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Israel media review

Law for one and one for brawl: What the press is saying about Knesset tussles

Ayelet Shaked is at the center of several scraps within the coalition, though rifts are all over; and papers look at what’s behind a law that could keep Netanyahu out of power

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during a memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset on October 18, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during a memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset on October 18, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

1. Shaked against the world: Just when it looked like the coalition might have smooth sailing toward its biggest test yet — passing a budget — a series of rifts have popped up to turn that path forward into a turbid mess. Or at least that’s what some corners of the media are saying Wednesday morning.

  • Intra-coalition squabbling is high on the news agenda, driven by divisions that appear to be tearing the coalition to shreds or at least threatening to.
  • “Cracks in the coalition: A series of arguments are dividing the government,” reads the top headline in Yedioth Ahronoth.
  • “The boat is shaking,” quips Channel 12 news, riffing on comments from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urging members of his government to keep from rocking the boat before a budget is passed, lest the government sail up the creek.
  • A close look at the smattering of smackdowns reveals one person in particular standing up in the canoe and rattling oars at everybody: Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
  • Shaked started off her Tuesday by firing off a Facebook rant slamming coalition colleagues Yair Lapid and Nitzan Horowitz for their remarks against the extreme right during a memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin.
  • Her comments draw wide attention, much of it under headlines aiming to ratchet up the drama of the supposed rift, such as “‘I squirmed in my chair’: Shaked’s sharp response to Lapid and Horowitz,” which appeared in Maariv.
  • But in Israel Hayom, Idit Darvian Ohayon writes that her comments were not all that momentous: “She didn’t attack them, and certainly did not create any coalition crisis. Her words didn’t come close to that.”
  • Shaked also put the brakes on a law being pushed by Ra’am to allow homes in unrecognized Bedouin villages to hook into the electricity grid legally, saying it needed more work.
  • That move drew an angry response and then some from Ra’am, which proceeded to cancel some key committee meetings related to passing the budget, with MK Walid Taha threatening even to take the country back to elections.
  • Haaretz reports, however, that the Arab party is not yet ready to cross the Rubicon and would prefer to see the episode end peacefully with everybody back to being friends.
  • Walla reports that Ra’am head Mansour Abbas fumed in private conversation that “we’re up to our necks in it — they think we have no alternatives, but we do.” However, it also notes that Abbas said his party would still back the budget.
  • And all that is before Shaked came out against a bill announced by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar that would prohibit giving someone under serious indictment the reins to form a coalition (more on that below).
  • Channel 12 news notes that Shaked was the only coalition member to come out against the idea, while Bennett, who has spoken out against such measures in the past, is being loudly silent.
  • Kan reports that Bennett gave Sa’ar the green light to at least announce the proposal. Take from that what you will.
  • Ynet writes that when asked for Bennett’s take, his spokesperson said he wouldn’t be dealing with it until after the budget passes, like the ol’ non-boat-rocker he is.
  • Walla reports that Ra’am also opposes the bill, but won’t torpedo it. “The law is a point of contention within the coalition and expected to spark a stormy internal fight, given Yamina’s opposition, and especially that of Shaked,” the news site says.
  • Shaked isn’t the only one battling her ostensible buddies. Kan reports on an angry fight that broke out between Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, both from Yesh Atid, as each tried to claim credit for a campaign to increase immigration and integrate immigrants into the tech industry.
  • According to the report, when Farkash-Hacohen tried to ask the Prime Minister’s Office spokesman to redraft a press release on the matter, Tamano-Shata shouted at her “You’re acting like a thief. Don’t you change a dot from the announcement.” To which Farkash Hacohen replied: “You’re delusional. I’m not your secretary. You are a crazy lady.”
  • If all that fighting is not enough for you (and we haven’t even touched on Ayman Odeh scuffling with Itamar Ben Gvir, or recordings showing quibbling within Likud), Channel 12 news previews what may be the next battle: a cut in stipends for yeshiva students advanced by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. The channel notes that after some wives of yeshiva students from the religious nationalist community rallied at the Knesset, coalition whip Idit Silman promised them she would fight the law and keep their handouts safe.

