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Israel media review

Coalition of the whatever: 6 things to know for April 22

The nascent Likud-Blue and White government wants to be everything to everyone — smaller, more right-wing and more focused than it looks — but will it even be anything to anyone?

In this March 28, 2020, photo, a cat walks in a closed food market during lockdown following government measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March 28, 2020, photo, a cat walks in a closed food market during lockdown following government measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

1. What’s the deal with the coalition: Pundits and politicians alike are taking a closer look at the coalition agreement and determining how to move forward, though that does not mean they are all seeing the same thing.

  • The Haaretz daily leads off its broadsheet with a headline proclaiming that “enacting the agreement between Gantz and Netanyahu will harm the standing of the Knesset and the opposition.”
  • According to the paper, the agreement makes it almost impossible for the Knesset to legislate anything, including no-confidence measures.
  • But the report also cites an unnamed “legal figure” who says the coalition agreement includes so many changes to Israel’s lawbooks that it will be impossible to actually get it in place before the government is sworn in, leading to suspicions that it’s just a feint.
  • “The chances of completing legislation in time are nil,” the figure said. “Netanyahu’s goal might be to play for time, to keep the Knesset busy with complex legislation instead of moving ahead on legislation against him, and will lead in the end to a blowup and the dissolution of the Knesset.”
  • Channel 13 reports that the High Court will take a look at the agreement and will have a lot to rule on: “A number of clauses will be checked by the court, including shortening the term of the government to three years, a provision against passing laws in the first six months, a decision to do away with the opposition member of the Judicial Appointments Panel… and more.”
  • In Walla, Amir Oren writes that the agreement will harm the country’s defense array by playing musical chairs with the Defense Ministry, a post Gantz will take up first until he becomes prime minister: “His seat won’t even get warm before in his place will come another defense minister for a year and a half. That’s the multi-year plan of Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi. A doubtful model of stability in the defense services that will inevitably lead to serious budget problems.”

2. Still right: Kan’s Michael Shemesh writes that the big winner in all of the wheeling and dealing isn’t Netanyahu or Gantz but none other than Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who will “fulfill the dream of being a minister in a wide unity government.”

  • He adds that he hopes the traditionally obdurate ultra-Orthodox will use their position of power to move themselves more into the mainstream.
  • “The anger that accompanied the ultra-Orthodox for all these years should dissipate a bit, because of the fact that the ultra-Orthodox will now be part of a broad government that claims to represent large swaths of the nation. They too will need to internalize that narrow right-wing government summer camp is over,” he writes.
  • Israel Hayom, seen as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, is focused less on the Haredim, who appear to be in hand, instead launching a campaign to bring far-right Yamina into the coalition.
  • “Netanyahu wants Yamina in the government,” the paper’s massive front page headline reads, and a gander inside provides a teeming multitude (okay, a few) stories about the important of Yamina being in the government, though it’s unclear if the intended audience is Yamina itself, Gantz, Likud or the paper’s readers.
  • “Nobody can claim this is not a right-wing government,” the paper quotes a chorus of Likud sources apparently singing in unison while performing impressive logistic acrobatics. “This is a government no less right wing than the last one. Even if there are leftists in it, any decision needs to come by consensus. In another two months we will enact a historic process of annexing [the West Bank].”
  • Channel 13 reports that Netanyahu wants Yamina so bad, he is threatening to dismantle its alliance and bring it over piecemeal. “First we’ll get Rafi Peretz and then [Bezalel] Smotrich,” an associate of Netanyahu’s is quoted saying.
  • For perhaps the first time ever, Israel Hayom and Haaretz find themselves in agreement, with the latter running a lead editorial also questioning whether the government will be anything but a right-wing annexation machine.
  • “Hundreds of thousands of Israelis who voted against annexation and apartheid cringed upon hearing that their votes might pave the way for the most reckless move in this country’s history. Calling this massive defrauding of voters an ’emergency national government’ is demeaning. This is a national corruption government, and it is a sad day for Israeli democracy,” the Haaretz editorial reads.

3. Gantz on a backlog: Likud and co. may be focused on annexation, but Yedioth Ahronoth says there may be some more urgent matters, like, say, a little ol’ virus that has basically destroyed large swaths of the country.

