Annexation and the Return of the Zealot Party

Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is near certain that Israel will annex 30% of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) including the Jordan Valley.  This is in line with the Trump peace plan.  What is so important is the realism of the Trump plan.  I have noted this in past posts but will repeat.  Before the Oslo peace plan, both liberal and conservative governments in Israel supported creating towns in the disputed territories.  The main reason was to have more territory controlled by Israel so that Israel’s strategic depth for defense was increased. Yes, the right-wing with P. M. Begin hoped to see a permanent annexation of the territories, but that was not pursued and was politically not feasible.  The hope was that the Palestinian areas could be ceded to Jordan or that the Arab residents could be residents in Israel but citizens in Jordan.   

With the Oslo peace plan and the idea of a two-state solution being revived (this was the original U. N. plan from 1947) the issue became how to draw the border.  Israel’s government, during the time of the hopes of the Oslo plan, was seeking to cede most of the territories for a Palestinian State. In the P. M. Olmert plan, the Palestinian’s would be given 95% of the territories in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Israel 5% to preserve the larger settlements.  When the Palestinians walked away from this plan, the left as a power in Israeli politics was destroyed.  This is why today we have a large rightwing group of parties, and a centrist group of parties but no significant left-wing power (despite Bibi calling the center parties left-wing!)   

The Trump plan still holds out hope for a Palestinian State on the 70% of the land plus Gaza.  However, if the Palestinians will not come to negotiate, President Trump has made it known that Israel can then go ahead and annex these territories as long as Israel coordinates mapping with the White House.  Bibi is very thankful to President Trump and the President is popular in Israel.  He has recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and moved the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital.  His peace plan is the only realistic one.  Why? Because the other plans require removing some of the towns of the territories.  There are over 400,000 Israelis in these towns.  Any government that sought to remove even part of them would face stiff resistance, bloodshed, and even civil war!  Trump’s plan does not require removing any of the settlements.  A Palestinian state is still very unlikely, and quietly some really hope for a return to the Jordanian citizenship idea in the years ahead so as to avoid a Palestinian state and a claim of apartheid. This declaration of annexation, probably in July or August, will probably lead to much world rejection and maybe a new Palestinian uprising (intifada).  It may threaten the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt.  It would also risk relationships that were growing with other Arab nations.  However, Bibi sees this as a once in a lifetime opportunity with Trump as President, and he will take the risk.  He has the votes to do it.

However, the leader of the settlement council and the Jordan Valley communities, David Elhaynai, seeks to thwart the plan for two reasons.  First, he and his followers will not countenance the idea of a Palestinian state at all.  They want all the territory without full rights for the Palestinians (not by the choice of the Palestinians but by Israel’s fiat).  They do not want to even say they accept the Trump plan in theory.  Bibi wants the loss of a Palestinian state to be blamed on the Palestinians. He, therefore, accepts the Trump plan.  He is a realist and politically very savvy. Secondly, Elhaynai is upset that 15 small settlements, some of which were illegal but have been since legalized, will not be in contiguous connection to the new Israeli 30% territory.  For this, he also rejects the plan.  Why would he be so extreme and zealous?  It is hard to know. He is not part of the super right-wing religious though he has to represent them as part of his constituency.  These latter folks believe that taking all the Land is a Messianic mandate that precedes the coming of the Messiah.  Whatever his reasons, he has to represent them and is himself a maximalist for other reasons.  My concern in all of this is that these zealots are of the same spirit that Yeshua warned about and noted that their direction would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem.   He said if only they had known the way for peace.   We cannot say that Israel today, mostly not committed to Biblical standards and faith, would have the favor of God to reenact the conquering of Joshua.  There is no prophetic voice of leadership for this.  We cannot hope for or depend on God’s favor for such radical recommendations.  We are not a righteous nation though comparatively more righteous than many.  This settler leader has even lambasted Trump as not a friend of Israel.  He has drawn the rebuke of Bibi for this and rightly so.  I believe that this is the same spirit as the radical zealots of the first century, and they must not be allowed to scuttle the progress that has been made due to President Trump.  A way for the Palestinians to find justice while Israel realistically can claim the territory of the settlements is the realistic way forward.  Netanyahu is taking a terrible risk. I hope it works out.  But the settlers are asking him to go beyond risk toward a probable disaster. 

