Kadima MKs debate Schalit deal, slam Trajtenberg C'tee

MKs discuss merits of the Hamas prisoner exchange deal; Meretz MK Gal-On comes to Netanyahu's defense as Kadima MKs criticize the deal.

By
October 24, 2011 12:30
Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz

Shaul Mofaz 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) faced off against opposition leader Tzipi Livni in the Knesset on Monday by praising Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for negotiating Gilad Schalit’s release from captivity, one day after Livni publicly slammed the deal.

“The Schalit deal sets a dangerous precedent for the number of murderers freed,” Mofaz said in a special plenum meeting during the last week of the Knesset’s summer recess.

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“Despite this, I supported an exchange in the last government and the current government.

It is our responsibility to bring our soldiers home. I think the right thing was done, considering the circumstances,” he explained.

At the same time, Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, pointed out that military action was not an option.

“Why couldn’t a military operation have freed Schalit? Why didn’t we have the necessary intelligence?” he asked, saying that his committee would investigate these questions.

MK Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) was more critical of the prime minister, saying that “now everyone is talking about your leadership, but you and I know it’s not real. Those who are flattering you today, when things get complicated, will be after your head. Watch out.”

“Don’t get lost in the spotlight that is directed at you lately,” Bar-On added. “Don’t listen to the people telling you you’re peace-loving and a great leader.”

In an unusual move, Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On defended Netanyahu, congratulating him “on the brave steps he took in freeing Gilad Schalit.”

“Kadima MKs, you stand here on the stage and you can’t give [Netanyahu] even a little bit of credit? That is very unfortunate,” Gal-On said.

“Don’t get excited. I’m not a fan of the prime minister,” she quipped. “But we must know how to give credit for courage and leadership.” Gal-On called on the government to “take more risks to bring the end of the conflict.”

“We must make difficult decisions to save us all. If we swallowed the bitter pill of talking to Hamas, who does not recognize us, then we can definitely talk to [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas and the Palestinian Authority,” she explained.

“In post-apartheid South Africa, prisoners were released from both sides of the conflict.

There are things that must be done in the name of appeasement.”

Most of the Knesset meeting was focused on its declared topics: “The Netanyahu government’s failure in diplomatic, economic and social matters,” “The Netanyahu government is doing everything to dissolve the social protests,” and “The Trajtenberg Report ignores the crisis in the Arab population.”

Gal-On called the committee headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, meant to recommend socioeconomic reforms following this summer’s protests “Trajten-bluff.”

“You can’t ignore the protests, they’ve become international,” she said. “Look what’s happening in New York!” - referencing the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests decrying the uneven distribution of wealth in the US.

Mofaz accused the prime minister of “hiding from winds of change and hope.”

“Israel must be brought back to a path of social justice and human dignity,” he added.

“We must go back to the values of our Jewish heritage.”

“Public relations tactics [following Gilad Schalit’s release] cannot cover the anger and sense of loss when social gaps are widening,” MK Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) explained. “The Trajtenberg Committee is a trick; its recommendations lack content and cannot be implemented.”

“This nation is not stupid,” she said. “No one thinks that the Trajtenberg Committee’s conclusions will change the state. We need deep, real change, not reforms that will make the rich richer and ignore the majority.”

Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh called the Trajtenberg report “populist,” accusing the committee of “recycling legislation.”

“They offered us free education from age three, but we already have such a law. The government has been postponing its implementation,” she said.

According to Tirosh, “if the government approves changes, it needs to expand the budget. We can shrink the social gaps with patience and hard work.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) lamented the lack of Israeli Arabs in the 14-member Trajtenberg Committee, except for in a task force on women’s employment.

“Arabs barely exist in the report, except for the section on female employment,” he pointed out. “This is an important topic, but the most critical part of the report – the housing crisis – Arabs did not get enough attention from the Trajtenberg Committee.”

Tibi called on Jewish members of Knesset to “volunteer and work on this issue.” After five MKs raised their hands, Tibi expressed doubt that they would act, telling them to “send an SMS if you do anything to help.”

Government Services Minister Michael Eitan, who represented the government, pointed out the contradictions in the opposition’s criticisms.

“I wonder about what Kadima members say. I heard Livni’s criticism and the claim that the prime minister does not show leadership,” Eitan said to a handful of MKs that remained in the plenum.

“Other Kadima members are speaking out against Livni.

What kind of leadership does that party have?” Eitan said that Netanyahu showed leadership in the Schalit deal in that he “was not dragged after public protests.

Even when under pressure, the prime minister said he could not accept what Hamas offered at the time, and waited for a different deal.”

On the Trajtenberg Committee, Eitan said: “Some are criticizing the recommendations, saying they aren’t enough.

Others complain that they cannot be implemented. If the report is so bad, why do you want it to be implemented?” To those saying that the recommendations were not farreaching enough, the Government Services Ministry explained that the Trajtenberg Committee focused on the middle class, because they led the protest.

“The committee was formed because of a feeling of injustice.

The middle class said there are resources, there is wealth in the State of Israel, so why don’t we have a higher standard of living?” Eitan explained, saying this was the question Trajtenberg sought to answer.

Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) focused on Kadima in his rebuttal, saying that Mofaz and Bar-On were chosen to speak “in order to hide Livni.”

“Congratulations on learning to read the polls,” Elkin quipped. “Kadima is obviously aware of its problems.”


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