You may view the 5 minute update this week via audio:
In this week’s 5 minute update, we focused on:
1) The current situation with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government
On March 17, Israel had new elections. In the elections, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political party, Likud, won the most seats in the Israeli government. As a result, Netanyahu is being given the opportunity to form a government coalition. There are 120 members in the Israeli Knesset. A coalition of at least 61 Knesset members is needed to form a government. Based upon the election results, Netanyahu can form a nationalistic right-wing government of 67 members. Alternatively, he can choose to form a government with the primary opposition party, formerly called the Labor party, now called the Zionist Union. The Zionist Union is a merger between the former Labor party and Hatnua, the party established by former Israel chief negotiator in the peace process, Tzipi Livni. The Zionist Union is a center-left political party.
A nationalistic right-wing government of 67 members would consist of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism along with the religious Zionist party, Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett, the secular Russian based nationalistic right wing party, Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Israel Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman and the new socio-economic party, Kulanu, headed by former Likud party member, Moshe Kahlon.
The ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, are close to an agreement to join the government. MK Yariv Levin, a leader of the negotiating team of the Likud, said that the coalition negotiations with Shas and United Torah Judaism are advancing. Levin said, “We are close to signing agreements with Shas and United Torah Judaism. However, there are still some small disagreements and disputes.” Shas representatives said: “The negotiations are very positive. We have progressed in many things,” said a senior negotiator, ” We still have some disagreements and issues which we are working at in collaboration with United Torah Judaism – especially about the religion ministry. But there is no doubt we are progressing well.“ Shas is seeking the Interior and Religious Affairs ministries for party leader Arye Deri and deputy minister posts in the Finance, Education, and Religious Affairs ministries for other members of the party.
In further meetings with Likud, it is believed that the the head of United Torah Judaism, Yaakov Litzman, will be given the position of Ministry of Health. In addition, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni would head the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee was also sought after by the Kulanu party of Moshe Kahlon in order to carry out the economic reforms they promised their constituents. Moshe Gafni has indicated a willingness to meet with Kahlon in order to work out an arrangement in which Gafni will head the finance committee but Kahlon will be assured of getting what he needs to institute his reforms.
Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he would keep his promise and appoint, Kulanu party leader, Moshe Kahlon, to be finance minister as well as give the party other socio-economic positions. In the March 17 elections, Kulanu ran on the platform to bring down housing prices and improve the Israeli economy. In their meeting, Netanyahu told Kulanu, “Your success is everyone’s success.” In their meetings, Kulanu also requested the Construction Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry, and the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee saying, “No economic reforms will be able to happen if we are not given the authority to accomplish them.” In response to demands for the extra positions, Likud officials accused Kahlon of going overboard.
Meanwhile, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon said he would only join the coalition if Yisrael Beytenu or the Zionist Union were part of the government coalition. Without one of the two parties, Netanyahu’s majority would not rise above 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. This would create an unstable government.
In any event, Netanyahu seems close to reaching an agreement for the ultra-Orthodox parties and Kulanu to join the government. Recently, Likud negotiators drafted a list of the agreements that they have reached with the ultra-Orthodox parties and the Kulanu party. However, Netanyahu is waiting to reach agreements with the rest of the coalition partners before signing an agreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Meanwhile, in order to strengthen their negotiating position with Likud to join a possible government coalition, Jewish Home leader, Naftali Bennett is partnering with Yisrael Beitenu leader, Avigdor Lieberman. According to Israel’s Channel 2, Bennett and Lieberman reached an agreement whereby Bennett would drop his demand to be named foreign minister – Liberman’s current position – in exchange for Lieberman’s assistance in obtaining other key portfolios desired by Jewish Home primarily the Religious Affairs Ministry while agreeing to block any attempt by Netanyahu to form a national unity government with the center-left Zionist Union.