 

Avoiding Foolish Arguments about Donald Trump

As much as possible I want to avoid involvement in foolish arguments about President Donald Trump.  I have responded to friends who are very anti-Trump and tried to bring considerations that could moderate their position, but to no avail.  I am glad to answer those with sincere questions but at this point this is rare.  Here are some reasons why this is so difficult in this.  First, I learned as a philosophy student in epistemology (the study of how we come to know, indeed as well to know that something is real or true) that decisions about the truth that are not mundane and trivial and commitments that follow therefrom are not based on the right processing of information in the mind which then comes out with the right conclusion.  Rather, the whole person weighs evidence and makes decisions. The person is influenced by deeply held values, orientations to life, and psychological factors. Some of these factors are not conscious.  I think voters, including my friends who are followers of Yeshua, break down into five categories.  After the first year of the Trump Presidency, the stand of most people in four of these five categories is not likely to change.  Those who engage in arguments among people in the different categories go round and round and get nowhere.  The reason for the categories is that in the deep consciousness of people, various things are given very different weight.  It is almost on a religious level for some.  And we know how hard that is!!  Only the Spirit can bring conversion.  Of course, there are those on the border lines of these categories and there is always a continuum but generally, people fit into one of these five.  Though there are some friends who are liberal Evangelicals, conservatives are included in all five of these categories. 

  • The Never Trumpers.  For these people, President Trump’s egregious bad behavior outweighs all other considerations.  The personal demeaning, the past life of sin, the exaggeration, and lies about some situations, have caused untold damage to the country.  He is probably a racist.  He is not a true conservative but is acting so for political power.  He is probably a sociopath-narcissist.  Any professed follower of Yeshua who supports President Trump is discrediting their faith and is a hypocrite.  Any good that Trump has done is far surpassed by the evil he does.  As their heart weights his tweets and his blatantly sinful language against others, they weigh the stand against the President as a ten and compared almost to a zero for anything good.  In addition, Trump has been inconsistent in policy to North Korea, to Russia, and has undercut international trust.  Some say he is not concerned about the environment. Those in this category will point to new outlandish statements, but they are really nothing new but just an example of the pattern well established.  They are aghast that believers in Yeshua can support him.  

 

  • The Always Trumpers.  All the bad that Trump has done is downplayed by the always Trumpers.  The good things he has done and is doing makes the negatives to almost be of no consequence.  They wonder why the negatives should be a concern. The negatives may even have a positive effect. Yes, maybe he should not tweet somethings, but so what?  He has appointed scores conservative judges and two conservative Supreme Court justices, has moved the embassy to Jerusalem, created enterprise zones in the cities to life the poor, has had judicial reform for the sake of non-violent criminals that mostly affects blacks, is working to make immigration legal, has released states from funding planned parenthood, has removed the pressure from the nations re: U. S. aid to foster homosexual marriage and abortion while supporting the decriminalization of homosexuality, has restored religious liberty that was being eroded, has removed standards for accommodating pregnant men in the men’s barracks in the army (transgender) has confronted North Korea while negotiating, has confronted China, has rebuilt the military, pulled out of the disastrous Iran deal, is shaking up a corrupt bureaucracy, and more.  He is bringing jobs back to the United States. To even bring up Trump’s sins is looked at as such hypocritical foolishness and shows that these people are majoring in the minors.  Besides, those in this category who believe in the prophetic gift point to amazing prophetic predictions of the Trump presidency and what it would be like.  Some of these people even enjoy Trump’s bad-boy behavior. They are the most enthusiastic at his rallies. 

