The new Israeli government – Israel’s 37th with over 30 ministers – was sworn in today in the Knesset.
At the beginning of the proceedings, incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke, presenting the agenda of the new government:
First, it would prevent Iran from “developing an arsenal of atomic weapons that will threaten us and the whole world.” Second, it would develop Israel’s infrastructure and deliver “a flourishing economy to every part of Israel.” There are strong indications that he has his eye on Saudi Arabia. (See more on government goals below.)
While he spoke, members of the opposition heckled him so badly that five MKs from Yesh Atid were ejected from the hall.
Netanyahu handled this well, saying:
“Knesset members, I don’t have to hear your shouts to know we have some disagreements, but some things we agree upon.
“Losing elections isn’t the end of democracy — it’s the essence of democracy… And I ask that you cease to rebel against the elected government.” (Emphasis added)
He then introduced Omir Ohana, who was voted in as Speaker of the Knesset. Ohana is good man, and a tough one. He should do well in this important role.
At the end of his talk, Netanyahu put on a kippah and recited the Shehecheyanu, thanking the Almighty for bringing us to this new place. A lovely move.
Outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid had his turn at the podium as well, and showed himself to be petty and ugly. He said he was turning over the government with “a sense of disquiet.” “We are giving you a state that is in excellent condition…try not to destroy it.” Incredible. Truly the mark of this man. But the mark of others in the opposition as well, who followed with decidedly caustic remarks. These are the “anybody but Bibi” people who lost that fight most ungraciously.
Compare this with the words of incoming Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich:
“…most of all, I address the citizens of Israel. All of you, whether religious or secular, traditional or haredi, Muslim, Christian, or Druze, right-wing or left-wing, dwellers of city or country, those in the Negev, the Galilee, the Golan. My brothers from Tel Aviv and my brothers from Jerusalem…
“I stand here before you on this day of great trembling in holy awe as we establish a government which will serve all the citizens of Israel.
“The people of Israel are wise and understand that all the campaigns conducted over the past few months that were designed only to instil fear have no truth to them. Rather, they reflect a lack of responsibility and a rift in society, and unfortunately, there are those who make a living out of such rifts.
“We will serve everyone. With responsibility and out of a sense of mission to you all.” (Emphasis added)
See an additional statement by Smotrich regarding his positions here:
“The U.S. media has vilified me and the traditionalist bloc to which I belong since our success in Israel’s November elections. They say I am a right-wing extremist and that our bloc will usher in a ‘halachic state’ in which Jewish law governs. In reality, we seek to strengthen every citizen’s freedoms and the country’s democratic institutions, bringing Israel more closely in line with the liberal American model.”
Before I begin – just begin! – to look at look at some of the very positive changes we can expect, a housekeeping note:
I’ve been having some computer difficulties and will be upgrading my system by mid-January. This may necessitate a short hiatus in posting. In the end, I will be better equipped to continue my efforts.
By yesterday, Wednesday, all coalition agreements had been signed. Netanyahu then released a list of policy guidelines. Take careful note:
“The Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel…”
In addition to the broader statement about settlement in all parts of Israel, the final coalition agreement between Religious Zionist Party and Likud included another clause: The coalition will promote strengthening the Jewish community in Hevron, increasing and expanding the Jewish presence in the city.
The separate mention of Hevron was added because of difficulties encountered there of late. This is with regard to two related situations: There has been, as Jewish Press describes it, “an increased presence of left-wing agent provocateurs who come to the city to provoke conflicts with local Jews and security forces, then post video recordings of said conflicts to generate anti-Israel hatred.”
And then, there have been demands on the left that the Jews evacuate the city entirely and leave it to the Palestinian Arabs (who already control 80% of the city). Those demands are an historical outrage and this plan is a response. There is an ancient and powerful connection between Hevron and the Jewish people. This is where Avraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah, where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs (except for Sarah) were buried. Here King David was anointed King of Judah, and reigned for seven years.
Yishai Fleisher, the International Spokesperson for the city of Hevron, told the Jewish Press, “The incoming government’s decision to strengthen the nearly uninterrupted 3000-year-old Jewish presence in the city of Hebron is a victory over terror, and will ensure that Israel’s historical pillars, which bolster the Zionist narrative, continue to be strong.”
Another stipulation of the RZP agreement was that the new coalition will submit a bill regarding terrorists who are Israeli Arabs or residents of East Jerusalem. The bill would make it possible to revoke the citizenship or residency of convicted terrorists and subsequently deport them.
All this is sounding very good. Note that this is not a racist position, although it is being represented as such. It is an anti-terrorist position.
Recently Itamar Ben Gvir, head of Otzma Yehudit, made a statement in just this regard: “Our Tanach [Bible] teaches us that we are from here, we have come back to our land. I am not a racist, I do not hate Arabs, I hate terrorists.”
I will mention here some key ministries with more to follow soon.
Bezalel Smotrich, head of RZP, will be not only Finance Minister but also Adjunct Minister in the Defense Ministry, which is a critical role. Special legislation was passed to allow him to be a minister within the Defense Ministry with authority over the Civil Administration and COGAT.
Another law that was passed gives Itamar Ben Gvir, the new Minister of National Security, increased authority over the police.
Both of these laws will be challenged from the left. The powers granted to Smotrich and Ben Gvir can significantly change the country in positive ways. Let us pray.
Foreign Minister is Eli Cohen, former Intelligence Minister, who will be rotating with Yisrael Katz. Cohen was involved in advancing the Abraham Accords, which tells us that Netanyahu sees bringing in Saudi Arabia as a top priority.
Defense Minister is Yoav Galant. Dealing with Iran makes his position critical.
Justice Minister is Yariv Levin of Likud. It is not clear to me if his readiness to take this position signals a readiness on the part of Netanyahu to work towards judicial reform.
Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and National Resilience is Yitzhak Wasserlauf of Otzma Yehudit. This is a critical position because we are on the edge of losing the Negev to the Bedouin, who run rampant there. A determined and tough hand is required.
Also of Otzma Yehudit is Almog Cohen, who will be an assistant minister in the Office of the Prime Minister overseeing the Beer Sheva metropolis. Beer Sheva is in the Negev, but apparently merit focused attention.
American-born Ron Dermer, who previously served as Israeli ambassador to the US and is a close confidant of Netanyahu, will be Strategic Affairs Minister. He is not an MK.
See more here:
This is the last posting I will be doing in 2022. Let us pray that 2023 turns out to be a year of greater peace, prosperity and human dignity.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.