You can’t get much more picayune than writing about how many ministers will be in the next government, yet somehow this baby step in coalition negotiations makes the top story in each and every one of Israel’s top Hebrew-language papers. It was that kind of day.
The news that the government will shrink from 30 to 20 ministers is important, for about 10 people and their staffs. Chances are, Joe Shmo on Dizengoff couldn’t care less how many ministers there will be and couldn’t tell you who the minister for Diaspora affairs is anyway.
Alas, coalition talks remain locked over who will get which of the 20 remaining ministerial portfolios, especially education, and until they resolve it, we’ll have to read about it. Likud MKs will be sad to read the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, which reports that the party will only get 7-8 ministerial posts, but will cheer up if they flip to Page 2, which magically ups their total to 10 or 11. Actually they are probably not all that happy either way.
The one person who is smiling Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, who had demanded the itty bitty Cabinet. Sima Kadmon writes that Lapid has been playing Netanyahu like a banjo all along, pulling his strings to make just the sound he wants, and may continue to do so to get his way on the Education Ministry: “It could be that Netanyahu giving in on the number of ministers is another attempt to put pressure on Lapid to give in the Education Ministry. Or maybe nothing is connected to anything, as we saw this week, and in addition to the two demands Lapid gave in order to form a government — no ultra-Orthodox and a small Cabinet — another demand has been added whose importance is impossible to exaggerate, the portfolio that got Lapid into politics and has been the goal for his No. 2 all along… Last night a senior Likud source whispered to me that Lapid dictated everything to Netanyahu. Both the makeup and size of the government.”
Over in Israel Hayom, said to be a Likud-aligned paper, Dan Margalit paints a slightly different picture of Netanyahu coming out the affair smelling like roses, since his Likud-Beytenu faction will have 12 ministers, including the prime minister, out of the 20. He also attacks Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett’s attempts to set up a “settlement ministry,” calling it a “virtual, imaginary” portfolio.
Prison, army, what’s the difference?
The other two papers also lead off with Lapid’s big win, but the more interesting story on Maariv’s front page may be the news that the state is looking turn a holding facility built in the south for all the African migrants who didn’t materialize into a boot camp for ultra-Orthodox forced into the IDF. Because at the end of the day, prison and the army are pretty much the same. The camp was built to house some 8,000 migrants who sneaked in, over some 750 dunams of land. The Defense Ministry froze construction a few months ago when they realized Africans had stopped coming over, and are now considering whether to make it a base for Givati soldiers, though the more attractive option is to give it to those trading in their black hats for berets. “It’s clear to us that the expected draft of thousands of Haredim will force us to plan accordingly,” an army source told the paper. “For example we need to house them on a base that fits their needs, like the base for the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion, which doesn’t have women soldiers and has stricter kashrut standards.”
Speaking of those Africans that aren’t coming to Israel anymore, Haaretz reports that the UN will turn to Israel’s High Court with an amicus brief to make sure the ones that are already here are properly taken care of, asking the court to rule a law allowing for the detention of asylum-seekers unconstitutional.
“UNHCR is seriously concerned that the law will wrongly stigmatize and penalize, including by way of lengthy detention, persons who are in need of international protection as refugees and who are claiming such protection from Israel,” the human rights commissioner wrote to the court, according to the paper. “UNHCR has a direct interest in the outcome of this petition, as it raises a number of legal issues relating to the entry, detention and removal of refugees and asylum-seekers.”
In the op-ed section of Yedioth, TV producer and basketball promoter Arik Henig calls on Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, recently ousted from the Knesset speaker’s chair, to leave politics and join the world of sports. “If Rubi becomes the head of a sports authority or a sports ministry, we’ll gain much in one fell swoop: Sports will get some serious backing, Rubi will do something he loves and the catastrophic reputation of politics will get a bit of a break.”
In Haaretz, Nehemia Shtrasler tries to explain why pushing the ultra-Orthodox out of the government is not a boycott, though all he succeeds in doing is explaining why he agrees with its aims: “Only when there are no ultra-Orthodox in the government will it be possible to impose on them the core school curriculum and conscription into the Israel Defense Forces. Only when they are in the opposition will it be possible to open the economy to competition from imports with the aim of lowering the cost of living. Without the ultra-Orthodox it will be possible to cut in the right places and prevent a profound crisis, and all this directly concerns the middle class because this is the meaning of reducing the burden on those who serve, work and pay taxes.”
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