Kafe Knesset for March 31
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Aftershocks, times two: Yesterday, Netanyahu solved two coalition-threatening crises in one day, making it seem like we will not have an election anytime soon. But, as with anything else in politics, there are always going to be some people who are not happy.
The last new settlement? First, there is Amona. The cabinet voted to approve the construction of a new settlement in Samaria’s Shilo Valley. This settlement will take the place of the one that was demolished earlier this year, as the prime minister promised to Amona’s evacuated residents. The White House was fine with this, but unenthusiastic, saying that Netanyahu made a commitment before Trump laid out his expectations when it comes to settlements. In addition, any construction in the West Bank beyond that will be limited to already built-up areas.
Amona evacuees were pleased, praising the cabinet’s decision and urging the government to implement it quickly, though they said that one day, they or their sons will return to the original Amona. “Instead of the flower that was trampled, we will plant 100,” they said, poetically. “For every house that was destroyed, we will build 100 new homes. For the lives that were taken we will build new lives, of children laughing and the elderly conversing, a life of Torah and culture and good deeds, a life of giving and flourishing and growth, a full Israeli life of a nation building its land and the Divine Presence returning to its place.” Ministers in the Likud and Bayit Yehudi were somewhat less poetic, but still claimed victory on Twitter. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, who hopes to take Netanyahu’s place at the helm of the Likud, said that the cabinet sent a message that Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel and that there will not be a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, and no more settlements will be demolished.
Smotrich, the killjoy: But, every party has a party pooper, and for the Right, it’s Bayit Yehudi firebrand Bezalel Smotrich. Smotrich called the cabinet’s decision “very disturbing,” because, he said, judging from experience with Netanyahu, it probably won’t go anywhere. Smotrich added that since Trump’s election, the planning board for the West Bank was not called, so that any plans the prime minister authorized in recent months remain just that – plans. The Left, of course, is unhappy with the whole thing. Labor MK Amir Peretz – who, in a blast from the past, is running for head of the party later this year – said that Netanyahu is leading Israel to a one-state solution, and that he should start packing his bags to leave office.
Free speech and democracy, or maybe just a balanced budget: Next we have the Israel Broadcasting Corporation crisis, which Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon resolved by essentially separating the news and entertainment sections of the soon-to-be-formed IBC. They agreed to dismiss the leaders of the news section and created a new search committee, to be led by a retired judge, to find new leaders of the news department. In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Kahlon presented himself as a champion of democracy and free speech and a protector of the Supreme Court. However, as many commentators pointed out afterwards, Kahlon did not say much about those lofty values while he and Netanyahu butted heads. The way he put it, for most of the crisis, is that reversing the progress on establishing a new public broadcast corporation to replace the old, inefficient one is a massive waste of money that could go to other, more important causes.
Louis XIV of Balfour Street: As an opposition leader is wont to do, Herzog put the exact opposite spin on the compromise, saying that it is harming democracy. According to Herzog, the agreement “allows Netanyahu to buy time during which he will continue to terrorize the free press and his opponents. In the spirit of Brezhnev and Kim Jong Il, Netanyahu founded a newspaper and now a news channel – Bibi’s Pravda, the Likud Broadcast Association. L’etat c’est moi, Netanyahu says.” And, in honor of Passover, the Festival of Freedom, Herzog added that he hopes Israelis will be free of Netanyahu’s shackles soon.
On Saturday night, IBC journalists are expected to demonstrate in front of government offices in Tel Aviv. The rally is called “Say No to Politicians’ Takeover of the Media.”