Jewish Home is demanding that they receive the Religious Affairs Ministry. Jewish Home leader, Naftali Bennett threatened to end negotiations with Likud if Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grants control of the Religious Affairs Ministry to the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Shas. Jewish Home had the Religious Affairs Ministry in the last government. As a result, Bennett said: “Unilaterally taking the Religious Affairs Ministry away from the religious Zionist movement and handing it to Shas will spell the end of negotiations with Jewish Home.” It has been reported that Netanyahu wants to give the religious affairs portfolio to Shas chief Aryeh Deri as compensation for Deri’s relinquishing the Interior Ministry to Kulanu party head, Moshe Kahlon.
Sources within Jewish Home said that the only compromise the party would accept was a rotation of the Religious Affairs Ministry or for a member of Likud to be appointed as minister. Shas and Jewish Home clashed frequently in the last Knesset over the reforms regarding religion and state. As a result, Jewish Home is trying to prevent Shas from taking control of the issue.
Lieberman indicated his preconditions for Yisrael Beytenu’s entry into a Likud-led government. They include “liquidation” of Hamas and legislation mandating the death penalty for convicted terrorists. Furthermore, Lieberman will insist on maintaining the laws approved in the last government that ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students serve in the military. Lieberman is adamant on keeping the “Sharing the Burden” law, which calls for the religious to perform some form of national service, as well reforms to the process of converting to Judaism and to the system of marriage registration, which would allow couples to choose the rabbi performing the wedding ceremony.
In contrast, the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, want all of these laws passed in the last government to be overturned. It is being reported that Netanyahu has promised the ultra-Orthodox that at least some of the religious reforms passed in the last government will be repealed. As a condition for them joining the government, the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, demand that the laws concerning religious reforms be revoked. Lieberman wants to continue to be Foreign Minister and said repairing diplomatic ties with the United States is a top priority on his agenda. Finally, Lieberman opposes the proposal to add more ministers to the government. In the last Israeli government, it was agreed that the total number of cabinet ministers would be restricted to 18. In addition, Lieberman said that he would not sit in a national unity goverment. “Netanyahu has the right to close a deal with Herzog and Livni [Zionist Union]. However, we wouldn’t be part of such a government. That I can say definitely,” Lieberman said.
In frustration to the demands of Jewish Home and Yisrael Beitenu, the Likud negotiating team is threatening to establish a national unity government with the main opposition party, Zionist Union. Likud party whip, MK Ze’ev Elkin said: “We’ve been saying all along that if the days go by and the parties of the nationalist camp fail to compromise, the prime minister will have no choice but to make a generous offer to the Zionist Union, even though that is not our preferred option.”
However, Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog maintained that he intends to lead the opposition, not join a unity government. He said: “A government of 67 MKs [nationalist right-wing] is about to be established. I said right after the elections that we would be going to the opposition. That’s not a default choice; it’s a preference.” He added that, “From our place in the opposition we will take the place of the Likud government in the future, because Netanyahu will lead the government to hit a wall, in the end.” Furthermore, Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel affirmed that the Zionist Union will not join a national unity government saying: “I do not see the Zionist Union being welcome in Netanyahu’s government. If there is a statement indicating that Likud would consider a national unity government, it only comes from Likud sources who want to lower the price in the coalition negotiations between the parties of the right,” he said.
Initially, Netanyahu has 28 days to try to form a coalition government. If needed, he may request a 2 week extension. With little sign of any imminent coalition agreement by the initial April 22 deadline, Netanyahu asked Israel President Reuven Rivlin for a 2 week extension. The request was granted and now Netanyahu has until May 7 to form a coalition government. In being granted the extension, Netanyahu said: “We’ve moved forward in the process and we’re well on our way to forming a new government but more time is needed to make sure [the government] is a stable one, and to reach agreement on a number of important [issues] that will enable us to tackle the challenges facing the state of Israel.”
After the March 17 elections, it seemed that Netanyahu would be able to easily establish a nationalistic right-wing government. However, after weeks of negotiations with his potential partners, Netanyahu is finding that task more difficult than originally believed. Whether Netanyahu chooses a national unity government with the main opposition party, Zionist Union, or forms a nationalistic right-wing government will have broad implications. If Netanyahu sides with the right-wing allies that he often calls his “natural” partners, Netanyahu will have a solid parliamentary majority of like-minded parties that could avoid much of the infighting that plagued the outgoing government and provide some welcome internal political stability at home.
