The opposition strikes back at Bibi in sophomoric fashion

One would expect his opponents, licking their wounds over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and upset over his successful campaign to expand his cabinet, would fight back politically somehow. But in Israel, politics can be both serious and humorous.  As evidenced by bills in the Knesset which refer to the cabinet as “Bibi’s crew” and attempts to add the words “just kidding” to the end of various clauses in the bill.

 

A CLOWN IN THE KNESSET?

By ISRAEL TODAY

JERUSALEM – Popular Israeli children’s entertainer Yuval Shem Tov has been given a real shot at becoming a member of the next Knesset.

Ahead of the January 22 election, the newly-formed Economy Party has placed Shem Tov in the No. 3 spot on its Knesset list. All parties must reach a threshold of three seats to even enter the Knesset, meaning that if the Economy Party makes it in at all, Shem Tov is guaranteed to become a Knesset member.

For most, that won’t be a problem. But others may find it odd to have a professional clown in the Knesset (though others will argue that the taxpayers have been paying “clowns” to occupy those positions for years).

Shem Tov’s day job is playing the character “Yuval Hamevulbal” (Yuval the Confused) on Israeli television. Yuval the Confused is today Israel’s most popular homegrown children’s television character.

Shem Tov stated that he intends to continue playing the character of Yuval the Confused even if he makes it into the Knesset.

Prior to Shem Tov joining the party, the Economy Party was viewed as only having a slim chance at winning the required three seats. Party founders Daniel and Benny Goldstein, brothers originally from Long Island, New York, hope that bringing Shem Tov on board will significantly increase their chances.

The Goldsteins insist that the Economy Party is neither right-wing nor left-wing, but rather a party that hopes to improve business and economic management in Israel to the benefit of all.

The party’s focus on family values was also a major factor in finally convincing Shem Tov to bring his star power to the list.

PRO-ISRAELI ARAB PARTY TO RUN IN NEXT ELECTION

Knesset. Photo by Rachel Barenblat

ISRAEL TODAY

JERUSALEM – Israel’s upcoming early election just got a lot more interesting with the announced formation of a new Arab political party that intends to support the Jewish state.

Israel’s Channel 2 News  highlighted the new party, which will reportedly be made up of “well-known” Arab public figures.

One of the organizers for the new party told Channel 2, “We’re tired of Arab MKs who are more concerned with foreign policy in the Arab world and the Palestinian people.”

The source was referring to the fact that the three Arab parties currently in the Knesset are made up of lawmakers who spend the bulk of their time condemning and undermining Israel and collaborating with its enemies.

The new party’s goal is to do its job of truly representing its constituents, and therefore will busy itself with bettering the lives of Israel’s Arab population.

Earlier in the summer we reported on an Arab public figure from the Galilee who planned to form a pro-Israel Arab Knesset party. Sarhan Bader, a local Likud activist, told The Jerusalem Post at the time that he, too, was tired of Israel’s current Arab lawmakers misrepresenting the community.

“Most Arab citizens are in favor of coexisting, cooperating and living in harmony with Jewish Israelis,” he said. “The other Arab parties place too much emphasis on the Palestinians and external Arabs. But it’s more important to serve the Arabs inside Israel who want to live here in peace with our Jewish cousins.”

It is not yet clear if Bader will be part of the new Arab party profiled by Channel 2, or if two pro-Israel Arab parties will seek seats in the next Knesset.

 

Knesset decries Jerusalem’s defacto segregation

Photo by Jill Granberg

ISRAEL TODAY

JERUSALEM -Members of Israel’s Knesset  harshly criticized the government and the Jerusalem Municipality for allowing the de facto division of the holy city, even as Israeli leaders insist Jerusalem will never be divided and will remain the united capital of the Jewish people.

The critical remarks came during a meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, which was discussing rampant illegal Arab construction on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

A state comptroller’s report last year estimated that there are between 20,000-30,000 unauthorized buildings in eastern Jerusalem, with another 1,000 being added every year.