  • The paper publishes what it calls an “unfathomable list” of issues that urgently need to be dealt with by this government, after a year and a half freeze on budgets and other matters while Israel went through election after election.
  • On the list, under the snarky headline “For you all to take care of,” is the sinking economy, health services under duress, a school system beset by confusion, infrastructure projects, money for pensioners, at-risk youth and others needing government support, and nominating a police commissioner and a prisons chief, both of which Israel has been missing for over year.
  • “The acting post-holders have only been managing day to day operations, with no ability or authority to invest in long-term issues,” it reports.
  • The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, meanwhile, is already not off to a great start at dealing with the virus, with several reporters sharing pictures of lawmakers, including Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz and Yesh Atid’s Boaz Toporovsky, refusing to wear facemasks as required by law and good sense.
  • Channel 13 reports that the Knesset director instructed parliamentary staff to leave the room so as not to endanger themselves.
  • On Twitter, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman expresses doubt that the government will accomplish much of anything: “I carefully read the coalition agreement, the fine print and the large print. This is nothing more than a work arrangement for Gantz and immunity for Netanyahu. This is a coalition of opportunists who lost all shame.”

4. Bigger is not better: Well at least there won’t be any shortage of ministers to deal with all these issues, and who could get mad about more and more expensive ministerial posts while the economy is in the toilet and many people can’t make rent or feed their families? Everyone, as it turns out.

  • “The decision to create this wide government is ridiculous, reckless and totally disconnected from the economic recession, a loogie in the eye of 1.1 million unemployed, and especially small business owners who are drowning,” writes Channel 12’s Karen Marciano, claiming that cutting the ministries in half could save hundreds of millions of shekels.
  • Good news, then. Kan reports that Blue and White is planning on shelving some of the ministerial posts it was assigned, while still keeping them in its back pocket to maintain a sense of equality in the government.
  • “It’s possible, it’s already in the agreement,” Blue and White Chili Tropper tells the station, noting that it may require some form of “double voting, or the other side also exempting [ministers].”

5. Mourning from afar: The interim government’s decision to shut down cemeteries for Memorial Day also gets much press.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page features a quote from double-bereaved mom Miriam Peretz, who says she won’t visit Mount Herzl this year. “Uriel and Eliraz will wait for me. I need to live,” she says.
  • The paper paints a picture of parents refusing to heed the rules and going to the cemeteries anyway. “There’s a family who lost two sons who say they will go at any price. No cop or soldier will stop them and they shouldn’t need to,” one bereaved father protesting the decision says.
  • However, most people quoted in the story say they will comply with the rules, painful as they may be.
  • Walla News quotes Eli Ben-Shem, the head of bereaved families group Yad Lebanim, also backing the decision: “Our children in heaven will not be angry at us. The motto is that with their deaths they gave us life. I want bereaved families to continue to live.”
  • According to the site, 22 members of bereaved families have tested positive for the virus and one, a Holocaust survivor, has died from it.
  • In a sign of how potentially unpopular the decision is, it was not announced by Netanyahu, as almost all other similar moves have been, and in Israel Hayom it is buried on page nine and given all of five paragraphs of space.

6. Not an open and shut case: It’s clear cemeteries will be closed, but there’s still a lot of confusion regarding many other places.

  • “Since last Saturday night, we’ve been deluged with queries from business owners who don’t know whether they’re allowed to open or not. The media, the Health Ministry and the police are all giving out contradictory information, so there’s a lot of confusion and chaos,” Keren Chen-Sofer, legal adviser to the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, is quoted telling Haaretz.
  • Likely not helping clear up confusion, Yedioth reports that local municipalities are working on a plan to open up parks to the elderly for special “sterile hours,” when they and family members or caregivers can gallivant outside without fear of getting infected. “Being in isolation also kills,” Modi’in mayor Haim Bibas is quoted saying.
  • Channel 12’s Amalia Douek writes that unclear rules are leading people to just take matters into their own hands.
  • “Right now, since there’s no logic to the eased rules and restrictions still in place, everyone is doing things according to their own reasoning, and it’s starting to show,” she writes. “If I can go to a store to buy pots, why can’t i go to a restaurant to pick up food… If you want the public to comply with guidelines, you need to give clear criteria that are transparent and logical. Right now it seems like they are just shooting from the hip.”

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