1. Hitting the ground running: Jerusalem held its annual Pride parade Thursday and media coverage of the march focuses heavily on the police presence and the tough reception received by newly anointed Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Israel’s first ever openly gay minister.
- Some 10,000 – 15,000 people took part in the march, a markedly lower turnout than in past years.
- Ohana, who has previously bucked his Likud party to push for gay rights, was jeered by a number of participants during his brief appearance at the parade, with not everyone apparently enamored by his support for curbing the powers of the Supreme Court or the policies of the right-wing government he is now a part of.
- “Thus a parade that might this year have celebrated a milestone ministerial appointment… instead highlighted an ongoing struggle for greater tolerance and equality in Israel,” writes The Times of Israel’s editor-in-chief David Horovitz.
- Ohana later attempted to brush away the impact of the boo-birds, releasing a video statement saying he hoped the protests didn’t overshadow the march’s message of tolerance.
2. Waiting for the ball to drop: Rumors continues to swirl over the future political plans of Ayelet Shaked, a popular figure among right-wing voters who was axed as justice minister at the start of the week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- According to the Israel Hayom freesheet, which is seen as the unofficial organ of Netanyahu’s Likud, the prime minister has officially ruled out reserving a spot for Shaked on the ruling party’s electoral slate following pushback from senior Likud bigwigs.
- ״I didn’t work for years and exert myself in the primaries and at events so Ayelet Shaked can push from the [electoral] slate and take over the Likud leadership,” the paper quotes an unnamed Likud official telling Netanyahu.
- Though a hardly surprising development, it comes just days after reports said it was rather the prime minister himself who nixed Shaked’s return to Likud.
- Both Netanyahu and his wife Sara have reportedly long disdained Shaked and her political partner Naftali Bennett, both of whom worked for the premier over a decade ago during his stint as opposition leader.
- While the door to Likud may remain closed to Shaked, a poll published by the pro-settlement Makor Rishon newspaper indicates she is by far the most popular choice among national-religious voters to lead an alliance of small right-wing parties in the upcoming elections.
- 40.1 percent of respondents say Shaked – a secular woman from Tel Aviv – should lead such a joint list, more than double the support for Bennett, who was second with 19%.
3. Making nice… for now: After passing over far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich for the Justice Ministry and latter rubbing salt in the wounds, Netanyahu is said to have decided on appointing him transportation minister after meeting with him and Union of Right-Wing Parties leader Rafi Peretz Thursday evening.
- Peretz, meanwhile, will likely receive the coveted Education Ministry, while both he and Smotrich are also expected to be named members of the Security Cabinet.
- “Both Rabbi Peretz and Smotrich decided to look ahead and put the crisis with Netanyahu behind them,” party sources tell Israel Hayom.
- While the appointments may temporarily assuage URWP, the reconciliation with Netanyahu may not last long past elections on September 17, when the jockeying for ministerial portfolios begins all over again.
4. Labor pains: On the other side of the political map, the once-mighty Labor Party again finds itself beset by infighting over who will lead the opposition party into the elections.
- Having sunk to a historic low of six seats in April’s elections, the party now finds itself with as many potential contenders for the top seat as it has Knesset members, with MK Stav Shaffir’s announcement that she will enter the race.
- In a blow to former prime minister Ehud Barak’s (again) rumored return to politics, Labor decided Thursday all its registered members would be able to vote in the leadership primary, not only members of its central-committee.
- While the decision may finally put an end to talk of a Barak comeback, Labor members may still be able to pin their hopes on a white knight former general to rescue them from the center-left party’s political doldrums if Tal Russo and/or Yair Golan officially decide to enter the ring.
- On the seemingly safe assumption that current Labor leader Avi Gabbay — who has been much maligned over the party’s poor electoral showing and subsequent entertaining of an offer floated by Netanyahu to join the government — is given the boot by party faithful, Labor could have its ninth new leader since Barak took over the party in the late 1990s if MK Amir Peretz does not emerge victorious from the primaries.
5. Justice denied or supplied?: Netanyahu’s ongoing legal saga also features in the news, after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejects his request to delay a pre-trial hearing scheduled for early October.
- A statement put out on Netanyahu’s behalf calls Mandelblit’s decision “inconceivable” and says “the repeated elections, which were forced in an unprecedented manner, are an exceptional event that requires exceptional attention” to the timing of the hearing. Unmentioned is that Netanyahu himself initiated the elections after failing to form a government.
- The prime minister also claimed that in another case involving a judge the hearing had been delayed by two years, but the Justice Ministry released a statement contradicting him that noted the hearing was held just a month after it was scheduled.
- Separately, Channel 12 news airs excerpts from the police testimony of Arnon Milchan, an Israeli-born Hollywood mogul at the center of one of the corruption cases implicating Netanyahu.
- Milchan, who the attorney general has said served as “a supply line” of cigars and champagne to the prime minister and his wife, reportedly told investigators he felt “disgusted” by the Netanyahus’ requests for gifts.
- He also is said to have told police “do you want me to fall on the ground laughing” when asked whether Sara Netanyahu, who recently reached a plea deal for paying for catered meals with public funds, ever gave him a gift.
- In a characteristic response, the prime minister says the network’s report is “full of lies” and that “the Netanyahu family has given many presents to Arnon Milchan, his wife and children.”