Rivlin concludes consultations with representatives of Knesset factions

Outgoing Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, took a more belligerent stand, saying: “Gantz is not an alternative. He’s part of the problem.”

By
April 16, 2019 19:34
Rivlin concludes consultations with representatives of Knesset factions

President Reuven Rivlin in Canada visiting Niagara Falls. (photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)

 
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President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday concluded his consultations with delegations representing all the parties elected to the 21st Knesset.

There were no surprises. The results were known in advance. Only two candidates were recommended – one who is a veteran MK, who entered the Knesset in 1988 and one who will be sworn in for the first time at the end of this month.

The veteran is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with 65 MKs who believe that he has the best chance to form the next government; and the novice is Benny Gantz who was supported by 45 MKs. There were two cases of abstentions, both from Arab parties, bringing the total number of abstentions to 10.

The final meeting was with UAL-Balad which, although not united with Hadash-Ta’al with which Rivlin had met the previous day, voiced almost identical complaints about attempts at delegitimization and transfer of Israel’s Arab population, incitement and racism against Arabs, the Nation State Law, hidden cameras in the polling stations in Arab villages, half-hearted attempts to stop growing violence in the Arab community, too much unemployment and poverty, non-involvement or acceptance of Arabs in mainstream Israel and refusal by the police to call Arabs to serve as witnesses. The four Arab MKs headed by UAL chairman Mansour Abbas were a little more flexible than Hadash-Ta’al. While ruling out Netanyahu on the grounds of racism, incitement and delegitimization, they did not entirely discount Benny Gantz, although they detected a hint of racism in his declarations that he was willing to sit in a coalition with any Jewish Zionist party but who ignored the Arabs as if they didn’t exist. However, they were willing to talk to him and to give him an opportunity explain that he has nothing against Arabs.

Outgoing Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, took a more belligerent stand, saying: “Gantz is not an alternative. He’s part of the problem.”

Abbas lamented the fact that every time UAL or Balad wants to stand for election, someone tries to disqualify it, and then an appeal is made to the High Court of Justice which invariably rules in the party’s favor.

He added that in the Knesset, the Arab parties are never given a proper opportunity to air their points of view. “But the law gives you that right,” Rivlin interjected.

Balad chairman Mtanes Shehadeh was concerned that discussion on “the occupied territories” has all but disappeared from Israel’s political discourse.

Abed-Hakim Haj Yahya raised the issue of the numerous work accidents in which Arab and Palestinian construction laborers are involved, and implied that not enough is done to guarantee their safety.

Heba Yazbek emphasized the importance of quelling violence in Nazareth, which could otherwise be a model for Arab social, educational, technological, economic and cultural progress.

Abbas asked Rivlin to organize a series of dialogues between all sectors of Israeli society so that they could get to know each other and overcome ignorance, indifference and animosities.

Rivlin readily agreed and in bringing this final meeting to a close, did so with a statement that has been his mantra ever since taking office: “We are not doomed to live together. We are destined to live together.”

Earlier in the day, Rivlin met with representatives of Labor, Yisrael Beytenu, Union of Right-Wing Parties, Meretz and Kulanu.

Rivlin warmly embraced Labor MK Amir Peretz. The two served as MKs for the first time in 1988, which was also the first year in which Netanyahu became an MK. Rivlin also congratulated Itzik Shmuli on becoming a father. The Labor delegation was led by Avi Gabbay, who as always was critical of Netanyahu, and who when meeting later with the media, refused to say whether or not he would be stepping down from the Labor chairmanship. All his he was prepared to say about his future was that on April 30 he will make his declaration of allegiance at the Knesset. But he emphasized that two terms was the maximum period in which a prime minister should be in office.

Shmuli said that he’d been very excited the first time he became an MK, and he was also excited at becoming a father, but it was a different kind of excitement. He is now worried about what Israel has in store for his son. He was speaking not only as a father, but as a politician.

Rivlin said that in view of the election results, he could not help but remember the 1984 elections when it had been a very close call between the Alignment and Likud. The voter turnout had been 78.9%, with the Alignment receiving 44 seats and Likud 41. Neither Shimon Peres nor Yitzhak Shamir was able to form a government, and then-president Chaim Herzog had persuaded them to form a national unity government with Peres as prime minister for two years while Shamir served as foreign minister, after which they switched roles for two years. Rivlin had hoped to persuade Likud and Blue and White to do something similar, but neither party was willing. Coincidentally, Monday was the 22nd anniversary of Herzog’s death according to the Jewish calendar, and comes out on April 17 on the Gregorian calendar.

