GRAPEVINE: Her father’s daughter

THE WEEKEND edition of Israel Hayom ran an interview with former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who is ninth on the Likud election list. Barkat has his eye on the Finance Ministry.

By
March 26, 2019 21:56
Israeli writer Amos Oz

Amos Oz. (photo credit: DANNY MECHLIS/BGU)

 
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Taking up where her late father left off is Fania Oz-Salzberger, the oldest daughter of Amos Oz, who shares his political views, and who on Sunday, March 31, will be speaking at a memorial event for her father at Temple Sinai, Washington.

The commemoration is under the auspices of J Street, which regards Oz as its “spiritual god-parent providing perhaps the most motivating and memorable moment in our 10-year history, when he told our 2012 conference he had been waiting for our movement his entire adult life,” states a memorandum of that event.

Speakers in addition to Oz-Salzberger – who last week tweeted an invitation for people to join her at “J Street the political home for pro-Israel pro-Peace Americans” – are actress Natalie Portman, who is sending a video message, author Roger Cohen, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami, Rabbi Jonathan Ross of Temple Sinai, Rabbi Stephanie Crawley of Temple Micah, and Rabbi Esther Lederman of the Union for Reform Judaism.

■ MARCH 31 SEEMS to be a significant date. While Oz-Salzberger will be in Washington, President Reuven Rivlin and British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will be in Canada, though not for the same purpose and not in the same places. Rivlin will be on a state visit at the invitation of Canadian Governor-General Julie Payette and will visit Toronto, Niagara Falls and Ottawa, whereas Mirvis will be in Vancouver for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Congregation Beth Hamidrash, which is Western Canada’s only Sephardi congregation.

But the primary purpose of Mirvis’s visit is to officiate at the induction of Rabbi Shlomo Gabay, who became the congregation’s spiritual leader exactly a year ago. He came to Vancouver with his wife, Rachel, and their three daughters, after serving in Gibraltar at the Jewish boys’ high school. He also founded and directed the Shovavim project, in which participants undertake six weeks of intensive Jewish learning.

Mirvis will be the third chief rabbi of the Commonwealth to visit British Columbia. The first was Rabbi Dr. Joseph Herman Hertz, who in 1921 visited Vancouver and Victoria. It was the first time that a chief rabbi of what was then the British Empire had visited a country outside of the United Kingdom. It took almost 70 years before a similar visit was undertaken by Lord Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, who visited Vancouver in 1990.

■ ON LOCAL turf, at 7 p.m. on March 31, Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay will speak in English at Ichud Olam, 86 Ben-Yehuda Street, Tel Aviv. The event is free of charge, including wine and other refreshments. There will be ample opportunities for Q&A.

■ APROPOS FREE of charge, Amanda Weiss, director of the Bible Lands Museum, has decided to provide a much-deserved respite for residents of the south of the country, and will give them full access to museum activities at no charge. The museum has numerous outlets for children. The offer is open from March 26-March 30 inclusive. For further information call (02) 561-1066.

■ AN UNEXPECTED honor awaited veteran actor and director Ze’ev Revach when he went to Kiryat Motzkin to perform in Restless Seniors before an audience of some 900 theater lovers. Dafna Zury, the director of the Kiryat Motzkin Theater, had a surprise in store for him. Only the best of the best are offered a special seat of honor in the heart of the auditorium with the name of the honoree engraved on it. Revach, who over the years has been the recipient of several awards, was thrilled with the recognition, after Zury mounted the stage and announced the fact, to the accompaniment of cheers and applause. Revach is a very popular actor, and he was particularly appreciative of the honor, considering other stage and screen personalities who had received it previously – among them the late Hanna Maron, Lea Koenig and Gila Almagor. “I’ve received many compliments and many prizes,” said Revach, “but this is the most meaningful of them all.”

■ IT’S NOT all that surprising that Romania will be the first European country to open an embassy in Jerusalem. It should be remembered that of all the Soviet Bloc countries, Romania was the only one that did not sever relations with Israel. In addition, Romania was a behind-the-scenes facilitator of peace talks between Israel and Egypt, and it is therefore fitting that in the 40th anniversary year of the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Romania should celebrate its role in that by transferring its embassy to Jerusalem.