The illegal construction is especially widespread in the areas of Jerusalem that lie beyond the security barrier. Regavim, an NGO that monitors use of Israel’s national land, told The Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem Municipality inspectors had not visited these parts of Jerusalem since 2005 because of the security risk.

Lawmaker Yulia Berkovich of the center-left Kadima Party reacted angrily:

“It’s like saying the Jerusalem Municipality and Jerusalem Police have no ability to enforce laws [in these areas]. Has Jerusalem already been divided? Because if it has, I want to know.”

Regavim director Betzalel Smotrich said the other problem is that while the government and municipality turn a blind eye to illegal Arab construction, they are quick to pounce on any effort by Jews to build in these parts of Jerusalem, even when the construction is authorized.

Knesset returns from Summer break to address economy



The Israeli Parliament returned from Summer holiday to face the growing concerns by protesters and others in the nation about the high cost of housing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is emphasizing the need to protect Israel’s middle class from extinction.

At a Tel Aviv protest, some demonstrators said they are prepared to put on the uniform of the IDF and fight and die for Israel. But they can’t afford to live in the country.

Sanctioned MK: Racism part of Israel’s consensus

By NIKKI HODGSON and MIKAELA LEVIN
AIC

Since she was sanctioned for her participation in the first Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly) spends most days inside her office in the Knesset. Her desk is overflowing with papers, the small coffee table on the side is occupied with used tea mugs and some treats; in one corner, facing her desk, a television is broadcasting live the debate on the Knesset floor.

As of Monday 18 July, MK Zoabi is unable to participate in Knesset general debates or even speak in parliamentary committees until the end of this year’s parliamentary sessions, at the end of July. “I can just vote”, explains the Palestinian politician, with a half smile of open resignation. Throughout the entire interview with the Alternative Information Center (AIC), Zoabi will not take her eyes off the screen for more than a minute; she doesn’t want to miss the chance to exercise her last remaining right as a democratic elected MK: expressing her minority vote.

- Do you think you can still promote change from within the Knesset?

Promote change…mmmm, yeah! (She laughs). Definitely. The event of the Flotilla proved how crucial our presence in the Knesset is. It is ironic. The fact that they restrict our movements and incite against us indicates that we are really challenging their policies. Because if you don’t challenge their policies, if you don’t make a difference, if our existence as the National Democratic Assembly was insignificant to them, they could simply marginalise us, let us do whatever we want. The fact that they are so racist against us, the fact that they are doing everything in order to incite against, is proof that we are bothering them; we are not making their life easy.

Zoabi refuses to yield to pessimism. It’s been more than a year since she gained global fame with her participation in the Freedom Flotilla on board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship on which nine activists died and dozens were injured after it was attacked by an elite Israeli naval force. Since then Zoabi has become accustomed to the insults and aggressive comebacks of her fellow MKs, both from the right and the centre. As she said, “when it comes to the rights of Palestinians in Israel, there is no difference between opposition and coalition”. “When I could still participate in Knesset committees, every time I used to speak, someone would say ‘yeah, you are in the Flotilla so go to the Flotilla and go to Gaza’. I talked about kindergartens and about children and they would say ‘you can go to Gaza’. I spoke of the confiscation of lands and they would say ‘it is better to go to Gaza’, she recalled, laughing carelessly.

A month after the first Flotilla was attacked and their passengers detained and deported, MK Zoabi received the first sanction from her colleagues. She was stripped of three of her parliamentary privileges: her diplomatic passport, funds for any legal counseling and the right to visit countries with which Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations. “It’s just hatred,” Zoabi explained. In this Knesset irrational racism exists. Maybe in the previous Knesset there was a more rational racism, a more sophisticated racism; but now it’s very basic, very direct”.

