Uncle Moishy and the mischief men: 8 things to know for April 25
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Uncle Moishy and the mischief men: 8 things to know for April 25

Kahlon is seen as rejoining Likud, though it’s unclear if he’d have been a brake in any case on changes planned by the new government that some say will end Israel as we know it

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 26, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 26, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem)

1. Kahlon calling: Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon is meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, the first meeting between the two since elections earlier this month, after Netanyahu has met with every other party leader.

  • The Likud Party is pushing hard for the four-seat faction led by the former Likud minister to rejoin its ranks, as a way of upping the ruling party’s position and keeping its thumb on Kulanu lawmakers who might try to torpedo judicial reforms, including immunity for Netanyahu.
  • However, sources close to the Kulanu leader tell Channel 13 news that Kahlon will not raise the possibility of a merger during his meeting with the premier, and will not agree to it if offered.
  • Columnist Haim Lev, writing for Israel National News, marvels that Kahlon is attempting to make demands despite having dropped from 10 seats to 4: “With just four seats … he’s managing to give Netanyahu a headache.”

2. Show him the money: With Kahlon’s power seriously attenuated, though, most think he’ll eventually give in to keep his political future alive, especially if it means getting to stay on as Treasurer and to push through a number of pet projects and a bigger budget.

  • “His party has lost all momentum and could be erased in the next elections, and you don’t need to be a genius to understand that [joining Likud] is a wise move from the perspective of Kahlon’s future,” Israel Hayom quotes a Likud source saying.
  • Amiram Barkat in Globes also thinks Kahlon will end up returning to Likud, annoyed at voters for ignoring his hard work on the financial front as finance minister, a post he is demanding he be allowed to keep.
  • “These traumatic elections left him battered, depressed, and most of all more cynical than before,” he writes.

3. The human stain: As pointed out in the past, part of that cynicism has led Kahlon to indicate he will drop his role as a government brake on policies being pursued by the right, such as curbing the powers of the court, noting that it only hurt him in the polls.

  • If true, and if he helps Netanyahu form a coalition, it could mean that Likud and its partners will seemingly face no obstacles in their push to place Netanyahu above the law.
  • In a blistering op-ed, ToI’s David Horovitz writes that if Netanyahu allows URWP’s Bezalel Smotrich to push an immunity bill on his behalf, it will be a mark on both Israeli democracy and the prime minister’s legacy.
  • “His assault over the past two years on the pillars of Israel’s democracy … is already staining that legacy. And his resort to undemocratic legal machinations to stay out of court would blacken it,” he writes. “In Israel’s democracy to date, the democracy through which Netanyahu has secured election victory after election victory, nobody has been above the law … If Netanyahu places himself — or allows himself to be placed — above the law, he will have begun to destroy our democracy.”
  • In Haaretz’s op-ed page, Zvi Bar’el writes that Netanyahu’s legacy is already so stained that calling for a unity government to keep the far-right from taking power and pushing these reforms should be beyond the pale.
  • “His alleged offenses are not the cause but the consequence of a tyrannical outlook in which the law is there to serve the leader, not to restrict him; in which the court is nothing but a pawn; and the police are not doing their job properly if they investigate a prime minister,” he writes.

4. Judge dread: Israel Hayom reports that some in Likud think that URWP’s Itamar Ben Gvir, if given an opportunity to enter the Knesset via various maneuverings, may bolt the party and join the opposition over the Trump peace plan.

  • If that happens, the paper reports, the plan will be to install Ben Gvir, a Kahanist who is the farthest of the far-right, as the opposition member of the judicial appointments panel. The body, which picks judges, has been a major battleground between the right and left and putting Ben-Gvir on it, while taking away any opposition voice, would make it nearly impossible to keep the government from remolding the Supreme Court.
  • “For leftists, maybe their fathers had a place in the panel, but the people of Israel want a fundamental change in the justice system,” Ben Gvir tells the paper.
  • In Yedioth, political commentator Amnon Abramovitch also raises fears of what will be if the URWP is allowed to run roughshod over the court system.
  • “The only democracy in the Middle East — which even today is one only inside the Green Line — will pull off its mask, undress and give up any manners or etiquette it had,” he writes.