 

  • The Qualified Trump Supporters.   This is a much larger group than most realize.  I am in this group.  Many of us did not support Trump in the primaries.  He was our last choice.  Our vote for him was more a vote against Hillary Clinton. Those in this group usually agree with the list of good things that Trump has done, but we are concerned that his bombastic style and gross sin in speech and vilification of others undercut him and loses him support that he would otherwise have.  There was much division before Trump, but those of us in this category really believe that he has unnecessarily exacerbated the division in the country and that despite the gains of his presidency, this could be very dangerous to the country.  We are concerned that the backlash after Trump could be terrible and would that even if division can’t be overcome, that our President would speak in the most unifying way possible to the nation.  We do not believe Trump is a racist but think his sometimes terrible rhetoric gives credibility to people think he is.  Of course, Democrats accuse all white Republicans of being racists. Some of us credit the prophecy of those who have this gift at a high level, and this has helped us. We do also see policies that we do not support.  Trump speaks of our enemies as ones with whom he has a good relationship.  Little Rocket Man is one with whom he now has a good relationship.  We pray for Trump to have an encounter with Yeshua so that he might repent of his sins and change.  However, when we compare Trump to Hillary Clinton and what she would have done with the courts, religious freedom, and Israel we are still glad she lost to Trump.  The greatest writer in this category that I know is Dr. Mike Brown, a very incisive social critic, who says we are not hypocrites if we support what is right but prophetically speak out on the wrong.  If we do not speak out when he is wrong then we sell our souls for his defense. His book Donald Trump is not my Savior is an excellent read on this approach.  In addition, it is most alarming to us to think about what today’s Democrats would do if they were in power.  We might have preferred Nikki Haley or Mike Pence, but we did not have this choice.  It seems that this is God’s doing. On a one to ten scale, they give being a supporter on the basis of the good maybe an 8 and the negatives maybe a 4. 

 

  • Category four is the Trump opponents who credit the good things he has done but believe that the harm from his over the top vilification of others and sinful rhetoric outweighs the good. Some of them think it would have been better to have taken our lumps with Hillary Clinton and at least not to be seen supporting such a vein and vile man.  In their view, this has undercut the Gospel. These people are conflicted because they do know that Trump does good things and they generally are alarmed at the thought of a Hillary Clinton presidency.  However, they still cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump. 

 

  • Category five is undecided.   These are the people who go back and forth.  When Trump is acting bad, they lean to category 4.  When he is doing good, they lead to # 3.  They are a key to Trump’s approval going between 44% to 49%.  They may determine the next election.   They are probably about 5%.  They keep quiet and do not get into the arguments.  

 

The next election will be determined by who can best bring out their base and the 5% that go back and forth.  The category people are in is quite fixed now.  It will not be changed by fruitless Facebook arguments back and forth.  Mike Brown makes all the right points in my view, but I am not sure if he has convinced anyone who is a Never-Trumper.  Maybe some on the edge of being a non-supporter could change his or her view.  The deepest inner values and psychology is partly why people come out where they do.  It is how things hit people at a visceral level.  This is why I want to opt-out of Facebook arguments on this.  It is not getting us anywhere.  We have repeated ourselves again and again like a broken record. I have tried to argue with my never-Trump friends that the danger of the left to believers is terrible but to no avail. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Dock

The trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) for bribery, fraud and breach of trust has begun.  There are three cases against him and not all are of equal weight.  It is not important for our readers to know the details.  If you want to know the details, you can find it easily on the internet through an internet search/  There are numerous detailed articles describing the charges and the evidence.

I think that there are a few important things to understand that can inform your prayer.  Bibi and part of his rightwing party (Likud) members are engaging in a propaganda campaign to discredit the investigators and the Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, who brought the charges.  They claim that this is a campaign of the left to remove the right-wing government.  They also are on a campaign to discredit the court as an activist court and to also discredit the Supreme Court.  I believe this is very dangerous.  Yes, as in the United States, the Court here has been too activist at times, but this is a criminal trial not a matter of activist legal interpretations.  The campaign to discredit the Court by Netanyahu’s closest allies in Likud is wrong and again dangerous to the country.  Not all Likud members are in on this campaign.  Several higher-ups in Likud have perceived themselves to have been betrayed by Bibi and remain quiet.   One other matter is disturbing.  They brought up a case from 10 years ago where the Attorney General was investigated to find if he covered up a case for General Gabi Ashkenazi who is now the Foreign Minister in the Unity Government and part of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party.  This was dismissed a decade ago. 

