Shuffling the political deck
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Hebrew media review

Shuffling the political deck

Shas's Eli Yishai says goodbye, the right-wing Jewish Home party is torn, and Herzog and Livni seal the deal

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Labor party leader Isaac Herzog on December 14, 2014. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Labor party leader Isaac Herzog on December 14, 2014. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The political landscape saw a number of dramatic shifts on Sunday as its ultra-Orthodox front broke up, the Labor-Hatnua merger was finalized, and the right-wing Jewish Home party appeared on the verge of a split.

In the Hebrew press on Monday, Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the changes to the Sephardic Shas party, concluding that the long-time ultra-Orthodox party is now stable. Haaretz focuses on the (apparent) unwavering support in the Labor Party for the merger and rotation agreement, as well as what seems to be an imminent divorce within the ranks of the Jewish Home. And Israel Hayom highlights the Livni-Herzog alliance, but characterizes it as “under pressure.”

Over in Yedioth, the paper praises Shas chairman Aryeh Deri’s decision to give Israel Prize winner Adina Bar-Shalom — the daughter of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef — a role as adviser on women’s issues. The move, which came just as veteran MK Eli Yishai withdrew to form his own party, may very well have saved the ultra-Orthodox party, it reports.

“Shas chairman Aryeh Deri faced two leadership tests yesterday, on two different fronts. If he had failed both, it would be possible to say that Shas began its election campaign on the wrong foot, and there is a distinct possibility it will be weakened by the time the votes are counted on March 17 – but at the end of the day, despite his partial victory, as the press conference came along, Deri could smile. The ultra-Orthodox party, so it would seem, is stable,” Yedioth reports.

Aryeh Deri, right, and Adina Bar-Shalom speaking at a Shas party press conference in Jerusalem, December 14, 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 2)
Aryeh Deri, right, and Adina Bar-Shalom speaking at a Shas party press conference in Jerusalem, December 14, 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Columnist Sima Kadmon, however, voices her disappointment with Adina Bar-Shalom, an ultra-Orthodox trailblazer who managed “to break the iron ceiling,” for abandoning her Knesset bid.
“A great step for Deri, but a small step for women,” Kadmon writes.

“Bar-Shalom gave up the chance to be the first ultra-Orthodox woman to break all the conventions, and to pave the way for hundreds of women… Instead of showing them that they must and can aim high, she took upon herself a disappointing position,” Kadmon writes. (An ultra-Orthodox woman, Tzivia Greenfield, has served in the Knesset under the Meretz party list in the past, but no female candidate has run on the ultra-Orthodox lists.)

Over in Haaretz, the paper leads with the Labor party’s approval of the merger with Livni, and the across-the-board support for the move from within the party. It describes Herzog as having “passed the trust test with flying colors,” and the atmosphere in the hall as “celebratory.”

“There was little criticism to be heard yesterday on the far-reaching process that Herzog adopted, and in the party, the opportunity to lead the government in the coming elections was emphasized throughout… Even the party MKs, who due to the concessions, are expected to fight now for their slots, hailed Herzog,” it reports.

But despite the festive air and apparent dearth of criticism, the paper’s Gideon Levy writes in a scathing column that the participants “faked enthusiasm.”

“It’s true that the hall was full and abuzz. It’s true that a flush of color, as they say, returned to the sunken cheeks. It’s true that something new was in the air, call it promise or hope. It’s true that if the convention convened two weeks ago, it would have been more like a wake or memorial service. But when the delegates chanted: ‘Ho, ha, who’s coming? The prime minister is coming!’ (a chant born in Likud), and when Isaac Herzog shouted ‘Revolution’ – five times he shouted ‘Revolution,’ each time waving a more threatening finger at the crowd than the last – the insincerity was detected,” he writes.

In the hall yesterday, Herzog “could have passed a resolution to join [the Arab political party] Balad, or join the [right-wing] National Union, to conquer the land of Gilead, or evacuate Lod and Ramle,” he writes. “The members at the meeting smelled rulership, a smell they haven’t detected in over a decade, and when it came, everything else was pushed aside.”

Meanwhile, Israel Hayom characterizes the Labor summit as “euphoric” on stage, while behind the scenes, among the members of the party, there is “great stress and resentment” over the party list line-up.

The papers also focus on the talks between Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel after the latter threatened to pull out of the right-wing party. Haaretz reports that the two are set to meet once again on Monday night, after a meeting on Sunday failed to yield an agreement.

Naftali Bennett (L), leader of the Jewish Home party, seen with Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel at a faction meeting in the Knesset on October 28, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett (L), leader of the Jewish Home party, seen with Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel at a faction meeting in the Knesset on October 28, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yedioth writes that the negotiations between the two are “stuck” and reports that Bennett has offered Ariel the no. 2 slot on the party list, as well as two additional slots in the top 15 for members of Ariel’s Tekumah faction. Ariel, in turn, is demanding additional slots, as well as anchoring the involvement of the party’s council of rabbis in decision-making – a move Bennett is vehemently opposed to.

As Bennett and Ariel attempt to iron out their differences, Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun announced Sunday that he would leave the party, and former Yesha Council head Dani Dayan was set to join.

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