ISRAEL’S NEW ROTATION GOVERNMENT – “BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP?!”

Netanyahu before the beginning of the trial (screenshot)

One might have thought that finally, after three acrimonious campaigns, the new Likud and Blue and White cabinet ministers would have settled down and been busy as bees in their exalted positions. But, the Likudniks take their cue from the boss, Prime Minister Netanyahu. He showed up at the historic trial with a bevy of Likud cabinet ministers jostling behind him to get into the frame of the TV camera. And then, rather than “throwing himself on the mercy of the court,” as do most indicted, he launched into a diatribe against Israel’s entire legal system, repeating that he had been framed. This unprecedented appearance just outside of the very courtroom – unbelievable.

Consider the current fallout apparent in the shenanigans of Miri Regev, Israel’s new Transport Minister. Regev, who is famous (or infamous) for her caustic comments, was promoted for her loyal support of Bibi and his wife, Sara. Although faced with the daunting task of coping with paralyzing traffic jams and horrific road accidents, Miri found time to carefully launch a smear attack on her own coalition partner, Benny Gantz (who is supposed to be Bibi’s erstwhile partner in the national unity government). 

Transport Minister and loyal supporter of Netanyahu, Miri Regev (credit: Ben Haddad CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rather than closing the ranks and “everyone pulling together in the national interest,” Regev blasted Benny as “half-baked and totally unfit to replace Bibi as PM in another 18 months.” Moreover, she repeated campaign allegations that the Iranians had hacked his cellphone as well as insinuations about an illicit affair. Gantz, a married man, has categorically denied these allegations.

Just two weeks into the Likud-Blue and White coalition entered office,, there is no doubt that Regev wouldn’t have railed against Gantz without the green light from either Bibi or Sara Netanyahu. She chose the weekend edition of the popular Yediot Ahronot newspaper, and it immediately became a media headline. Maybe it was payback for a carefully phrased and politically polite TV interview by Gantz a week ago that came across as an attempt to bury the hatchet with Likud. 

In any case, an irate Gantz actually got word of Regev’s insults during a meeting with Netanyahu himself. Gantz, who is now Defense Minister, walked out in a huff. Not to worry, Bib played down the whole affair and sort of rapped Regev on the knuckles. But it does not auger well for the supposed rotation deal in another 18 months. The bottom line is, don’t expect a replay of “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart giving an immortal kiss to Ingrid Bergman. 

Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca film

In any case, there is a country to run after the previous election fiascos, and of course, 18 months is an extremely long time in Israeli politics. For example, a senior Israeli official has just confirmed the recent Washington Post article that stated Iran was responsible for the recent cyber attack against Israeli water installations. In other words, this was an escalation in the ongoing confrontation between Iran and Israel.

Concerning the dual question and exclamation marks in our headline, I am aware that there is no such thing in English grammar – “it’s not done.” But in modern Hebrew, it is kosher for journalists to do so; therefore, I follow suit (poetic license and all that). 

Flashpoint on the West Bank …

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi (By IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, CC BY-SA 3.0)

After US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, recently visit Jerusalem to inform Bibi that “Trump is willing” that Israel annex part of the West Bank, the PM told his Knesset caucus that this was a “historic opportunity to annex part of Judea and Samaria.” Netanyahu reportedly mentioned the month of July. Moreover, IDF Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, has ordered the military to prepare for such a contingency. So far, Gantz and his Blue and White party have not taken a clear stance on this vital issue. 

In any case, Pompeo conveyed Donald’s concern about China’s increasing business dealing with the Jewish state. Naturally, “a word to the wise was sufficient,” and Israel rejected a Chinese tender for a new project. 

Israel Rebounds from Corona …

To his credit, Bibi has spearheaded a rather successful campaign against COVID-19. The infection curve has leveled out and slid down, allowing for the reopening of schools, restaurants, and even swimming pools that are all subject to strict regulations. However, the previous restrictions have devastated the economy – so much so that one out of two Israelis fears for their future economic livelihood, and one out of seven is worried about losing their home. The government is allocating considerable resources to jumpstart the economy, but will it be enough? 

IsraCast proposal …

First, the background – the current Israeli economy emerged from a socialist beginning, although it is a relatively modern economy. However, a relatively high percentage of employees work not only in the civil service but also in government organizations, such as health services, electricity, water cooperations, etc. During his previous post as Finance Minister, Bibi once lamented, “A problem with our economy is that too many workers are employed in governmental institutions – it’s like a thin man (the private sector) having to carry around the burden of a fat man (governmental employees) on his/her shoulders!” 

Finance Minister Israel Katz (CC ששון תירם)

Now, let’s apply this situation to the current COVID-19 crisis. Israelis employed in the civil service and governmental sectors have continued to receive their salaries/pensions every month, like clockwork, despite the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. In order to help bail out workers in the private sector, we propose that the new Finance Minister, Israel Katz, draw up an emergency plan that would cut 10% over a certain salary level of government workers and that this money should be allocated to those Israelis who are not on the public payroll and may be left destitute. It is the right thing to do and would boost a sense of solidarity among the Israeli people. Israelis have always risen to the occasion when faced with the threat of war – why would they not do so to face the war against Corona? 

There would be another immediate benefit – the 10% cut from better-off Israelis, who probably invested, would be spent by low-income earners and immediately injected into the economy, getting it back on track. Israel put the health issue and the question of life-and-death before the economy, and rightly so, at the outset of COVID-19. Now is the time for the better-off to think of “becoming thy brother’s or sister’s keepers.”

 

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