Bibi is innocent until proven guilty, but it does not look good for him, though I hope he would be found innocent.  I have evaluated Bibi in the past in my postings.  He has done some really great things and not so great things!  One key thing to keep in mind is to understand who Avichai Mandelblit is.  He is a conservative Attorney General that was appointed by Bibi!  If one was following the investigation and the prosecutors, it seemed as if Mandelblit was doing everything possible to not indict Bibi.  He was an ally of Bibi.  However, the force of the evidence was so great to him that he could not avoid it.  History would record the evidence and if he did not go forward, he would forever be remembered by history as a compromised political hack.  So now Bibi seeks to discredit his own pick for the Attorney General, his former ally. Again, I hope Bibi is innocent and found innocent, but the evidence, even as reported in the conservative Zionist press, is that he is guilty.  (not in the Bibi newspaper Yisrael Hayom

One sad thing about the complexity of legal processes here is that this could all take form 18 months to 3 years to finalize.  There could be appeals to make it even a longer time.

Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

Can we Figure out what Prime Minister Netanyahu Desires for Peace?

Two of the most important things to note about the new unity government in Israel is that Blue and White under Benny Gantz will not prevent Prime Minister Netanyahu (Bibi) from annexing the settlements (cities and towns) in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Jordan Valley.  This will probably happen with the acceptance of the Trump administration.  The world will scream, and will not recognize it, but Israel will not turn back.   The U. S. will recognize it with a few other countries. 

The second thing to note is that Yamina under Naftali Bennet, the rightwing religious party, is not in the government with Bibi.  Bibi could have offered them a greater role, but I think he intentionally did not, though he professed to want them in the government.  Bibi is one of the most amazing political manipulators ever.  I think he really did not want them in the government.  Bennet’s past behavior greatly irritated Bibi since he would publicly criticize Bibi though in his cabinet.  Imagine a cabinet minister in President Trump’s government publicly criticizing him or the cabinet ministers in the times of former presidents.  Yes, it is a coalition of parties in Israel, but in most Parliamentary coalition governments, once the government is formed such public criticism ends.  And what was his critique?  It was usually that Bibi was not moving forward to annex the territories or that he was too weak on defense issues. 

These two facts now give Bibi flexibility and maybe revealing his end game with the Palestinians.  If Bennet is in the government, he will push Bibi to reject a Palestinian state. Bibi does not want to do this, at least not publicly. If there is no such state Bibi wants the Palestinians to be blamed for not attaining one. Yesterday at the time of this writing, the Settlers voted to reject Donald Trump’s Peace Plan because if gives the Palestinians 70% of the West Bank and Gaza for a state.  Bibi has said he fully accepts the Trump plan. He prefers to not have Bennet in the government making public criticism from his right flank.  

There are three plans that now are possible.  The old plan for a Palestinian state with the ’67 ceasefire lines as the border is not one of the possibilities that anyone can now be considered.  The first Is the Carolyn Glick One State Solution which is the name of her book.  In this solution the Palestinians living in the West Bank (not Gaza-which would be released to be on its own or part of Egypt) are given full citizenship in Israel.  Glick is a contrarian with regard to her views on population trends.  She thinks that the Palestinians would never then be more than 1/3 of the population.  It does not appear that Bibi has accepted this view.  He thinks, I believe, that absorbing so many Palestinians would be dangerous. 

Then there is the Bennet plan which is to eventually, but in stages, annex the whole West Bank and give the Palestinians some level of residency and autonomy but not citizenship. Some go father and want to pay the Palestinians to move away.  The world will call this apartheid.  Bibi is too smart for this solution since this would lead to world rejection and boycotts.  It would end progress with the Arab world.  Some think the Palestinians could have residency in Israel but citizenship in Jordan.  Jordan is not interested.  Boogie Yaalon wanted to see no change but to just live in the status quo until there is a change of heart.  This direction would also be seen as apartheid. 

