Netanyahu´s bitter victory (ISRAEL HAYOM) Mati Tuchfeld 06/08/12)
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The outpost arrangement bill could not have legally saved Ulpana, but
the Right had nothing else to hold onto • Minister Without Portfolio
Ze´ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin and Vice Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie)
Ya´alon tried to argue that the bill would harm the settlement
enterprise, but now it looks like they themselves are suffering the
Even after his sweeping triumph in the Knesset in torpedoing the
outpost arrangement bill, and even after successfully eliminating
every last pocket of dissent in the government with one quick threat
that any minister voting in favor of the bill would be fired, the joy
of victory was not apparent on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu´s
face when he left the voting hall on Wednesday. After the vote,
several Likud ministers, along with Kadima and Labor members, rushed
to shake the prime minister´s hand and commend him on his display of
leadership. But the wave of congratulations was not enough to erase
the grave expression from Netanyahu´s face.
Netanyahu knows that this political victory could turn into a brand
new challenge in a matter of months. He knows that many of the
politicians and political commentators who lavished praise on him
this week all wish him ill during the other 51 weeks of the year.
Even though it encompasses only five buildings, the evacuation of the
disputed homes in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El is not something
that should be taken lightly. In the 2006 evacuation of the outpost
of Amona — where a clash between settlers and security forces left
hundreds injured, leaving a lingering scar on the nation — only nine
families were evacuated. There are 30 families currently residing in
the disputed Ulpana homes. Everyone remembers how Amona ended up and
no one wants to see it reprised. Least of all Netanyahu.
The prime minister poured all of his resources into preventing the
outpost arrangement bill, which would have prevented the Ulpana
evacuation, from becoming law. But he never concealed his personal
objection to the evacuation. After the bill was voted down by the
Knesset, several settler leaders and rightists conceded that even had
it passed, it would most likely not even have been legally applicable
to Ulpana (only to future disputes) but they supported the bill
because they felt that they had nothing else to hold on to.
The preparations for the evacuation officially began this week, but
behind the scenes there are still active efforts to prevent or delay
the eviction of families, and more importantly, the demolition of the
homes. Netanyahu is involved in every one of these backstage efforts,
and has been trying, together with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman,
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and cabinet ministers Ehud Barak
and Moshe (Bogie) Ya´alon, to come up with a last minute solution
that would prevent the evacuation. The likelihood of their success is
difficult to assess at this point.
The Knesset members belonging to the right-most end of the Likud
could not believe how quickly their minister friends had relinquished
their ideals (many ministers who promised to vote in favor of the
outpost arrangement bill ended up voting against it due to
Netanyahu´s threat that he would immediately dismiss any minister who
defied him). For years they have been hearing their leftist rivals
float horror theories about the radical right-wingers (headed by
Likud member Moshe Feiglin and dubbed the Feiglinites) who have taken
control over the Likud and have the prime minister wrapped around
their finger. They´ve been hearing stories of the handful of
loudmouthed rightists that wreaked havoc during the latest Likud
Convention, portraying these troublemakers as a group of hilltop
settler youth that have wrestled control over the Likud´s main
governing body. But lo and behold, Netanyahu flexes one muscle and
they all crawl back into their holes. Even their representatives in
the government stood cowering in fear behind the leader of the
Likud ministers Limor Livnat, Yisrael Katz, Gilad Erdan and Gideon
Sa´ar — everyone fell in line. After the vote, some of them ridiculed
Likud ministers Yuli Edelstein and Gila Gamliel who, up until the
very last minute, declared that they would support the bill even at
the risk of being removed from their posts, but by the time the vote
came around had reconsidered their principled positions. Ridiculing
them is no big achievement. True, they caved, but only after
realizing that they had been completely abandoned. The entire right
wing collapsed. Even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Ya´alon,
who vocally supported the bill, voted against it in the end.
Gamliel´s and Edelstein´s associates retorted: What were they
expected to do?
Danny Danon, one of the leaders of the rightist camp within the
Likud, has a different take on the situation. He explained that the
Likud´s rightist camp numbers about 10,000 people at most, and that
they were divided into four or five central groups. "Several days
before the vote, we gathered everyone and announced that we wouldn´t
support anyone who voted against the bill. It didn´t work with the
ministers, but it worked with the MKs. All the Likud MKs, with the
exception of Carmel Shama Hacohen, voted in favor," Danon said.
Danon explained further that what happened in the Likud was a direct
result of Kadima´s entry into the coalition last month. "General
elections are once again far off, and the ministers feel more
committed to the prime minister, assuming that they have enough time
to repair the impression they created with this vote. If we were in
the midst of an election year, not only the ministers but also the
prime minister would have done everything in their power to prevent
the demolition of the [Ulpana] buildings," he said.
One tear that will not be easily repaired is the one that put
Netanyahu and the chairman of his Likud faction, MK Zeev Elkin, on
opposing sides of the issue. Elkin not only supported the outpost
arrangement bill, he also made active efforts to recruit a majority
for its approval. Elkin has been absent from the Likud´s ministerial
meetings this week, and a private meeting scheduled for Monday
between him and Netanyahu was cancelled at the last minute. However,
it is doubtful that Netanyahu will try to replace Elkin as faction
chair, as this would require a secret Likud ballot. The only relevant
candidate to take Elkin´s place — MK Ofir Akunis — has already
During the Likud´s last election campaign, following the 2008-2009
Israeli military offensive in Gaza when Israelis´ votes were
migrating rightward, Netanyahu arrived one day at the photographers
studio, put Benny Begin on his right and Ya´alon on his left and
flooded the country with campaign posters. The aim of that poster was
to show the people of Israel that the real rightists, the ones that
love and cherish the land, are in the Likud. A year after he was
elected, Netanyahu once again required the assistance of these two
ministers to get the settlement construction moratorium approved.
