I go free with a little help from my friends: 7 things to know for May 23
Israel media review

I go free with a little help from my friends: 7 things to know for May 23

Netanyahu seems to be nearing a coalition deal, aside from the pesky draft bill, and is seeing support for his immunity bid and overriding the Supreme Court grow, despite criticism

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and leader of the Yisrael Beytenu political party Avigdor Liberman sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and leader of the Yisrael Beytenu political party Avigdor Liberman sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

1. Bringing back Liberman: With just a few days to go until the May 28 deadline, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks close to doing what he does best, pulling a coalition out of his hat at the last moment.

  • The biggest nut to crack was seen as Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, but the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth crows Thursday morning that Liberman on his way back to the Defense Ministry, indicating a deal is all but signed.
  • The deal includes an agreement on how the government will deal with the Hamas terror group “so we don’t end up back at the point where he decided to quit,” a source tells the paper.
  • Channel 13 news also reported Wednesday night that the meeting went swimmingly, but on Thursday morning the station says Liberman is still putting his foot down over rules for drafting ultra-Orthodox conscripts into the military, another major point of contention.
  • “We are still far from a coalition agreement,” the paper quotes a source close to the talks saying.

2. Same as it ever was: On the other side, Israel Hayom reports that Likud is close to signing a deal with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

  • According to the paper, the deal will be based on the idea of maintaining the status quo regarding issues of religion and state. “What was will be, we don’t want to change a thing from how it has been until now,” a source tells the paper.
  • The paper also quotes a source saying the agreement is “a carbon copy” of what was agreed to last time around, and will include a commitment to not change the Western Wall, presumably a reference to efforts to open up the holy shrine to non-Orthodox denominational services, which it seems the government will still block.
  • According to Israel Hayom, the Haredi parties threw several suggestions at Liberman regarding the military draft law, to no avail.

3. KulanU-turn: Channel 12 news reports that Netanyahu will demand that coalition partners agree to back a law that will give the Knesset the ability to override the Supreme Court should it decide to strike down a Knesset decision to give him immunity, or really any decision it makes or law it passes.

  • The report is unsourced, but makes sense given that such a move is seen as necessary for Netanyahu to secure immunity for himself in several criminal cases he is facing indictments in.
  • He’ll likely have little trouble getting such an agreement, and Kulanu’s Roy Folkman, thought to be one of the few holdouts, said he would support such a measure and more.
  • “In the past, I’ve said I wouldn’t sit with a prime minister under indictment, and today I’ve changed my mind and am considering it,” Folkman tells activists from the centrist Blue and White party who gathered to protest outside his house in the central village of Nes Harim, according to Hebrew reports.
  • Israel Hayom plays up him saying that his party is “not relevant” when it comes to the bill (which is true, since it can pass without Kulanu’s four votes anyway.)

4. Warning signs: Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch is the latest senior jurist to speak out against the campaign to rebalance the relationship between the Supreme Court and the Knesset.

  • Beinisch seems mostly perturbed by the fact that it’s being done as part of an effort to save a single person, rather than as a broad democratic effort that is well-thought through.
  • “Be careful before you try to destroy… an impressive system that was built over years,” she warns in an interview with Israel Radio. “You don’t carry out reforms without substantive consideration and evaluation… The need to evade trial cannot drive this broad reform — it’s unacceptable.”
  • Yaniv Roznai, a senior lecturer at IDC Herzliya, tells Zman Yisrael’s Nati Yefet that “a broad override clause is extremely damaging to the principles of the separation of powers and the rule of law, and in my opinion it may be seen as a constitutional amendment that is unconstitutional.”
  • In Yedioth’s op-ed page, though, columnist Yifat Ehrlich calls all the brouhaha about the end of democracy as we know it poppycock.
  • “We were a thriving liberal democracy before we [the Supreme Court became activist], we are a pretty good liberal democracy now, and we’ll be even more liberal and more democratic after the [Knesset-court] balance is returned,” she writes.

5. Helping others: ToI’s Raoul Wootliff also thinks the talk of immunity measures only helping Netanyahu is balderdash. There are at least four other allegedly corrupt MKs who will also be helped by it: Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman, and Likud MKs Haim Katz and David Bitan.

  • “While some have called for the prime minister’s potential coalition partners and own party members to oppose the immunity bid, for at least some of those politicians, doing so could take away their own chance at salvation,” he writes.
  • Haaretz reports that harm won’t only come to Israel’s democratic life but could also hit it in the wallet, with S&P already hinting that government moves could lead to a ratings downgrade and investors who favor stability possibly staying away.
  • “When they look at the S&P report from August with its warnings and developments in the field going into the direction the rating company warned about, they won’t wait to see if a rating change comes or doesn’t come. Based on internal decision making, they will take steps, such as reducing credit lines, pricing credit higher or even decide not to expose themselves to the Israeli market in various ways, like financial investment,” a source tells the paper.

6. Summer of peace? US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells an Israel independence day event thrown by the US embassy that the administration will release its “vision for peace” in the summer.

  • “It offers an opportunity, although no guarantee, that we hope we can have a brighter future for the Palestinian people,” Pompeo told the crowd, ToI’s Eric Cortellessa reports.
  • The comment came hours after the Palestinians officially rejected taking part in the Bahrain economic “workshop,” despite US envoy Jason Greenblatt warning them that they are making a mistake.
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel reports that an Israeli army assessment finds that the Palestinians are unlikely to give in to US entreaties and take part in the process, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas feeling increasingly cornered by the US, Israel and Hamas.
  • “Feeling that ‘the whole world is against us,’ the 84-year-old Abbas is clinging to his own approach to the conflict. According to the IDF, he rejected every compromise proposal prior to the unveiling of the American deal, based on his view that this isn’t the time to negotiate, because every concession, even so much as a millimeter, will lead to a slippery slope that will end in an imposed ‘economic peace’ and the burial of the two-state solution,” Harel writes.

7. Very very Olde English: If all this is a bit heady, how about some 3,000-year-old beer. Israeli scientists trotting out the brews played up the ancient tastes within the drinks, drawing headlines hawking the beers as what Pharoahs, Goliath, King David or Jesus drank.

  • ToI’s Judah Ari Gross points out that it likely isn’t what Goliath or any of those other guys drank. Rather, the only thing that’s years old is the strain of yeast, scraped off ancient pottery at a number of different sites. The rest is new, though the yeast still plays a big part in how it’s flavored, and the science is pretty frothy too.
  • “After DNA sequencing and other high-tech medical imaging and identification methods, the six isolated strains of viable yeast were successfully revitalized and used to brew potable ‘ancient beers.’ Each brew had a different aroma depending upon the yeast strain, according to the recent peer-reviewed mBio journal paper ‘Isolation and Characterization of Live Yeast Cells from Ancient Vessels as a Tool in Bio-Archaeology,’” ToI’s Amanda Borschel Dan explains.
  • And the reviews are in:
  • “The [beer] flavor is slightly sweet, with a subtle tang. This reporter — no master sommelier — tasted banana and other fruits. [The mead] was a light, tart and refreshing drink that tasted like a cross between good champagne and a dry sparkling cider. ” — Judah Ari Gross, ToI.
  • “The ale had a thick white head, with a caramel color and a distinctly funky nose. The mead was champagne bubbly and dry, with a hint of green apple,” — Ilan Ben Zion, AP.
  • “Pretty good.” — Marcy Oster, JTA.
  • “The beer isn’t bad.” — researcher Ronen Hazan, quoted in the BBC.
  • “Pretty much like any standard beer on the market today.” — Israel 21C.
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