The third option is the Trump plan.  It is the plan of realism.  It gives Israel the boarders and territory they need to make their state larger and more defensible.  However, it also provides a Palestinian state and solves the problem of the challenge of absorbing the Palestinians as citizens.  Israel cannot be said to be apartheid since the Palestinians can have their own state.  Indeed, if they declare a state and are recognized by the world, then there is a border dispute not a dispute on apartheid.  Bibi wants to move fast and gain the Jordan Valley and that 30% of the West Bank.  My view is that Bibi really does embrace the Trump plan and would accept a Palestinian State under the Trump terms which are the terms of realism.  But with the Palestinians rejecting this, Bibi can blame them for not having their own state.  He can live with the status quo on no Palestinian State and just say it is up to them. 

The present unity government is the best opportunity Bibi could imagine for doing what he wants to do.  If he does annex, the Yamina people in the Parliament will vote for the annexation.  They will not vote for a Palestinians State, but that will not be up for a vote this summer!

 

Photo Credit: Haim Zach/GPO

A New Israeli Government

Finally, at 1:00 P.M. Israel time a new Israeli government was formed. I need not say much about it since I have before written on what was going to happen after there was a unity government agreement.  Things have pretty much worked out as noted before.

However, I wanted to state a few things.

The new government has 36 portfolios and is super bloated.  However, it was the only way to get everyone on board.  Benjamin Netanyahu promised Blue and White an equal number of portfolios to Likud even though their joining in the unity government lost then some 14 members of their Parliament block.  This was the price of getting them to join with Likud.  Now however there are two major issues.  Several members of Netanyahu’s party, Likud, are very angry.  Though they are higher on the list of those elected, they are not getting portfolios in the new government.  It seems like Bibi picked those more loyal to him than those higher on the list.  My guess is that this will diminish is support in the future and in his upcoming trial.  Bibi has made many enemies of past allies.  I would think that a new Likud leader could very well be chosen in the next election.

Secondly, Bibi’s trial begins May 24, for fraud and more. If he is found guilty, his leadership of Israel is over. This could take one to three years. For Israel’s sake they should speed this up and either convict him or clear him.

Thridly, the prospects for the annexation of 30% of the land in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) including the settlements and the Jordan valley look very probable now.  Amazing!

Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom (GPO)

ISRAEL TODAY: May, 13, 2010

I thought I should send you an update on Israel today. By now most of you know that a unity government will form tomorrow.  It will have 72 out of 120 parliament seats.  Amazingly, it looks like the right-wing religious Zionist party, Yamina, under Naftali Bennet, will not join the government.  They claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu simply is not offering them significant portfolios.  They are angry.  However, to accommodate all the parties that are joining, Netanyahu will increase the number of cabinet / portfolio positions to 36.  17 is the usual and recommended number.   It is sad to see that this has to happen.  

 

However, it gives two opportunities.  One is for Bibi to annex the settlements of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Jordan Valley.  Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States is in Israel today to discuss the Trump peace plan and annexation.  Some European leaders are apoplectic about this possibility.  

 

I hope that this government can address social issues, housing, the cost of living, and equal justice in services for Arab Israeli citizens.  On having the ultra-Orthodox work and be productive citizens economically we will still have to wait.  They are too powerful.  For justice on citizenship issues for Messianic Jews and status for Russian Jews, we will also have to wait. 

 

On another front, Israel’s progress in the Corona Virus is stunning.  We are down to 4,104 cases and only 54 intubated.  Israel is opening up the economy.  The biggest problem is El Al which looks to go out of business without massive government support (this is in the balance).  I love flying El Al and dearly hope this does not happen.  Secondly, tourism is a huge economic engine here and it is dead right now.  I hope it comes back in the late summer and early fall.

 

The Messianic Jewish community seems to be stronger for the whole trial. Internet services have been amazing throughout the Land. 

Unity Government Forms!

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi)and Benny Gantz signed an agreement just two hours ago as of this writing to form a unity government.  Finally, Israel will have a functioning government.  To form this government, compromises and even some unhelpful directions were taken, but at this point, I believe it is an answer to prayer and may be the best that is now possible.  Bibi will be Prime Minister for the first 18 months and then Gantz for the second 18 months.

