This will be my last posting before Pesach begins on Friday night.
This year, the Pesach themes of redemption and evil resonate for me with special power. The Almighty redeemed us when he took us from Egypt but that redemption was not complete: it is an on-going process.
In the Haggadah we read that “in every generation” our enemies rise up to destroy us. I look around at the rising anti-Semitism in this world, and know the truth of this. And so we must remain vigilant, stand strong to protect ourselves, and seek the protection of the Almighty.
To all those who will be celebrating I wish a heartfelt Pesach Kasher V’Sameach!
Off we go!
Official election figures have been released by the Central Elections Committee. In the final accounting, Likud dropped one mandate, to 35 (tied with Blue and White), and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) acquired one, for eight mandates. This did not affect the tally for the right wing bloc, which remains at 65.
Within that bloc, Shas also has eight; Union of the Right and Yisrael Beitenu each have five; and Kulanu has four.
Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked – who had so hoped that a re-examination of questioned ballot counts would provide their New Right party with sufficient votes to make it into the government – did not make it. With all of the checking, the party gained only one vote.
Until late Tuesday, the New Right continued to dispute the findings of the Committee, claiming that there were additional discrepancies. But then Bennett and Shaked conceded that their party had lost. In a Facebook posting, Bennett wrote:
“After six years of service as a minister, 100 days of campaigning, and another week of fighting for every vote, I can say: I did the best I could.
“I have no claims against anyone. I, and I alone, am responsible for the outcome.”
I salute him for this statement, which I see as a mark of integrity and increased maturity. Perhaps this fallback will lead to a better situation for him in the future.
President Ruby Rivlin met on Monday and Tuesday with representatives of all the parties that had passed the threshold. I had written that there were rumors of his intention to push a unity government, and indeed he did just that, saying that “the people expect unity.”
Gabi Ashkenazi, speaking for Blue and White, responded:
“…we would be unable to serve in the kind of government you are proposing. We will work on behalf of the Israeli people, but not from within government that is not led by Benny Gantz.”
While Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, speaking for Likud, responded that his party:
“…wishes to recommend Benjamin Netanyahu, as the person who won the broadest trust and the broadest public support, to form the next government. We ended a difficult election campaign and we set out to form a stable government that could lead the country for four more years.”
Let me add here that there is talk of Netanyahu appointing Levin as justice minister. Nothing official yet, just talk – but he would be excellent. Precisely because he would be excellent (which means tough and sharp), pressure is being put on the prime minister not to appoint him.
Today (Wednesday), President Rivlin formally received that final election tally from the Chair of the Central Elections Committee, Deputy President of the Supreme Court Hanan Melcer (left below).
In his remarks, Rivlin said:
“I hope that we will soon be able to get back to our normal daily lives, led by a strong and stable government that reflects the will of the people…”
“Congratulations to the State of Israel for holding free and fair democratic elections…”
It is easy to lose sight of this accomplishment, but it is no small matter. We can be proud!!
This evening, President Rivlin met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and formally tasked him with forming the government: “For the fifth time, you have secured the support of this dear people who lives on its own land. You have the responsibility to form a government at a time when it and the incoming Knesset face weighty responsibilities…”
“This is the fifth time that I have accepted the task of establishing the Israeli government. There is no greater privilege in democratic life, and I am as excited as I was the first time and, in a certain way, much more than the first time.”
“I am well aware of the magnitude of the responsibility placed on my shoulders and will act as the emissary of the people with all its parts…”
He has 28 days to form that government, with an extension of 14 additional days possible..
One might think that there would be no problem forming a coalition with 65 mandates. Avigdor Lieberman, however, seems determined to create problems: He insists that he will refuse to join the coalition, unless his demands are met. Otherwise, he says blithely, there can just be another election.
Lieberman’s desire to once more be defense minister may be his least problematic demand, although he has chutzpa to seek this position again after quitting last year.
With regard to other issues, it is not that his various positions are necessarily wrong; the problem is that he advances an intransigent stance.
Lieberman is a secularist and is locking horns with the two ultra-Orthodox parties. For example, he is seeking changes in the conversion process. This is a major issue for the Russian community – which he seeks to represent – because Russians who have become Israeli according to civil law are not always Jewish according to Halacha.
His primary demand is that no changes be made to a bill that would require military service for the ultra-Orthodox. “Not even a comma,” he declared dramatically.
But UTJ, taking its own tough stand, has already responded that:
“The faction made a decision that we will insist that anyone who studies Torah and his Torah is his life can continue to learn without hindrance and we’ll insist on it. (Emphasis added)
“…if this issue won’t be resolved…we have no problem going for repeat elections.”