There is also significance in the fact that Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila chose to announce the transfer at AIPAC. Presumably, she will come to Israel for the transfer ceremony, and will be hailed by women’s organizations as her country’s first female prime minister.

■ THE WEEKEND edition of Israel Hayom ran an interview with former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who is ninth on the Likud election list. Barkat has his eye on the Finance Ministry, but said that he would gladly serve wherever Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks him to serve.

Barkat, who is one of the most affluent politicians in Israel, made his money in hi-tech, and actually got into politics because he was unhappy with the education system. Once he became involved in education, he also became involved with philanthropy, and from there, politics was the next step.

In the interview, he said: “I always tell young people who want to get into politics that, first of all, they should get their own houses in order. In my work as mayor on a salary of NIS 1 a year, no idiot would dare to approach me with offers of bribes or anything like that.” Barkat recalled his two predecessors who were convicted on corruption charges, with one going to prison and the other spared that indignity, due to serious health issues. “At the end of the day, I’m coming to the Knesset with my hands clean to serve the public on [a salary of] NIS 1 a year, just like I did in the Jerusalem Municipality. Will they want me? Will they like me? If they’re happy with my work, I’ll stay. If they don’t want me, I’ll do what I love to do – go fishing in Tiberias.”

Barkat has not done his homework. There is no provision for a NIS 1-a-year MK. Barkat will be earning just under NIS 48,000 per month before taxes. He may decide to give this to charity, or he might open a trust fund for his daughters. As he prides himself on being untainted by corruption, he might ponder whether there is something corrupt in the Knesset voting on its own salary increases while keeping the basic wage at an intolerably low level.

■ WHILE NETANYAHU’S name is annually synonymous with the AIPAC conference, this year, the name of his chief political rival, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, was also listed among the many speakers at the three-day affair. Gantz also received considerable publicity, though many thought that it was a mistake on his part to go up against Netanyahu at an English-speaking event. They could not know at the time that the security situation in Israel would cause Netanyahu to bow out of AIPAC. Gantz speaks passable English, but cannot compare to Netanyahu as an orator.

Netanyahu, as a responsible prime minister and defense minister, returned home following the Gaza rocket attack on Moshav Mishmeret and the subsequent escalation of rocket fire from Gaza, leaving the AIPAC field open to Gantz, but not before the White House ceremony in which President Donald Trump signed the executive decree in which the US recognizes Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Though showing signs of elation at the ceremony, Netanyahu was somewhat peeved that this recognition had not been sufficiently played up by the Israeli media, and said so to the journalists who had accompanied him to Washington.

Ultimately, Netanyahu decided not to deprive the AIPAC audience, and after coming home gave his address via satellite, but it was not quite the same as Bibi in the flesh.

There were many other Israelis, several of them American-born or of American parentage, politicians from different parties, former diplomats, representatives of NGOs, hi-tech entrepreneurs and more congregating and networking at AIPAC. There were also at least as many with obviously Israeli names who were heads of academic, hi-tech, and NGO institutions and organizations in the US.

Among the listed visiting Israelis, or those who, because of their positions, qualify as temporary residents, were, in alphabetical order: Yosef Abramowitz, CEO and president, Energiya Global Capital; Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies; Danny Ayalon, founder of The Truth about Israel and former ambassador to the US; Tal Becker, legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry; Dr. Nathalie Bloch, head of innovation at Sheba Medical Center; Gilad Cohen, deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific, Foreign Ministry; Danny Danon, ambassador to the United Nations; Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president and founder, Shurat HaDin; George Deek, ambassador-designate to Azerbaijan; Ron Dermer, ambassador to the United States; Col. (res.) Miri Eisen, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya; Michael Freund, head of Shavei Israel; Daniel Gordis, Shalem College; Sam Grundwerg, world chairman, United Israel Appeal; Aryeh Halivni, founder, Toldot Yisrael; Tzachi Hanegbi, minister for regional cooperation; Gil Haskel, head of Mashav; Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president, Shalom Hartman Institute; Prof. Reuven Hazan, the Hebrew University; Yoaz Hendel, Blue and White Party; Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, fellow, Jewish People Policy Institute; Rami Hod, executive director, Berl Katznelson Educational Center; Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief, The Jerusalem Post; Dr. Emily Landau, senior research fellow, Institute for National Security Studies; Marlene Mazel, director, foreign and counterterrorism litigation, Justice Ministry; Labor MK Merav Michaeli; Likud MK Amir Ohana; Zohar Palti, Defense Ministry; Yohanan Plesner, president, Israel Democracy Institute; Itamar Rabinovich, president, Israel Institute, and former ambassador to the US; Rivka Ravitz, right-hand woman to President Rivlin; Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat; Gideon Sa’ar, member of the Likud and former minister and cabinet secretary; Labor MK Stav Shaffir; Gilad Sher, senior research fellow, Institute National Security Studies; Dr. Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies; MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, Blue and White Party; and Eitan Yudilevich, Israel-America Chamber of Commerce.