For those who think that Gantz caved, the prospects for the opposition in another election do not look good, and this might have been his best chance to bring some positive change.  If the Supreme Court rules that an indicted person cannot be the Prime Minister, then there will be elections.  I do not think it is likely that the Court will do this since Israel’s Basic Law does not speak on this subject.  It does say that cabinet members who lead cabinet level government divisions do have to resign if indicted.  The right will control the judicial appointments committee, but in my view not by so much.  A former Blue and White Party member is the majority tipping vote for the right and the committee will generally seek agreement.  However, there will be no legislation to lessen the power of the Supreme Court.  Bibi will still have to face a trial.  I have not read anything that says what will happen if he is convicted, but I would think it would mean that Likud would elect someone else to serve out his term.  I don’t think there would then be the votes to dissolve the government. The trial could take a long time.

In this agreement, if the Palestinians do not come to the negotiation table, Bibi will have the opportunity to annex the towns in Judea and Samaria, to make them part of Israel.  The European Union will scream and shout to no avail.  The Security Council of the U. N. will seek to condemn Israel, but the United States will veto any condemnation.  I see this as a primary reason why Bibi is still in power and a key reason as to why Trump is in power.  These towns (some are small cities) should not be up for negotiation as if their populations can be transferred. This is why the Trump plan is a plan of realism. The Palestinians have never dealt with matters in a realistic way.  Most of the world is wildly unrealistic as well.

The government will have 36 cabinet members, totally bloated and costly. It is the price of all being on board.  The Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party will probably keep the Interior Department. This is the saddest part of this.  However, Ultra-Orthodox in general would lose their extortion power since their threat to leave the government would not bring down the government.  It is possible that that in the approval of budgets that there will be an incentive for more men to work since Israel cannot afford their demands for welfare so men can study Talmud and Rabbinic arguments all day.

This is not all I desire, but it is a step in the right direction.  Gantz’s former partners say he caved, but he looked at the situation in Israel realistically.  That situation included that of the percentages of the Jewish vote in the Land. Bibi and his right wing parties have 59 votes out of 120 in the Knesset, and the Jewish parties that were in opposition only included 46.  The Arab Party had 15.  Therefore, I think Gantz made a hard but correct choice.  The opposition might still empower Gantz for key issues.  The right wing Yamina, including the modern Nationalist Orthodox has lost power and may not join the government.  I don’t think that will make much difference one way or another.  If they are in the government, they will not have key portfolios like Defense and Justice which they recently had.  What a saga.  After three elections, we have a government.  I wonder if the threat of Gantz to pass legislation making it illegal for a person under indictment to be the Prime Minister finally brought Bibi around.  He also saw that got the best that he could under those circumstances.  Praise God.

Israel Still Does Not Have a New Government but is going to Lift Corona Restrictions

Israel shares with most countries the fact that there is a limit of time to which you can shut down an economy without destroying the country.  You can indeed overcome the virus and destroy the country.  With the virus having peaked in terms of new hospitalizations, as the United States, Germany and other countries, Israel will now seek to exit the severe restrictions.  Amazingly with both the United States and Israel,  this is the week for this to be done.  Some still believe that shutting down was not the right approach.  The right approach would have been to isolate the vulnerable population and to have younger healthy people continue to keep the economy going, but to take more than normal precautions against catching the virus (facemasks, washing hands and not allowing any sick to be at work).  Now we look to massive testing in both countries and opening up areas of the country that are less affected.  In our town of 23,000, on the border of Jerusalem, there are new cases of people sick with the virus.

The progress on fighting the virus is going according to the best of mature prophetic discernment.  I wrote a summary on this a few weeks ago.  Things are working out very much as was noted.  There are now more and more hopeful treatments short of a vaccine that are in the process of being tested. 

