The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

Bibi's New Government [1]

By June 17th, we are promised, Israel is going to have a new government. That's the day the Knesset meets for the first time since the elections. Bibi doesn't have to put together a new government by that date -- he has more than 6 weeks to do this -- but he wants to hit the ground running.

Too bad.

When we look at the government that's shaping up, we want to tell Bibi: take your time. No need to rush into things. This kind of government can wait.

The religious parties have already made clear to everyone that there's no reason to worry and panic. Only the liberal media wants to panic secular Israelis. The demands of the religious parties are perfectly reasonable. They have no desire to get into anyone's personal lives. Okay, they want to stop all non-Orthodox conversions of Jews. Enforce the 1950 law mandating that businesses close down on Shabbat. Turn the Knesset into a "Beit Knesset" (synagogue), as one Shas MK said on election night. But when it comes to the government, they're real moderate. All they're asking for is:

* The Ministry of Education They want to turn the clock back four years, maybe more. Get hold of those young minds again. No more of this liberal nonsense of longer school hours, massive education budgets and the like. They're going to take Israeli education into the 21st century with . . . more Torah.

* The Ministry of the Interior If you want to have a say in the burning issue of "Who is a Jew?" -- i.e., preventing religious pluralism at all costs -- this is the Ministry to control. Back in the glory days of the 1980s, this was in the hands of a series of rabbis. Will Arieh Deri of Shas take this one again? If he can stay out of jail . . .

* The Ministry of Religious Affairs Big bucks here too -- and the chance to get those women and Reform Jews off the local religious councils. This Ministry was in the hands of that awful Labor Party fellow who allowed such terrible things as secular burials. Well, that will be corrected now. Some religious political leaders have reassured the public: don't worry. We won't be banning secular burials. Just restricting the amount of land allocated for them.

And that's only the beginning.

For Minister of Defense it looks like Arik Sharon is out of the picture (after the official government Commission of Inquiry found him unsuitable for the job following his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacre in Beirut). Rafael Eitan (Raful) longs for the job too, but it seems unlikely he'll get it. The most likely contender today is General Yitzhak Mordechai -- a recent recruit to the Likud ranks and a head honcho in the recent campaign. The problem is, Mordechai left the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) last year on bad terms. Felt he wasn't being kicked upstairs fast enough. Made a lot of enemies among fellow generals. Rumor has it that IDF officers are putting on pressure to prevent his selection.

Limor Livnat, Likud hatchet girl and mastermind of the Netanyahu victory, wants to be Minister of Communications. Bad news. She's openly talking revenge -- er, privatization -- against the "leftist" media. Her parents were recently interviewed on Israel television. Mr. Livnat leaned forward to the camera and said, with glee, that "This country belongs to the Jews again!" now that the Likud is back in power. Limor was raised in a lovely home. Can't wait to see what she'll do with our free press.

Arik Sharon wants badly to be Minister of Finance. He's even got some ultra-Orthodox types lobbying toward that end. Claims that he built the coalition that brought Netanyahu to power and deserves a little power himself. But the business community won't accept it. Even before the election results were clear, the voice of Israel's bourgeoisie, Ha'aretz, took a forthright "Anyone But Sharon" stand. Stay tuned.

David Levy wants to bone up on his French. It now seems nearly certain that Bibi is going to name him Minister of Foreign Affairs. This is actually the good news. In the previous Likud government (remember Shamir?), Levy was a voice of sanity and reason among all the cuckoos.

The secular parties lining up for their Ministries are the Labor breakaway "Third Way" and Natan Sharansky's party, "Israel B'Aliya," which everyone else seems to be calling "The Russians." They'll take what they can get when the Likud-Gesher-Tsomet gang and the religious parties are done at the table. "Third Way" leader Avigdor Kahalani (who'll be lucky to be named Minister of Silly Walks) seems to think that he holds some kind of "balance of power" and that he can force the Likud to continue the Oslo process. He controls fully three (3) seats in the Knesset. Does this man need a reality check or what?

Have I left out some players? Sure. Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, two Likud leaders who hate Bibi Netanyahu more than anyone else in the world, are hoping for key positions. And Rafael Eitan seems to be settling into the idea of being Minister of Agriculture.

That's the Netanyahu government as it's shaping up today.

It's going to be a long four years.


What is BibiWATCH?

BibiWATCH aims to be an irreverent and independent weekly Web newsletter produced in Israel with its goal to keep an eye on Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu. As Bibi and his supporters have already made clear, the mainstream media in Israel -- which was never very nice to Mr. Netanyahu and his party -- are going to suffer in the months and years to come. They're going to be brought under control. They're going to show respect to the Prime Minister. Nobody is going to make fun of Bibi again. Well, there's always the Web. Try to censor this, Bibi.