This “irrational racism” is part of the new ruling consensus in Israel, Zoabi continues.  “A lot of people now think that Jewish values are more important than democratic values. This obsession with judaising everything…the children in schools have no idea what democracy means, or equality. When you obsessively teach them Zionist values, they will grow up with the conclusion that there are no Palestinians citizens here. It’s a psychological ethnic cleansing. They teach them to recognize the Palestinian as an enemy, but not to recognize him in daily life, as a citizen, as a partner in this home land,” warns Zoabi, losing her relaxed manner for a moment.

For Zoabi, the sole Palestinian woman in the Knesset, the main difference between the current government and the previous ones is not racism (“Israel has been a Jewish state since 1948, that is not something new””, but the criminalisation of everything outside of this consensus. The recently approved anti-boycott law if proof of that. “The settlements are part of Israel and that is not negotiable. This way of thinking is delegitimising politics as such, because now everything is part of a consensus and whatever is outside this consensus is criminalised. This is the dramatic effect of this government”, Zoabi asserts, before turning her eyes for a last time to the TV. The last speech is about to finish; she can finally take her seat on the floor of the Knesset and vote against the creation of an investigative committee on the funding sources of Israeli human rights organizations.

Nikki Hodgson and Mikaela Levin write for the Alternative Information Center.

Initiative supports Arab Spring

By BARRY SHAW

JERUSALEM – Today, July 13,2001, I attended a landmark initiative from Israel’s Knesset.

The Knesset Forum on International Relations launched a hearing on Middle East Democracy. In a session that achieved a broad coalition of cross party support a statement was issued from the seat of Israel’s parliament which read:

Whereas demonstrations, riots, and revolutions have rocked the Middle East from Morocco to Iran and political stability, violence, and call for change of government have touched over a dozen countries in this region, all people have the right to live free from dictatorship and live in safety and security.

At a time when people throughout the Middle East seek to create systems of liberty free of corruption, extremist forces seek to turn popular hope into personal power. These forces of violence do not respect the basic rights of freedom and liberty and danger the yearning for freedom across the region and the world.

Therefore, it is resolved that the Knesset Forum on International Relations;
1. Supports the desire of the people in the Middle East to live freely and enjoy democratic freedom, and
2. Recognizes the necessity for Israel’s security needs at a time of great instability in the region, and
3. Appeals to the global community to support Israel as a beacon of democracy and human right, and
4. Condemns extremists forces that promote violence and bloodshed, and
5. Calls on the international community to isolate radical elements that oppose freedom, and
6. Conveys hope for the rest of the Middle East to enjoy the benefits of democratic rights.

For better or worse, Israel is an integral part of the Middle East and, with it’s record of freedoms and example of a liberal democracy, it has lots to offer to regional nations groping in the dark for the door of true democracy.

We were assured that this was only the initial meeting of this new initiative, and that Israel intends to turn these fine words into finer deeds for the benefit of the region.

Netanyahu says no peace agreement possible with Hamas

Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu meet at Sharem El Sheich last September to talk peace. Israel Government Press Office photo

By GARY BAUMGARTEN

If Hamas is part of a Palestinian entity negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, there will be no peace accord.

That, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who outlined his vision for a peace with the Palestinians before the Knesset.

His address to Israel’s parliament came in advance of his trip to Washington this week where he is expected to go into greater detail about how a peace might be achieved. But the peace process, which has been stalled anyway, won’t be jump started, Netanyahu made clear, so long as those sitting on the other side of the table represent the new coalition between Hamas and Fatah. Because, he says, Hamas wants to destroy the state of Israel.

It would seem logical under other circumstances. Who would expect a nation to negotiate a peace with an entity that, the treaty aside, is bent on still destroying that nation? But in the Alice In Wonderland world of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a nation that refuses to give up land for peace to an entity that wants to destroy it receives international condemnation.

From Israel’s perspective, this becomes a classic Catch 22. If Israel negotiates and hands over land to a Palestinian government comprised in half by leaders who want to destroy the Jewish state, it puts itself in jeopardy. But if it doesn’t – then a declaration of a Palestinian state may be unilaterally made. One that’s recognized by the majority of the international community. And it may become a fait accompli.