad Sa’adat, whom we hope to see soon.”
Barghouti, the big-time Fatah Tanzim terrorist, is serving five life sentences for his part in killing Jews. And Sa’adat is a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and was a mastermind of the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
The Palestinians were so happy about what we had done that some handful of them, at least, stoned an Israeli bus outside of Ramallah today.
So, why did we bother? Is this all for Rice?
The secretary of state has arrived here now — her seventh trip since Annapolis — and is conceding that an end-of-the-year peace deal is extremely unlikely. However, she is committed, she says, to continuing to promote small increments. She’s sounding a tad more realistic.
On her agenda, with the “peace process” are both Syria and Russia.
Exceedingly important with regard to the Palestinians is a piece by Daniel Hannan. a member of the European Parliament, in the Telegraph (UK), “EU aid to Palestine is funding the conflict.”
“…it is becoming increasingly clear that overseas aid is arresting a political settlement in the region. Palestinians receive more assistance, per capita, than any other people on Earth, and live in one of its most violent spaces. The two facts are connected.
“The idea that aggression can be buried under a landslide of euros sounds reasonable, but it is based on a false premise, namely that political violence is caused by economic deprivation.
“…None of this [stability, civil order, etc.] will happen, however, as long as Palestinians remain trapped in the squalor of dependency.”
I want to backtrack here for a moment and mention what I should have written about before: Mike Huckabee — former governor of Arkansas and former Republican candidate for president — was here visiting us this past week. What a marvel he is in terms of understanding our issues: the dangers of a Palestinian state at our border, the insanity of dividing Jerusalem. Would that more US leaders “got it” the way he does.
For a five- minute interview with him from IBA news on Israeli TV, see:
On orders from Defense Minister Barak, 300 police and Shin Bet forces on Saturday night raided the Al Aksa Institute offices of the Islamic Movement in Umm al-Fahm, which served as headquarters for the northern branch of the Movement. The offices were shut down, computers and documents were seized and some bank accounts were frozen after Al Aksa was named an “unlawful organization” because of evidence that it had connections to Hamas.
The point of connection with Hamas was found to be “The Union of Good,” an umbrella organization (a front) for Hamas foundations that was outlawed in Israel but operates in Europe and elsewhere.
Mazel tov! Anyone who follows the actions of this Israeli Arab organization, the Islamic Movement, has long understood that they are up to no good. Just the day before the raid there was a major rally in Umm al-Fahm because Al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount was said, again, to be in danger. “With blood and fire we’ll redeem Al-Aksa,” cried Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch.
Guaranteed we haven’t heard the last from them.
Jeff Daube, who is heading a new Israeli office for ZOA, wrote a piece in the Post last week concerning potential security measures for Sderot — via the US Nautilus/Skyguard system — that have not been seriously considered yet.
This eye-opener is well worth reading: