The State of Israel had not had a budget since March 2018 – that is, it didn’t until the wee small hours of last Thursday, November 4, when a budget was finally passed.
I recognize that Israel badly needed a budget; there were governmental allocations of importance that were held up for altogether too long because of the absence of one.
But there has been an unacceptable price paid for this budget: Unacceptable in fiscal terms, and with regard to Israel’s security. But further, and most significantly, a price in terms of Israel’s integrity.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had warned his coalition to keep quiet before the budget was passed. Even if you are right, he advised coalition members, don’t say anything that might cause dissension (and potentially a disintegration of the coalition) before the budget vote.
And Bennett followed his own advice. He shut his mouth when he had no business keeping quiet. So now, after a marathon session in which different elements of the budget were debated and voted upon, money will flow to various projects within the government.
He and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are celebrating: they crow that the coalition has strengthened and is likely to run the course of its full four years. (I pray not!) Bennett says that Lapid will have his rotation as prime minister in two years.
What Bennett should not have kept quiet about was the coalition deal made with Mansour Abbas of the Ra’am party – this was the price of Ra’am’s participation in the coalition and support for the budget.
Abbas wanted very considerable sums allocated to projects in the Arab community. (There will be something like $10 billion pumped into the Arab communities over five years.) A good case can be made for some of these projects, although not to the extent that Abbas demanded: There has been insufficient attention paid to both infrastructure and services in the Arab community.
One of Abbas’s goals is strengthening of his political influence with the Arabs of Israel. If he garners a larger percentage of the Arab vote in the next election (as versus the Joint Arab list headed by Ayman Odeh), he reasons, he will have even more clout when a new government is formed. In order to make this happen, he has to deliver.
OK. I get it. I don’t like it, because I think an anti-Zionist who is an Islamist and an officer in the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel has no place in a government of the Jewish state. But I see where he’s going in this regard.
But we must never lose sight of the fact that Abbas was included in the coalition not out of some good-will desire to be inclusive, but because there would have been no coalition without his participation. And so, he wields enormous power with regard to his demands: The threat of his pulling out and thus collapsing the coalition hangs over everyone’s head.
Thus are things happening that should not be happening. Im Tirtzu, for example has just reported that (emphasis added): “the Interior Ministry headed by Ayelet Shaked cancelled NIS 45 million of debt owed by the Israeli-Arab city of Tayibe at the behest of Ra’am political party head Mansour Abbas, a close friend of Tayibe’s mayor…According to Arabic media, one of Mansour Abbas’ conditions for voting in favor of the budget was the cancellation of Tayibe’s debt, meaning that Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am party blackmailed the government into cancelling the debt in exchange for his vote on the budget.”
I have absolutely no doubt that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Bezalel Smotrich (on the left in picture below) made significant comments about the Ra’am party at a conference yesterday (emphasis added):
“We [the Religious Zionist party] formulated our opposition [to inclusion of Ra’am] after investing tens of thousands of shekels in translating materials from Arabic into Hebrew… We also consulted with at least four experts…
“The Arabs have been trying to undermine our faith in the righteousness of the path taken by the Zionist enterprise, and the easiest way for them to silence us is to accuse us of being racists.
“What [Mansour] Abbas is doing now is converting Jihad [as war] into a civil form of Jihad. He has one way of talking to Jews in Hebrew and another of talking to Arabs in Arabic. So what we have here is a huge challenge in educational terms, convincing Jews of the righteousness of our path.”
This “forked tongue” approach is pretty much the modus operandi of Arab leaders. Certainly Mahmoud Abbas of the PA, taking one of many examples, says one thing in Arabic and another in English to the international community.
MEMRI provides a quote from Abd Al-Bari Atwan, the former editor-in-chief of Al Quds Al Arabi, speaking on Al-Jazeera TV: “What I say in Arabic is completely different from what I say in English.”
Circling back to Mansour Abbas and his coalition deal, the biggest problem is that he wants to be in charge of exactly how money is allocated and which NGOs get money for projects. This is NOT an acceptable arrangement.
I addressed this extensively in my posting of November 1, “And the Plot Thickens,” https://arlenefromisrael.info/from-israel-and-the-plot-thickens/. I wrote then:
“Channel 13 News journalist Ayala Hasson broke news on Friday about an investigation that had been done by the Ad Kan organization together with the ‘Choose Life’ forum for bereaved families…
“According to the coalition agreement between Bennett & Lapid and Ra’am, money is allocated for projects in the Arab community on the recommendation of Ra’am…
“The first major sign that all is not kosher is the fact that when negotiations between Ra’am and the senior members of the Finance Ministry’s budget department were held to determine how coalition money would be paid out with regard to Ra’am recommendations, it was in the offices of a group called the Assistance 48 Association in Kafr Kassem (an Arab town in the “Triangle” area of Israel).
“…And what is the Assistance 48 Association? When I spoke to Gerald Steinberg [head of NGO Monitor]…he informed me that it was not on the radar of NGO Monitor, which I believe tracks all the NGOs in the area.
“And it gets more suspicious:
“Razi Issa is a senior member of the Ra’am party (although not a member of the Knesset). He is also Chairman of the General Assembly of the Islamic Movement, and CEO of the Assistance 48 Association. This is a rather incestuous situation, as we shall see.
“Issa was present at coalition negotiations between Mansour Abbas and Naftali Bennett & Yair Lapid last June…
“Issa was also at the negotiations regarding allocation of funds held in the Assistance 48 Association offices…According to the Ad Kan investigation…he was the architect of the negotiations. Clearly money was being directed to the Assistance 48 Association.
“The Assistance 48 Association is not registered in Israel. Ra’am says it is ‘recognized’ by the UN…and works all over the world…
“And then this information rings the loudest bells:
“It has been exposed that Razi Issa and the Assistance 48 Association have links to terror organizations.
Issa visited Gaza in his position as director of the Assistance 48 Association several times, and met with senior Hamas official Razi Hamed. During an inauguration ceremony in Gaza for the Assistance 48 Association, Hamed, who was standing next to Issa, was overheard thanking him publicly.
“In an interview, Hasson [the journalist who broke this story] asked Issa: ‘What is Razi Hamed thanking you for? It’s a simple question.’ Issa replied: ‘All of Gaza is grateful for our treatment of widows and orphans.’ Hasson responded: ‘Widows and orphans I understand, but what’s a senior Hamas official thanking you for?’ At which point Issa dodged: ‘How should I know?’”
“Furthermore, the investigation revealed that the director of the Tulkarm branch of the Assistance 48 Association is Azhar Shaharur, whose brother participated in the terrorist attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002 and is serving 29 life sentences in an Israeli prison. Shaharur’s husband and son are members of the Islamic Jihad.”
I cannot state with certainty what Bennett knew or did not know with regard to these terror connections to Ra’am before this story broke. But I felt reasonably confident that once it had broken he would have to take some action. Bennett, and along with him Ayelet Shaked, Gideon Sa’ar – people in the coalition who have attested to a right-wing orientation.
I wrote, “We must hope that this will cause enough of a tsunami that something good for our country will result.”
But there was no tsunami. There was nothing. Obviously they were willing to close their eyes to the fact that for the first time ever money from the Israeli budget would find its way into the hands of Hamas via connections that were apparent upfront.
I find this deplorable, and expect better of my government. I do not accept, as Bennett and company surely rationalize, that the price is worth it in order to secure a budget and a working coalition. Oh yes, and to allow Bennett to continue to be prime minister and to give Yair Lapid his turn as well.
Yesh gavul, we say in Hebrew: there’s a limit! Bennett and company have exceeded it. This is setting a very bad precedent.
I write every so often about those members of the Knesset or the government who exhibit true integrity. And that is the case now with Amichai Chickli (pronounced Shikli) of Yamina.
Chickli voted against every item that was brought to the floor for consideration in the process of approving the budget. The short of it, he voted against the budget, the only member of the coalition to do so.
Now the Yamina party is considering declaring him a “dissenter,” which would mean he was removed from Yamina and could not join another party for a proscribed length of time, although he would be able to start a new party.
In response, Chickli said:
“The Israeli nation is smart, and it knows very well who the real dissenters are. Who presented a false reality and misled his voters while violating each and every one of his promises. Who stole the votes of tens of thousands of right-wing voters without blinking an eye to form a post-Zionist government. Who wanted too much to lead Israel, but will never get to truly do that.
“You can keep celebrating and declare me a dissenter, but deep inside, you know that those who dissented from any semblance of Yamina’s original ideology are you, and the truth will eventually prevail.
And I say bravo to Amichai Chickli.
There have been many horrendous terror attacks in Israel over the years, but the one that pierced my heart most deeply was the massacre of the Fogel family.
On March 11, 2011, two terrorists entered the Fogel home in Itamar while members of the family were sleeping. They killed the parents, Ehud and Ruth, as well as three of their children, including two-month old Hadar. They not only killed this innocent baby, they decapitated her. Then from their prison cell they declared that they were proud of what they had done and would do it again.
Two Arab cousins were responsible for this obscenity. One held the children down so that the other could knife them. There are not adequate words to describe the vile depravity of such behavior, such thinking. We need capital punishment for villains like these, who do not deserve to live. (They got multiple life sentences.)
I mention this now because of an expose that has just been released. On Saturday night, journalist Ayala Hasson (already cited above) reported on Channel 13 News that MK Mansour Abbas of the Ra’am party met a few years ago with Israeli lawyer Ephraim Dimri, requesting that he represent the terrorists responsible for this massacre.
Hasson asked, “Was there a black Adidas bag with thousands of dollars, in exchange for you representing the suspects…deny that it was Mansour Abbas.”
Dimri responded, “I cannot say anything. I preserve the confidentiality of the people who met with me.”
His refusal to deny that it was Abbas was confirmation of the fact that it was, indeed, Abbas. Had it not been Abbas, Dimri would have gladly, eagerly said so. But he would have jeopardized himself if he had said that it was Abbas; and so this non-committal answer.
Wrap your heads around this if you can, my friends. This is the Abbas who is in our government now.