Peretz reminded Rivlin that in their early years as legislators, people on opposite sides of the political fence listened to each other. Rivlin concurred, commenting that if you want to get your point across, you have to listen to what the other side is saying.

The task of the opposition in a democratic system is to be the watchdog on behalf of the nation to ensure that civil rights are upheld and that the administration does not abuse its power, said Peretz.

The Yisrael Beytenu delegation was led by the very businesslike Evgeny Sova, who said that his party had stated before the elections that it wanted a right wing government. He was not prepared to say whether or not his party would join the coalition. That would depend on the outcome of negotiations, and whether the government was prepared to accept the party’s conditions, he insisted.

The main point of contention is between religion and state. Yulia Malnikovsky was hopeful that some kind of a balance could be struck.

“We are the defenders of the secular population,” she said. “Election campaigns always bring out the worst in people, but we have to remember that we are one nation, we have no other country and we have to live together.”

Rivlin said that while it is acceptable to disagree and even to demonstrate for one’s values, it is imperative to respect the opinion of the other.

The Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) gave Netanyahu the majority that he needed for Rivlin to give him a mandate to try to form a government. Although there has been some friction between members of URP, chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz was confident that they would stick together. He regretted the breakaway from Bayit Yehudi by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, because their New Right Party – which failed to cross the threshold – had painfully resulted in the waste of 138,556 votes, which would have otherwise been directed to the URP.

One of the demands of the URP will be Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. MK Betzalel Smotrich was jubilant about the nature of the incoming government, but said that it has to make dramatic changes and must be different from the previous right wing government. It should dialogue more with the opposition. He also spoke of his party’s intention to fight for the justice and education portfolios and the reforms that it intends to make both in education and the justice system.

All the parties spoke of difficult and malevolent election campaigns, especially the Arab parties and Meretz.

When Rivlin was asked his opinion about this, his reply was “My opinion will be important only when I’m no longer president.”

Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg decried the attempt to delegitimize not only the Arabs but also the Left. “We’re a left-wing party with values of which we are proud,” she said, listing justice, peace, democracy and equality. “We’re also proud of our partnership with Arabs who want to promote these values together with us.” Esawi Frej, an Arab MK for whom this was the third such visit as a member of the Meretz delegation, credited Rivlin with the fact that Meretz had received the largest number of votes in Kafr Kassem, which in 1956 had suffered a massacre at Israeli hands, with the death toll including children coming to 48. In October, 2014, Rivlin made history by being the first sitting Israeli president to visit Kafr Kassem, to participate in a memorial ceremony for the victims of the massacre and to condemn it. Frej said that the fact that his people wanted to work in partnership with Jews gave him hope for the future.

He suggested that Gantz take stock of remarks that he had made during the election campaign and realize that Arabs are part of the population of Israel.


Roy Folkman, who led the Kulanu delegation, told Rivlin and the media not to take any notice of reports that Kulanu is joining Likud. It’s all speculation, he said, and nothing will be decided until coalition negotiations are held.

Rivlin very delicately asked whether if Kulanu joins another party, would it be as part of that party or as faction within it.

Rivlin was extremely careful throughout all his meetings to maintain his statesmanship and to steer clear of politics. Inasmuch as possible, he also tried to steer his visitors away from politics, saying that the purpose for their meeting was to hear their recommendations.

However, when talking to the media, the politicians were free to say whatever they wanted. Folkman said that there had been too many personal issues in the election campaigns and not enough focus on the public.

He was sorry that Kulanu had not been able to implement all of its plans for social justice and improving the quality of life, but promised to remedy the lacuna the second time around, adding “We want Moshe Kahlon to continue as Finance Minister.”

He omitted the obvious, which was that without joining the coalition, Kahlon can’t be Finance Minister.

Rivlin warmly embraced Labor MK Amir Peretz. The two served as MKs for the first time in 1988, which was also the first year in which Netanyahu became an MK. Rivlin also congratulated Itzik Shmuli on becoming a father. The Labor delegation was led by Avi Gabbay, who as always was critical of Netanyahu, and who when meeting later with the media, refused to say whether or not he would be stepping down from the Labor chairmanship. All his he was prepared to say about his future was that on April 30 he will make his declaration of allegiance at the Knesset. But he emphasized that two terms was the maximum period in which a prime minister should be in office.

Shmuli said that he’d been very excited the first time he became an MK, and he was also excited at becoming a father, but it was a different kind of excitement. He is now worried about what Israel has in store for his son. He was speaking not only as a father, but as a politician.

