Readers of Monday’s Hebrew dailies might be forgiven for thinking they’d accidentally picked up their favorite carpentry periodicals, what with all the pictures of tables being taken apart. Well, just one table, and a very symbolic one at that: The cabinet table in the Knesset plenum that was built to accommodate the last oversized government, which is now not needed, with only 21 ministers taking up posts, all of whom got their marching orders on Sunday. Never has job placement been so exciting.
Yedioth Ahronoth is so excited, in fact, that it saves the woodworking lesson for inside, instead filling its front page with a gold-framed rundown of Israel’s 33 government, for you to cut out and hang on your wall in a prominent place, like over your bed (nothing like waking up to new Pensioner Minister Uri Orbach’s bushy mustache in your face). Sima Kadmon writes that though there were fewer ministerial posts on offer this time around, there was no shortage of other sweetheart deals to make nearly every politician happy. “Out of 68 coalition members, almost 50 are set up with roles. Maybe there are fewer ministers, but no fewer jobs. What don’t we have here: ministers, deputy ministers, committee heads, faction heads, member of special committees like those for judicial appointments and rabbinical elections, and sundry. Under the radar, under the flag of a new politics and smaller government, everyone got hooked up. The extra Cabinet table may be taken apart and in storage, but don’t get confused: The post-holders, like deputy ministers, don’t sit at the table. They are everywhere and almost all of them, like I said, are taken care of.”
Maariv’s Ben-Dror Yemini takes a slightly less jaundiced eye toward the new government, breathlessly squealing like a schoolgirl meeting Justin Bieberlake that the government is everything Israel hoped for and more.
“This time the coalition is, for the first time in years, not a minoritocracy. The coalition represents the majority. This is the moment we wished for. And now it’s here. The potential, it needs to be said, is revolutionary. The strange, and surprising, covenant between Yair Lapid and and Naftali Bennett has strengthened their place, as opposed to the talking heads’ estimations. They promised a new politics. Meanwhile, at least meanwhile, they are providing it. We need to stand with them. We need to accompany this transformation with no unneeded sarcasm.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a sober and cranky Haaretz notes that this new government is more extreme and less experienced, specifically on the Iran question. The paper tackles the inside baseball of how Netanyahu is forming his security cabinet, and notes that Netanyahu will likely try to stack the deck in his favor: “Regarding Iran, Lapid and [Tzipi] Livni will probably inherit the roles of [moderates Benny] Begin and [Dan] Meridor, although Lapid has no security background at all. Facing them will be Netanyahu and probably later [Avigdor] Liberman, and we can assume that if necessary they’ll bring in party colleagues [Gilad] Erdan and [Yitzhak] Aharonovich. Bennett has said he won’t express an opinion on Iran until he sees all the information available.”
Speaking of Liberman, the man who would be foreign minister if he can beat his fraud rap, Israel Hayom reports that staffers in the Foreign Ministry are unhappy at being left to sway in the winds of political machinations, without a boss, a deputy who can host foreign dignitaries, or even an interim head, Netanyahu, who has time to deal with the ministry. “This is a hit job by the [Prime Minister’s] Office,” one disgruntled staffer tells the paper. “They are turning the Foreign Ministry into a travel agency and the embassy in America into a hotel coordinator.”
Where’s the matza?
The Foreign Ministry’s problems seem downright petty, though, when compared to the challenge facing new Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, who will have to deal with an almost 50 percent cut in his ministry’s handouts for Passover, according to Yedioth. The ministry says the delay in getting a new budget passed, the whole point of elections in the first place, is the reason that they won’t have enough dough to hand out for the poor to stock up on matza, maror and karpas. The head of one nonprofit tasked with disbursing the handouts says that while last year the government funded NIS 30 per food basket for 3,000 needy families, this year they are only putting NIS 14.5 into the pushka. “It’s strange that just on the eve of the holiday instead of the government helping, they are cutting our aid in half, but putting on us more families to help,” the NGO head says.
Maariv takes a look at the rise in stone-throwing attacks on Israeli cars in the West Bank, including an attack last week that left a 3-year-old in critical condition, and a first-hand account from a Modi’in rabbi who says he was nearly killed on the road to Jerusalem Saturday night: “The next day… my mind raced: What if? What if my children were, God forbid, in the car, or Yael,” Rabbi Haim Navon writes. “And what if the stone was five centimeters to the right. And the thought there are people who hate me (and them) so much that they don’t care who I am, the point is just to kill. In general a man lives believing that one who hates him wants to spill coffee on him at worst. And now I know… that there are people who want to kill me. Who stand with a block and aim it and pray that they will maim. And where is the government? And where is the army?”
Navon isn’t the only one asking for accountability. In Haaretz, Uzi Benziman wants a full report of how the government funnels money into the settlements: “The public has the right to know the total amounts that were transferred to the settlement enterprise; what portion of them were transferred with authority and permission and what false pretexts and misleading excuses were used; and who from the state apparatus gave their approval and lent a helping hand.”
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