So, the new government was sworn in today, and I find myself unable to work up much enthusiasm. Yes, it’s a very good thing that Olmert will no longer be PM, and that Kadima — with “two state solution” Livni at its helm — will be in the opposition.
But this new government was so long in the making that its establishment seems almost anti-climactic. Not to mention the fact that is carries within it seeds of dissension — intra-party both within the Likud and Labor parties, and inter-party between Shas and Yisrael Beitenu, for example. This, even as Netanyahu boasts that the addition of Labor to the government ensures stability.
We’ve got some good people, experienced people, in the government — such as Moshe Kachlon, Gideon Sa’ar, and Yisrael Katz — but they are not necessarily in positions where they will do the most good.
I’m truly distressed that Labor is part of the government and National Union is not.
In the end, Moshe Ya’alon, who was slated to be Defense Minister before Barak was brought in, has been given the post of Strategic Affairs, as well as being named a Vice Prime Minister. And so he hasn’t resigned before even starting. Presumably he will have a say in formulating policy with regard to trouble areas.
“Vice prime minister,” as I under stand it, designates the person who would take over in times of absence or incapacitation of the prime minister, with “deputy prime minister” being more an honorary title.
The most disgruntled member of Likud is Silvan Shalom, who had hoped for — expected — the post of foreign minister, which was in the end given to Avigdor Lieberman as part of the coalition deal. There has been a flap about this already: Lieberman has been under investigation for several matters (sigh… again) and there was speculation that if he had to leave the government because he was indicted, Shalom would get the post. But Lieberman has let it be known that if he had to resign — a possibility he considers unlikely — and the post were to go to Likud rather than be kept within his party, Yisrael Beitenu would move to opposition and bring down the government.
When Shalom didn’t get the Foreign Affairs ministry, he then sought Finance. (He has served in both positions in the past.) But that ultimately went to Yuval Steinitz, a Netanyahu loyalist. (It was said for a while that Netanyahu would retain that ministry himself, and he will surely keep involved in financial decisions and policy.)
Shalom was offered Regional Affairs Minister (do not ask me what this is — it’s invented) and a position as vice prime minister (with Netanyahu saying it’s OK to have two people with this designation), and finally Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galil. It wasn’t until just before the swearing-in that he agreed to this.
Shalom is not, shall we say, one of Netanyahu’s closest associates.
The position of Minister of Health has not been filled as this ministry is being saved for UTJ, should it join the coalition. There is distress about the fact that UTJ representative Moshe Gafni would administer the ministry as a deputy minister only (by choice of UTJ), which people in the Ministry of Health feel would create a disadvantage when it comes to such matters as budget.
This government is the biggest ever. The splitting of posts, invention of new positions and formation of deputy positions was deemed necessary to satisfy everyone — those who joined Netanyahu’s coalition and those within his own party.
I hope to have a full and accurate list of all ministers and deputies in short order.
If this doesn’t make your blood boil, likely little will.
Balad is an Israeli Arab political party with members elected to the Knesset. A new member, Haneen Zuabi (first ever woman elected from an Arab party), had a few things to say in a couple of English interviews reported upon by the Post:
She thinks Iran’s development of nuclear weapons is a good thing. This would offset the military edge Israel has in the region, which is “dangerous to the world.”
Asked if she was afraid of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, she replied, “No, I am not.” She said was “more afraid from the Israeli nuclear [weapons]….It would be more supporting me to have a counter-power to Israel. I need something to balance [Israel’s] power.”
What is more, she thinks Iran’s role in Palestinian affairs is more useful than the role of Egypt and Jordan. That’s because these countries are afraid of a free Palestine (in truth, afraid of the terrorism within Palestine).
Iran stands more firmly “against occupation than a lot of the Arab countries. This is our interest.”
Please note this very carefully. In “our” interest. She speaks as a Palestinian and not an Israeli, although she is not only an Israeli citizen but a member of the Israeli parliament — provided with freedoms and receiving perks she would never receive in the PA. Her loyalty is with them and not us.
There has been a whole lot of indignation about Avigdor Lieberman’s charges against the Arabs here and his call for a loyalty oath. But he is on to something very serious. And it’s people’s weariness with disloyalty among some Israeli Arabs that was a considerable factor in his gaining the mandates he did.
It’s time we confronted this problem realistically.
An article in Time magazine this week, citing Israeli sources, provided additional information on the bombing of the convoy of trucks bearing weapons bound for Gaza — with just one operation focused on here.
In addition to drones, dozens of planes were used — primarily F-16s were utilized, with F-15s as back-up in case the squadron was attacked.
This was not the first time the Iranians had used a Sudan route to get weapons to Hamas, but this was the biggest shipment. The Mossad discovered that 120 tons of explosives and weapons were on the way, and had one week to plan the operation. Refueling was done over the Red Sea.
This was said to be a warning to Iran and a show of our intelligence capabilities.
According to journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, presidential elect Barack Obama put pressure on Olmert to stop our military action in Gaza before his inauguration.
This is simply confirmation of something that’s been widely bandied about, but it’s irksome none-the-less. An official (or official to be) of another country has no business interfering in our defensive action. And Olmert was foolish in the extreme to accede and terminate the operation prematurely to suit him.
A two-day Arab summit convened in Doha, Qatar, yesterday to address a number of issues, but President Mubarak of Egypt opted not to attend, sending Mufid Shehab, Minister of Legal Affairs, instead.
Of major concern to the leaders was the March 4, arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes because of his actions in Darfur.
Bashir was at the conference and received a warm welcome; the Arab League has indicated it will not honor the arrest warrant.