Those days are gone. Begin was the first to get burned. The
admiration that he enjoyed only three years ago has been recently
replaced with anger, and even with a certain degree of hatred. The
uncompromising manner in which he has defended the decisions of the
High Court of Justice, and his decisive objection to certain
controversial legislation efforts — like the bill seeking to limit
the funding of left-wing nongovernmental organizations, or the bill
seeking to alter the makeup of the Judicial Selection committee, and
others — have turned Begin into a Trojan horse in the eyes of many
Likud members, a truly foreign element.
Now it is Ya´alon´s turn. His objection to the outpost arrangement
bill helped the prime minister soften the stances of many of the
other Likud ministers, like Erdan, Moshe Kahlon, Sa´ar and Livnat.
But Ya´alon´s status will never be what it once was.
Ya´alon is seen as the undisputed leader of the Likud´s rightist
camp. As such, he could easily take the party reins, nearly
unopposed, after Netanyahu steps down. To a certain degree, Ya´alon
could even serve as a formidable alternative to Netanyahu should the
prime minister decide to foment some sort of political big bang and
split from the Likud. In such a scenario, Ya´alon would be
Netanyahu´s natural successor, if he decided to remain in the party.
But now, after this last week, it is no longer so black and white.
The rightist camp is indescribably angry with him. Their
disappointment is immense. For quite some time, the general feeling
in the Likud has been that Ya´alon decided to switch sides and that
he has grown tired of being the representative of the Right within
the party. Perhaps he feels that this role will ultimately hurt him.
Several weeks ago, when he spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage,
he began raising some concern.
Ya´alon´s associates deny this as pure speculation. Ya´alon is only
expressing his views, they insist, on the issue of same sex marriage,
as on the issue of the outpost arrangement bill. They maintain that
Ya´alon is pro-settlement, but feels that the outpost arrangement
bill would only harm the settlement enterprise. "Anyone who has
discussed the issue with Ya´alon, including the most senior members
of the Yesha settler council, eventually agreed with him," one of his
One of this week´s biggest winners is undoubtedly Kadima Chairman
Shaul Mofaz. After Haim Ramon announced that he was quitting Kadima
due to Mofaz´s decision to join Netanyahu´s coalition, the former
minister, along with his can of worms in the form of a sex crime
conviction, launched earnest efforts to split Kadima. His aim is to
one day join the Kadima refugees with former Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi
Livni or political hopeful Yair Lapid. Ramon´s efforts to lure
various Kadima MKs to leave the party touched on the outpost
arrangement bill, among other things.
"Ultimately, Netanyahu will cave in to right-wing pressure from
within his party, and from Lieberman, and support the bill," Ramon
prophesied to his targets. "You will be forced to support it too."
Some of the MKs he approached were not quick to buy into Ramon´s
projection. "You don´t believe me? See for yourselves," he said
decisively, adding that "this will also be the fate of the Tal Law."
Mofaz´s camp didn´t expect such a political windfall so soon after
joining the coalition.
Mofaz´s office waited with anticipation, and much trepidation, to see
how the four Likud ministers who promised to support the bill would
behave. A vote in favor would have brought about immediate dismissal.
Since Kadima joined the coalition, its members have felt that
everything was much too fragile - one wrong move and everything would
fall apart. The polls were unfavorable, Livni was breathing down
their necks, and talk of Kadima possibly merging with the Likud
didn´t bode well for them either. The last thing that Mofaz needs is
battles over ministerial portfolios in his party. The dismissal of
Likud ministers would have surely resulted in precisely that.
Now he can breathe easy, but not for long. At the end of July, after
the Plesner committee completes the task of formulating an
alternative to the Tal Law (a law that essentially legally exempts
ultra-Orthodox Jews from mandatory military service, which was ruled
unconstitutional by the High Court). That is when Kadima is scheduled
to be bestowed with three or four ministerial appointments. The war
that will likely erupt as a result is going to make Mofaz miss his
days fighting wars as an Israel Defense Forces commander, as the IDF
chief of general staff and as defense minister.
Life is discovered on Facebook
There are two Kadima members who are not currently serving in the
Knesset, but have big plans for when they do, and are maintaining
very involved Facebook campaigns. The first one is Tzachi Hanegbi.
Hanegbi recently discovered the world of social networking, and he
has become very prolific in updating his friends with his thoughts
and insights. He even recently launched a website carrying his name.
These tools were supposed to help him in his quest to get elected to
the Kadima Knesset list in the primaries that were supposed to be
held in two weeks. But now they have become the tools that will
enable his political comeback, either as a minister in the current
government or, again, in future primaries, whenever they may be held.
His first choice is to rejoin Kadima, but if that proves impossible,
he has not ruled out joining Likud, which he originally left to join
Hanegbi doesn’t know how welcome he would be in a party that he left
six years ago. He no longer knows any of the members of the party´s
central committee, but he has always maintained close ties with
dozens, and possibly even hundreds, of key Likud figures, and he has
not spoken ill of the party, or of Netanyahu, since he left. In that
respect, he could certainly be welcome back into the Likud fold.
The second Kadima member is Livni. If anyone had any doubts regarding
her intentions of returning to the political arena, this week
dispelled those doubts. After publicly praising the Madonna
performance in Tel Aviv, she segued into a wistful description of an
article by renowned Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk. An uninspired, whiny
article that she described as follows: "Kaniuk wrote an article about
an end, but we will create a new beginning."
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