However, there are not going to be new elections. Lieberman’s threats are bargaining bluster. He knows very well that it is far better to be a player inside the coalition, wielding influence (even if he doesn’t get everything he wants), than to sit in the opposition or risk everything in a new election.
If he were not to join, the coalition would only have 60 mandates. This makes for considerable instability and is an exceedingly undesirable situation. According to what I am now reading, however, this would not require new elections. Likud’s legal advisors are saying the situation could stand.
My assumption is that he will play this role to the hilt, and with great bravado, in order to achieve the maximum leverage possible. Then he will do the requisite horse-trading. Actually, it has already begun. Lieberman and UTJ are already talking to each other. How about that!
For better or worse, this is how coalition politics work.
Latest unofficial reports, or leaks, indicate that Trump’s peace plan advocates something less than a full, sovereign state for the Palestinian Arabs. At this point, this is not a surprise. Various sources are reporting that the plan focuses on economic opportunities for the Palestinian Arabs, with the possibility of an autonomy arrangement, and security needs of Israel leading to Israeli control in Judea and Samaria.
This is one of a myriad of issues our new government will be dealing with in short order. Jared Kushner says the plan will be unveiled in June.
A great deal is being written about the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral this week. Israel officials have extended sympathies to the French people for the damage to a national treasure; I imagine this was not only the politically correct but also the diplomatically correct thing to do.
However, I would like to go in another direction in considering this fire, citing an op-ed, “Notre Dame and the Jews,” by Abraham Chicheportiche, a French writer who made aliyah in 2012 (emphasis added):
He tells us that there are two statues at the main entrance to the Cathedral:
“…known as ‘Ecclesia’ and ‘Sinagoga‘, [they] represent the Christian theological doctrine of ‘Verus Israel’ according to which the Jewish people are fallen and replaced by the ‘new Israel’ represented here by a woman who stands with her head crowned facing the other woman represented who has her head bowed, blindfolded by a snake and holding in her hands the tables of the Law …you know, the Jewish people’s Torah.
“…We have entered the final phase of the redemption of Israel and of all humanity and it is truly regrettable to see some of our Jewish brothers saddened by this fire when this building represents in all its strength the exile of Israel and the will to replace us…
“In 1240, in Paris, it was the same Catholic Church which had built the cathedral that held the famous Paris controversy in which the Talmud was tried for blasphemy against the church. There was no way the Jewish rabbis debating the Christians could win…
“…the trial ended with the decree, out of the Notre Dame Cathedral, ordering seizure of all copies of the Talmud, that is tens of wagonloads, at least 10,000 handwritten volumes of holy texts (the printing press had not yet been invented) and then burning them on nearby Place de Greve in 1242.
“…France is in state of shock, the Christian world is outraged while Muslims are rejoicing on social media.
“Jews have nothing to mourn.”
Chicheportiche refers to Muslims rejoicing about the Cathedral burning, which leads me directly into a closely related topic.
Raymond Ibrahim ‒ an American writer and research fellow of Coptic Egyptian heritage ‒ has written a very significant and ultimately terrifying piece for Gatestone, “European Churches: Vandalized, Defecated On, and Torched ‘Every Day.’“ (Emphasis is added)
In his report, Ibrahim extensively cites PI-News, a German news site:
“’there is a creeping war against everything that symbolizes Christianity: attacks on mountain-summit crosses, on sacred statues by the wayside, on churches… and recently also on cemeteries…
“’Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols. There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators…. Not a word, not even the slightest hint that could in anyway lead to the suspicion of migrants… It is not the perpetrators who are in danger of being ostracized, but those who dare to associate the desecration of Christian symbols with immigrant imports. They are accused of hatred, hate speech and racism.’
Says Ibrahim, “In France, two churches are desecrated every day on average.”
Among the desecrations: In the Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nîmes, human excrement was used to draw a cross, while the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris was torched by arsonists exactly a month ago.
This is political correctness morphing into insanity; it is surely born of fear, and signals the loss of Europe.
I would say that it is near impossible to harbor anything but the greatest suspicions that Notre Dame was also torched by Muslim arsonists. The fact that we will be told, after investigations are complete, that there is no evidence of this will prove nothing.
Please, my friends, share this broadly!
I thank Heaven every day that I am an Israeli. Here in Israel we are not in the thrall of political correctness and our people, with their eyes wide open, are moving right.
Let the world, including left wing American Jews, have apoplexy over this move to the right. I am very grateful.
May the Almighty bless our new government, and imbue its members with the strength and wisdom that will be required of them.
At the seder table, we sing, Vehi She’amda:
“And this (the promise of the Almighty) is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands.”
I am partial to the arrangement by Yonatan Razel and here sung by Razel and Ya’akov Swekey:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.