5. Peace battle: Haaretz reports on the battle taking place between the Trump administration and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world over the upcoming Middle east peace plan.

  • Abbas has been touring the region pushing for Arab countries to reject the plan both in word and in deed, while the White House sees regional buy-in as essential for it to be given a chance.
  • “The main concern in the White House, according to the diplomats who spoke with Haaretz, is over Jordan and Egypt. The administration is more optimistic, they said, when it comes to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two countries led by young crown princes who have a strong personal relationship with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser,” Amir Tibon writes.
  • In Israel Hayom, Yossi Beilin writes about the US seemingly dismissing the two-state solution as a failed idea that means different things to different people.
  • Just because there is no consensus over a term doesn’t mean there can’t be a peace deal, he writes, pointing to peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
  • “Perhaps if the sides viewed these diplomatic terms similarly, peace would come before the peace deals, but this type of dynamic doesn’t exist in any conflict,” he writes. “The idea of a two-state solution is exactly 82 years old, but has never been tried. Anyone who claims this solution has always ended badly should take another look at the history books.”

6. Comfortably numb: According to US officials, a main component of the plan will not be peace per se but rather just measures meant to make Palestinian lives a little more bearable.

  • In Al Jazeera, Marwan Bishra compares the peace plan and US claims that a change in perspective will make everything more palatable to the Yiddish folk tale about the man who is told to crowd and then empty out his house after complaining that it is too small, only to find that now it feels much bigger.
  • “The truth is, changing your perspective does not change your reality. In fact, every time the Palestinians changed the way they viewed things at US insistence over the past quarter of a century, their situation has only gotten worse. Whichever way you look at it, Israel has been expanding at the expense of Palestine for decades,” he writes.
  • While the idea of a more comfortable occupation may be an oxymoron, in the day to day, at least, it can take form in small ways, like Israel’s refurbishing of the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
  • “After years of operating a woefully inadequate and inefficient pedestrian checkpoint in Qalandiya that often left Palestinian laborers from the central West Bank waiting in extremely long lines, Israel finally inaugurated a new checkpoint in the area in late February,” ToI’s Adam Rasgon reports.
  • “It used to take about an hour to pass through the old one. Now it only takes a few minutes, which means that I get about an extra hour of sleep,” says a Palestinian who works as a butcher in Jerusalem.

7. Losing the Dems: A Pew study on US attitudes toward Israelis and Palestinians that dropped Wednesday finds that 64 percent of the American public hold a favorable view toward Israelis, while only 41% hold a favorable view of the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a 23-point gap.

  • The poll also confirms that Democrats are more likely to hold favorable views toward Palestinians while for Republicans it’s the same for Israelis.
  • On Twitter, former US ambassador Dan Shapiro praises the study for shedding the binary of asking whether they favor Israelis or Palestinians.
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial meanwhile uses the survey to warn of waning support for Israel among Democrats in the age of Netanyahu and Trump.
  • “This trend can be reversed, but four more years of a rightist-religious government in Israel, which will eliminate any chance of compromise with the Palestinians and bring Israel closer to becoming an Orthodox halakhic state, is expected to exacerbate relations even further,” it reads.

8. New deal Democrats: A Bloomberg editorial advises Democrats to stop saying they will go back to the 2015 Iran deal, arguing that while Trump’s decision was rash, the Democrats too should be pushing for a better agreement more suited to today rather than trying to turn back the clock.

  • “Rather than merely bringing the US back into the JCPOA, they should insist on a broader, genuinely comprehensive bargain that fixes the defects in the original and takes into account Iran’s recent aggression,” it reads.
  • “A new deal should require Iran to forswear not only nuclear weapons, but also missiles capable of carrying them. It should demand that the regime cease its other threatening activities in the region and allow for more intrusive and aggressive monitoring than that stipulated in the original agreement. It should also spell out tough sanctions that Iran would incur if it strays from the terms.”
  • Former diplomat Suzanna Maloney praises the editorial on Twitter.
  • “Hope Democratic candidates are listening as well as their embryonic advisory groups,” she writes. “JCPOA supporters (& I am one) must recognize that 2021 isn’t 2015.”
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