News and Events

New Government in Israel

Ministers in the newly sworn in Israeli government pose for a group photo at the president's residence in Jerusalem. June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Ministers in the newly sworn in Israeli government pose for a group photo at the president’s residence in Jerusalem. June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Progressive Jews in Israel and the Diaspora have celebrated the new government in Israel. Their hopes are that Israel will be more reflective of a pluralistic state, where all streams of Judaism are treated equally and all citizens of Israel can enjoy equal rights under a democracy they were promised in the Declaration of Independence.

It is the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) through its arm, the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC) that has fought long and hard since 1987 to defend equality for all, social justice and religious pluralism within Israel through the legal system. Much has been achieved, but there is still a great deal more we would hope to see change in Israel under a new government. Therefore, we support our annual Progressive Appeals to assist this wonderful organisation in its work on our behalf.

It was IRAC, under the direction of its CEO, Anat Hoffman and Rabbi Noa Sattath who established the Women of the Wall organisation to protect the rights of all Jewish Women to pray at the Kotel. They negotiated a new egalitarian prayer space with the Netanyahu government which then reneged on the agreement. So each Rosh Chodesh the Women of the Wall, representing all streams of Judaism gather with their prayer books (Siddurim), wearing their tallit to pray for the new Hebrew month.

Last weekend, as the women were entering the Kotel with their prayer books for the new month of Tammuz, they were viciously assaulted by Heredi youth and men who ripped up the sacred books and tried to physically stop the women from entering the premises. This has been described as a “ hate crime” and happened as the police watched on.

Now with a new Coalition Government in power in Israel, we know that Netanyahu and the opposition parties will be looking for any signs of weakness or fragility.

However, even though Naftali Bennett and his Coalition will not wield the same power as Netanyahu, there is an over-riding determination by this motley lot of parties to ensure Netanyahu never takes charge again. The new ministers will be expected to put forward policies and govern in the interests of all Israelis. This is what they have promised to do, and to be honest it is what they will have to do given the constraints of their power base. The new Prime Minister will have to work in full cooperation with his colleagues from the other more powerful parties. It will be a real test of his political skills and capacity.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2021-06-17T12:04:44+10:00June 17th, 2021|News|

Astonishing Coalition to Govern Israel

(L-R) Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina chair Naftali Bennett, New Hope chair Gideon Sa'ar, Blue and White head Benny Gantz, Ra’am chair Mansour Abbas, Labor head Merav Michaeli and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz at a meeting of the heads of the would-be-coalition in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2021. (Ra'anan Cohen)

(L-R) Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina chair Naftali Bennett, New Hope chair Gideon Sa’ar, Blue and White head Benny Gantz, Ra’am chair Mansour Abbas, Labor head Merav Michaeli and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz at a meeting of the heads of the would-be-coalition in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2021. (Ra’anan Cohen)

Israelis are “witnessing the biggest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of democracy”. Does this claim bring back memories of a similar claim made by another leader last November? And like on that occasion, I suspect, Netanyahu will provide no evidence to back up such an ill-conceived claim.

In addition, it has been reported that top right wing Israeli rabbis are calling on the public to do “everything” to thwart a Bennett-Lapid Government. A letter signed and issued by six leading religious-Zionist rabbis included an appeal saying “we must make an effort to do everything so this government does not materialize”.

One would have to question what exactly is meant by doing “everything so this government does not materialize”? What do the rabbis have in mind? What do they believe people could do to thwart the formation of a government whose members have been legally elected and have come together to form a Coalition through a legal process conducted by the President of Israel?

Yes, the Coalition that has been formed to replace Netanyahu is “astonishing” in almost every respect. However, Greg Sheridan commented in the Weekend Australian that “the mood in Israeli politics is overwhelmingly that the Netanyahu period should end”.

He believes that it was this, that enabled the formation of a coalition which he describes as representing “an astonishing ideological variety – one might say incoherence – to assemble”. There are three parties whose leaders are said to be to the right of Bibi, (Bennett, Liebermann and Saar) who have been joined by Lapid, a centrist, Labor and Meretz to the left, and for the first time in Israeli political history, the Arab Islamist party Raam has joined this almost unimaginable coalition.

Bennett and Lapid have agreed to rotate the premiership of Israel serving 2 years each, with Bennett taking the first two years. The agreement of this coalition is complex but has built in clauses to stop a repeat of the failure of the previous coalition government under Netanyahu and Gantz. That coalition led to the fourth election in two years when Netanyahu failed to bring down a budget, denying Benny Gantz the chance to be Prime Minister under the agreed rotation.

One can only assume that the posturing of those unprepared to see the end of the Netanyahu era will not amount to anything dramatic.
However, the sad reality in all of this is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, until the last couple of years has been an extraordinary leader, the longest serving in the Jewish State. He has seen the State of Israel emerge as a modern economy and a high-tech giant. His record has been described as “one of huge nation-defining achievements” and should not be underrated, despite the many failures.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

ARZA Australia President, Helen Shardey

2021-06-09T11:05:10+10:00June 9th, 2021|News|

Time For a Change

A photo montage shows the leaders of parties in the prospective “change government” that Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid announced he can form on June 2, 2021. (Flash90)

A photo montage shows the leaders of parties in the prospective “change government” that Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid announced he can form on June 2, 2021. (Flash90)

By the time you read this article Israel will either be heading toward a new Unity Government through a Coalition of the left and right or a fifth election. I believe the former to be the case.

Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina Party with only 7 seats in the Knesset, has played a game of cat and mouse, confusing Israelis almost up until the deadline for the 28 days given to Yair Lapid by President Rivlin to form a government.

Meanwhile Bibi Netanyahu has been frantically offering the Premiership of Israel firstly to Bennett and then to Gideon Sa’ar. Fortunately for Israel, they both refused and appear to have joined Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party. So I predict that Bibi will either accept the role of Opposition leader or more likely, resign from the Knesset all together after serving as Israel’s Prime Minister for a total of 15 years, with his current term being for the past 12 years.

In my view this is a clumsy, somewhat un-democratic and confusing way for any country to go about deciding who will govern. It’s a bit like just throwing the dice. As I have previously suggested, an amended Proportional Representation voting system would offer more certainty of an outcome and still represent the diversity of the Israeli population.

After 4 elections in two years, the failure of Netanyahu to form a Government, the tragedy at Mt Meron, the struggle of dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic and the fears that resulted from the barrage of rockets landing on Israeli suburban areas courtesy of Hamas, along with the breakout of violence, Israelis must be, in every way, completely exhausted.

We in Victoria are strung out and exhausted by the continuing spread of Covid and yet another lock down of our state and capital city. But this is little to deal with compared to what our Jewish brothers and sisters and other Israeli citizens have had to endure this year.

For us Progressive Jews it would be a delight to see Rabbi Gilad Kariv sit in the Knesset as part of a Coalition Unity Government comprised of New Hope, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu, Kahol Lavan, Meretz and potentially the Joint List or the United Arab List parties, with Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid alternating as Prime Minister. Regardless of your political beliefs, it is time for a change, and hopefully political stability in Israel.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2021-06-03T11:19:00+10:00June 3rd, 2021|News|
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