2. Don’t take this personally: Despite actually affecting peoples’ day to day lives, that stipend cut gets little attention compared to Sa’ar’s pre-proposal for a bill that would keep a totally hypothetical person who’s been indicted for crimes in which the standard sentence is three years or longer from being able to form a government.

  • On Army Radio, Likud MK Miki Zohar attacks the law saying it’s being tailored for opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who just happens to be under indictment for crimes in which the standard sentence is three years or longer. “Tomorrow morning every prosecutor or attorney general will be able to decide who can be prime minister and who not — that’s anti-democratic,” he says.
  • The New Hope party’s Benny Begin, however, defends the bill and tells the same station that “to say this is a personalized bill is to not recognize it. It doesn’t take effect until the next Knesset and that’s how the minister planned it. You can’t wait until everything aligns so a few people are happy.”
  • Netanyahu may not be the target of the law (ok, he is), but Haaretz reports that his behavior is what inspired the attorney general to okay it. “In Mendelblit’s view, the proposed amendments are not aimed directly at Netanyahu, who now heads the opposition, since they will take effect only with the next Knesset, but the need for them is ‘reflected in past experiences’ and has come into sharper focus due to Netanyahu’s actions as premier,” the paper reports. “Over the past months the attorney general has argued in Justice Ministry discussions that during his last two years in office there was a conflict of interest between Netanyahu’s duties and his position as a criminal defendant, which began in January 2020. As a criminal suspect prior to that, he abused his office to change his legal predicament and harm the law enforcement system, Mendelblit has asserted.”
  • In Zman Yisrael, though, Yuval Yoaz writes that even if such a law were in place, it wouldn’t have helped matters much, since it takes the easy way out and only involves not allowing a defendant to become prime minister, while remaining silent on removing an indicted prime minister from power, a much bigger ask.
  • “Ignoring a situation in which a sitting prime minister is indicted means evading the problems in Israeli governance that have presented themselves over the past quarter-century,” he writes.
  • Sa’ar tells Walla that he’s preparing for a deluge of personal attacks as he pushes the law ahead and indeed, Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi reports that Netanyahu and Likud will try to turn it into a rallying point for the former premier.
  • “We will run at full strength in the next elections and Netanyahu will lead Likud,” MK Yariv Levin, who strategized the half-baked plan, is quoted saying. “We will explain to the public that it needs to choose Netanyahu in order to rise up against this law and cancel it. We’ll get the majority and it will be the first law our government cancels,” he adds, without explaining how Netanyahu will become prime minister if the law is in place.

3. Class half-full optimism: Some critics are saying Israel’s decision to expand its Green Classroom plan is just as poorly thought out, given the middling success of a pilot program.

  • Haaretz notes that the pilot saw low participation rates among classes and parents and few in the pilots seemed to actually follow the instructions, which were meant to help avoid having to isolate unvaccinated students.
  • “Seventy-five percent of parents failed to conduct rapid tests for their children or did not report the results to the school,” the paper reports. “Additionally, teachers and school principals did not collect student attendance reports – making it difficult to implement the program. Only a fraction of those ostensibly participating in the trial produced usable data, the researchers said.”
  • “Failing grade,” quips Israel Hayom. “It’s unclear what the decision to free tens of thousands of students from quarantine is being based on.”
  • Even though the program is being expanded, Ynet’s Nadav Eyal praises Bennett while slamming Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton for misrepresenting the pilot’s results.
  • “The problem wasn’t with the pilot but with the education minister and her people who have tried to whitewash it in recent days. To Bennett’s credit, he did not try to exaggerate the results, or to ignore them,” he writes.
  • Despite having already expanded the program based on the busted pilot, Kan reports, the government will now hold a second pilot program. The station does not note if researchers will also attempt to study the effects of closing a barn door after the horse has already bolted.

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