In the midst of this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) and Benny Gantz are still negotiating for a unity government.  We don’t know if there will be a solution, but we do pray for a unity government.  Right now, the big issue is that Bibi seeks relief form a possible Supreme Court decision that would say that an indicted person cannot be prime minister.  However, he wants more than that. He wants a law that would say that when Gantz would become Prime Minister in a rotation in 18 months and he would be the deputy Prime Minister, that the law requiring cabinet ministers to step down if indicted would not apply to a deputy Prime Minister in this situation.  Gantz is reluctant to give this guarantee.  However, we have to note that almost half of the voters voted for parties that they knew would give their support to Bibi to be Prime Minister.  That has to count.  I do not think that the Supreme Court would decide that an indicted person cannot be Prime Minister, but the issue of a deputy is something else.  I think Gantz should yield on this point in deference to those who voted for Bibi and his allied parties.

We either are very close to a new government or may be close to failure.  Gantz may also have the power in the Knesset as speaker to pass legislation that says an indicted person cannot serve as Prime Minister.   Then Bibi’s party, Likud, would have to pick someone else.  That is Gantz’s primary leverage to force Bibi to make a real deal with real compromises.  Let’s hope and pray for a unity government. 

One last thing.  We now know that China, by covering up the virus and letting many thousands fly from Wuhan after they sealed Wuhan off domestically is primarily responsible for the spread of the virus.  All now know that they spent a week of denials which itself has cost the world several trillions of dollars.  (Associated Press laid this out fully)  More and more evidence is coming out that this virus originated not in a wet meat market but in a laboratory.  This would be one more reason for the cover up.  It is also clear that the World Health Organization leaders enabled the cover up.  We will soon have a great world controversy over what to do about all this.   

Unity Government Negotiations Now

Those of you who have been following my updates on the political situation here know that we do not have a new government and this in the midst of the scourge of the virus.  The negotiations came down to two issues. One is choosing the members of the Supreme Court and the other is the issue of annexing the towns and settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Jordan Valley.  As I noted before, Benny Gantz is weaker on the issue of annexation. He wants more international support and worries about the response of Jordan and Egypt. Netanyahu sees this as a legacy issue for himself and is very committed to it.  With Trump as President, he sees a window of opportunity that could close. There has been a compromise on this. Members of Parliament will be able to vote their conscience on this issue, but after the virus is overcome.   

 

The Supreme Court issue is more complex.  Israel does not have a constitution. Something called Basic Law plays that role to some degree.  A law is a Basic Law if it is declared such when passed. Generally, Israel has rightly allowed basic law to be stable.  The issues of the Court are as in the United States where justices to the left seem to see themselves as free to make law when it is not in the Basic Law or in laws passed.  Yes, a law can be found to contradict Basic Law, but then Basic Law could be changed. The “right,” however, in its frustration with the court, seeks to make court decisions subject to Parliament majority vote and to control the judicial selection process to choose only conservative judges.  Passing such a change in Basic Law would be a big problem. Constitutions and the judiciary protect minority rights. Total democracy would be tyranny. Hence the United States is a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy. It seems that with the composition of the new Knesset, this will not pass.   However, the other issue remains, and that is who will pick the judges. 

 

On Monday afternoon it looked as if there had been agreement on this issue as well.  But after all seemed to be agreed on, Netanyahu’s right-wing partners in Yamina insisted that the right be able to veto judicial appointments.   Netanyahu pulled back from the agreement and asked to re-open negotiations. Gantz refused and walked away. I do not know Gantz’s judicial philosophy.  Both sides accuse the other as being anti-democratic. But of course, their definitions are not the same. The right means the democratic vote regimes, but Gantz’s parties mean that rights are protected by an independent court.  Judges are appointed by a committee that includes past judges. The right thinks this stacks the deck for liberal judges. The left likes liberal judges. The center is concerned that without an independent judiciary the checks and balances in Israel will be destroyed and this is counter to a rightly ordered democratic society.  I don’t know Gantz’s judicial philosophy, but he is not willing to give the total appointment power with veto to the “right.” We need to pray for a solution; we need a government.  

Political Situation Now

Many of the Christian Zionists in the United States think that Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) is the greatest Prime Minister conceivable.  However, Messianic Jews who live here have a much more nuanced view of Bibi. I have lived here now for 16 years and follow politics closely.  It does have a great impact on our lives. At this present moment, there is still no unity agreement between Benny Gantz and his party and Benjamin Netanyahu and his party.  The political stalemate and the haggling are going on even now. Bibi and some of his senior people are in quarantine, but they communicate as we all do now by internet connections. I compare Bibi and Gantz in three categories: one where Bibi is better, one where Gantz is better and one where I don’t see much difference.  