Rivlin said that in view of the election results, he could not help but remember the 1984 elections when it had been a very close call between the Alignment and Likud. The voter turnout had been 78.9%, with the Alignment receiving 44 seats and Likud 41. Neither Shimon Peres nor Yitzhak Shamir was able to form a government, and then-president Chaim Herzog had persuaded them to form a national unity government with Peres as prime minister for two years while Shamir served as foreign minister, after which they switched roles for two years. Rivlin had hoped to persuade Likud and Blue and White to do something similar, but neither party was willing. Coincidentally, Monday was the 22nd anniversary of Herzog’s death according to the Jewish calendar, and comes out on April 17 on the Gregorian calendar.

Peretz reminded Rivlin that in their early years as legislators, people on opposite sides of the political fence listened to each other. Rivlin concurred, commenting that if you want to get your point across, you have to listen to what the other side is saying.

The task of the opposition in a democratic system is to be the watchdog on behalf of the nation to ensure that civil rights are upheld and that the administration does not abuse its power, said Peretz.

The Yisrael Beytenu delegation was led by the very businesslike Evgeny Sova, who said that his party had stated before the elections that it wanted a right wing government. He was not prepared to say whether or not his party would join the coalition. That would depend on the outcome of negotiations, and whether the government was prepared to accept the party’s conditions, he insisted.

The main point of contention is between religion and state. Yulia Malnikovsky was hopeful that some kind of a balance could be struck.

“We are the defenders of the secular population,” she said. “Election campaigns always bring out the worst in people, but we have to remember that we are one nation, we have no other country and we have to live together.”

Rivlin said that while it is acceptable to disagree and even to demonstrate for one’s values, it is imperative to respect the opinion of the other.

The Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) gave Netanyahu the majority that he needed for Rivlin to give him a mandate to try to form a government. Although there has been some friction between members of URP, chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz was confident that they would stick together. He regretted the breakaway from Bayit Yehudi by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, because their New Right Party – which failed to cross the threshold – had painfully resulted in the waste of 138,556 votes, which would have otherwise been directed to the URP.

One of the demands of the URP will be Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. MK Betzalel Smotrich was jubilant about the nature of the incoming government, but said that it has to make dramatic changes and must be different from the previous right wing government. It should dialogue more with the opposition. He also spoke of his party’s intention to fight for the justice and education portfolios and the reforms that it intends to make both in education and the justice system.

All the parties spoke of difficult and malevolent election campaigns, especially the Arab parties and Meretz.

When Rivlin was asked his opinion about this, his reply was “My opinion will be important only when I’m no longer president.”

Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg decried the attempt to delegitimize not only the Arabs but also the Left. “We’re a left-wing party with values of which we are proud,” she said, listing justice, peace, democracy and equality. “We’re also proud of our partnership with Arabs who want to promote these values together with us.” Esawi Frej, an Arab MK for whom this was the third such visit as a member of the Meretz delegation, credited Rivlin with the fact that Meretz had received the largest number of votes in Kafr Kassem, which in 1956 had suffered a massacre at Israeli hands, with the death toll including children coming to 48. In October, 2014, Rivlin made history by being the first sitting Israeli president to visit Kafr Kassem, to participate in a memorial ceremony for the victims of the massacre and to condemn it. Frej said that the fact that his people wanted to work in partnership with Jews gave him hope for the future.

He suggested that Gantz take stock of remarks that he had made during the election campaign and realize that Arabs are part of the population of Israel.

Roy Folkman, who led the Kulanu delegation, told Rivlin and the media not to take any notice of reports that Kulanu is joining Likud. It’s all speculation, he said, and nothing will be decided until coalition negotiations are held.

Rivlin very delicately asked whether if Kulanu joins another party, would it be as part of that party or as faction within it.

Rivlin was extremely careful throughout all his meetings to maintain his statesmanship and to steer clear of politics. Inasmuch as possible, he also tried to steer his visitors away from politics, saying that the purpose for their meeting was to hear their recommendations.

However, when talking to the media, the politicians were free to say whatever they wanted. Folkman said that there had been too many personal issues in the election campaigns and not enough focus on the public.

He was sorry that Kulanu had not been able to implement all of its plans for social justice and improving the quality of life, but promised to remedy the lacuna the second time around, adding “We want Moshe Kahlon to continue as Finance Minister.”

He omitted the obvious, which was that without joining the coalition, Kahlon can’t be Finance Minister.

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