But such a coalition — averse to peace moves with the Palestinians and in favor of expanded settlement construction in the West Bank — quickly would find itself on a collision course with the international community at a time when Netanyahu is already feuding with his allies over the direction of the peace process and a nuclear deal with Iran that he strongly opposes. A unity government that includes his leftist rivals would help blunt that looming international isolation.
Throughout the election campaign, Netanyahu ruled out the possibility of joining forces with Isaac Herzog and his center-left Zionist Union and vowed to rule from the right. Election results gave his Likud party 30 seats and secured him a potential 67-seat majority with his traditional allies. In negotiations, however, these allies have made demands to head powerful government ministries.
Under Israeli election rules, if Netanyahu fails to form a coalition at the end of 42 days — the first 28 plus the two-week extension — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin can assign someone else the task of doing so. While this is technically possible, it is unlikely that Zionist Union would have an easier time establishing a government coalition. If no one succeeds in forming a coalition, Rivlin would be left with no choice but to order a new national election. Few expect that this will happen. Most believe that a 67-seat right-wing government seems to be the most likely outcome from the two-week extension. However, within Netanyahu’s own Likud political party, his aides acknowledge that Netanyahu is concerned about conflict with his allies in the US and western Europe.
Increased settlement construction, a prolonged absence of Palestinian peace talks and nationalist legislation that critics argue undermines Israel’s democratic nature would surely draw a strong rebuke and perhaps even calls for sanctions and boycotts. With his relations with US President Barack Obama at a low point following clashes over Mideast peace and the Iranian nuclear talks, there is a real fear that Israel’s top ally may rescind its automatic protection of Israel at the United Nations and other international bodies.
Netanyahu has partnered with his adversaries in the past to shield himself from similar fallout. In 2009, Netanyahu appointed then-Labor party leader Ehud Barak to be a part of his government. In 2000, Barak offered a Palestinian state to Yassir Arafat. In his last government, Netanyahu brought in dovish ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni to be his chief peace negotiator.
Herzog’s Labor party, the main partner of the Zionist Union, has a long history of ousting its defeated leaders, so Herzog also may be tempted to jump at a chance to gain some influence and job security — most likely as Netanyahu’s foreign minister. Herzog is the seventh leader of the party since it last won a national election in 1999. But, so far, Herzog’s party rank-and-file seems to oppose joining Netanyahu and appears eager to watch a hard-line government fail.
Finally, Shas MK Yaakov Margi is very optimistic that things will work out with all of the Likud’s “natural partners,” including his party, Jewish Home, and Yisrael Beytenu. “Anyone who wants a national government will have to compromise, and I think everyone will,” Margi said. “Otherwise they are likely to get a national unity government with Labor leaders Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni.”
So what government will Netanyahu choose? By May 7th, we will all know.
An agreement to divide Jerusalem and establish a PLO state is a tribulation event.
The link to these articles are as follows:
1) Shas and UTJ Close to Coalition Agreement with Likud
2) Netanyahu Grants Shas and UTJ Their Preferable Ministerial Portfolios
3) In coalition push, Likud to confer with ultra-Orthodox, Kulanu
4) Kulanu expands coalition demands
5) ‘Bennett, Liberman join forces in coalition talks with Netanyahu’
6) Liberman to Place Hamas’s Destruction as Coalition Condition
7) Bennett: We’ll bolt talks if Shas gets religious portfolio; Likud: Don’t threaten us
8) Facing political deadlock, Netanyahu gets more time to build coalition
9) Rivlin grants Netanyahu 2 more weeks for coalition talks
10) Herzog insists he won’t join Netanyahu’s government
11) Lieberman Says He Will Not Sit in Unity Gov’t; Netanyahu Wants Foreign Ministry for Likud
12) Shas MK: Government Will be Formed, Despite Misgivings
From a Biblical prophetic perspective, the reason why the God of Israel would allow these events to happen is because it will result in the end of the exile of the house of Jacob and the reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Judah).
We will to be “watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem” and we will not rest until the God of Israel makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62).
Shalom in Yeshua the Messiah,
Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int’l