 

Where Bibi is Better

 

  1. Bibi is strong on international diplomacy. He has a strong charismatic personality. This has been a great gain.  The weakness is that his diplomatic people, in embassies especially, are very underfunded and cannot do their work well. 
  2. Bibi is stronger in promoting Israel’s rights in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  Though for years he would not do what he thinks he can now do with Trump being president, he wants to annex the Jewish towns to Israel and to annex the Jordan valley on the Israel side of the river.  Trump is indicating that he will support this if the Palestinians do not come to the negotiating table. Others to the right of Bibi have been pushing this for years, but Bibi has not been willing to buck the United States.  Gantz has said he wants to do this only with International support, which means he will not do it. I believe taking these Jewish towns off the table for negotiation is now important since there will otherwise be no peace agreement. Dismantling these towns would lead to civil war.  There are 400,000. It will never happen. Gantz and Bibi are making this an issue in the negotiations.  
  3. Bibi understands money and economic growth.   He is strong in this. Maybe Gantz would be strong but he is unproven.

 

Gantz is stronger than Bibi on most social justice issues.  I am not defining social justice in a socialistic way (see my book Social Justice).  Here is a list. 

  1. Adequate spending for sufficient hospital capacity. 
  2. Not vilifying Israel’s Arab citizens, but equally spending for them per capita on roads, schools, hospitals and police protection.  It almost seems as if Bibi wants to alienate them, but it is really a way to use fear to keep his base motivated.
  3. Requiring the Ultra-Orthodox to work and their schools to educate for the work place.  Bibi has been hopelessly weak on this. He needs their parties in the coalition. 
  4. Gantz is stronger on providing for Russian Jews who are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox.  This means lessening the power of the state Rabbinate, allowing them to marry in Israel or empowering the more moderate Orthodox conversion standards.   
  5. This will be a real surprise, but I think Gantz is stronger on military defense.  Bibi, despite his reputation, has been weak. He has allowed Hezbollah to rearm after the last Lebanon War (as has the U. N.)  He could have quickly re-invaded and required enforcing the U. N. arms embargo against them. Now we have 150,000 rockets against us.  He has also been weak in Gaza. If he used targeted assignations of terrorist leaders, Hamas in Gaza might stop their attacks. But he has allowed Hamas to terrorize the south.  Gantz has spoken strongly about this. 

 

A Probable Tie

  1. The cost of living and housing.  Though Bibi for years was weak on this, his Finance Minister, Moshe Kachlon has really succeeded in moderating the cost of living increases.  I think this would be a part of Gantz’s policy as well.
  2. Building infrastructure: roads, bridges and public transportation.  All want to do this if they can find the funds.
  3. Having a strong military force.  
  4. Opposing the Iran regime and motivating sanctions on the regime.  
  5. Fighting the Corona Virus.  I do not see any differences. 
  6. Justice for Messianic Jews.  Both are embracing Shas that has said it will guarantee the rotation.  This might be also enshrined in passing a law. So our hope of fairness in immigration with Shas in power does not look good. 

 

So far, to build the unity government Netanyahu has committed to leave the Prime Minister’s office in 18 months and have Gantz serve as Prime Minister.  Gantz will allow an indicted Prime Minister to serve (contrary to his last position) and will not pass legislation to bar such. However, Gantz has now been elected the Speaker of the Knesset. This is his ace if Bibi does not really share power.  He can still pass legislation on not allowing an indicted Prime Minister to serve, and then Bibi is gone. But Bibi’s is in danger of rebellion on his right because the coational partners and his own party, Likud, do not want to see so many ministries controlled by Gantz.  To give all his right party partners their due and to fulfill the requirements of Gantz and his party, Bibi plans to create many more ministerial positions. This would yield a cabinet of 36 people (17 or 18 is the usual figure). At times like this, we so wish there was a constitution in Israel.