AIPAC is to be congratulated on its overall gender balance. It is rare to see so many women listed as speakers in an organization of this kind.

■ DEPENDING ON the number of parties that cross the threshold to qualify for seats in the Knesset, Rivlin may have to drag out the time for consultations with representative delegations from each party to get their recommendations for the person they consider to be most suitable to lead the incoming government. After that, no one knows exactly how long it will take to form a coalition. Generally speaking, once the coalition agreements are settled and a new government is formed, the inauguration ceremony takes place at the President’s Residence.

In 1984, when the Labor Party was much stronger than it is now, president Chaim Herzog had the headache of choosing between Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir, who were running neck and neck in the recommendations. Herzog pushed for a national unity government, and in the end, there was a unity government, with a rotation agreement reached after 40 intensive days of negotiation. The government was initially headed by Peres, and 25 months later, there was a new government headed by Shamir. In accordance with the terms of the agreement, Shamir was foreign minister under the Peres-led administration, and later the two swapped roles, and Peres became foreign minister under the Shamir-led administration. The coalition included 97 of the 120 members of Knesset.

This year, the situation is somewhat more complicated, as the only existing rotation agreement is between Gantz and Yair Lapid. Gantz has waffled over whether he will sit in a government with Netanyahu; Lapid has declared that he won’t. In the event that Netanyahu is tasked to form the next government, will Lapid agree to eat humble pie, or will there be a disintegration of Blue and White? On the other hand, if Gantz is tasked to form a government, would Netanyahu agree to play second fiddle? Then again, if Rivlin took his cue from Herzog, would he urge a national unity government?


We live in decidedly interesting times. Perhaps Rivlin will have a private consultation with Herzog on April 15, when he attends the memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl, commemorating the 22nd anniversary of Herzog’s death. The president attends such
commemoration ceremonies for deceased presidents and prime ministers several times a year. Of Israel’s former presidents, Peres is the only one who also served as prime minister, and like Herzog is also buried in the special section for leaders of the nation on Mount Herzl. Other presidents buried there are Zalman Shazar and Yitzhak Navon.

Israel’s first and fourth presidents, Chaim Weizmann and Ephraim Katzir, are buried in Rehovot. The second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, is buried on Har Hamenuhot in Jerusalem, and the seventh president, Ezer Weizman, is buried in Or Akiva. Likewise, not all of Israel’s deceased prime ministers are buried on Mount Herzl. Founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion is buried in Sde Boker. Moshe Sharett is buried in Tel Aviv’s historic Trumpeldor Cemetery, Menachem Begin on the Mount of Olives and Ariel Sharon on the Sycamore Farm. Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir are buried on Mount Herzl.

As yet, there are no limitations on the number of terms a prime minister can serve. Of the 12 individuals who have held the office of prime minister, three are still living. They are Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Netanyahu. Of the 10 who have held the office of president, Moshe Katsav and Rivlin are still living. The role of president is limited to one seven-year term.

■ ONLY TWO of the seven representatives of political parties who this week participated in the Post’s preelection debate at Beit Avi Chai had any hope that their leader would be tasked to form a government and, if successful, would be the next prime minister. In October 2008, Tzipi Livni, who had been tasked by president Peres to form a government, had to go back to him and tell him that she was unsuccessful. On the Post’s debating panel, the only two people whose leaders have a chance of being the next prime minister were Eli Hazan, representing the Likud, and Ruth Wasserman, representing Blue and White.

The other panelists were Uri Zaki of Meretz, Roy Folkman of Kulanu, former Post columnist Caroline Glick of the New Right, Michal Biran of Labor and Davidi Ben Zion from the Union of Right-Wing Parties.

It is very difficult to conduct a proper debate in a country that continues to tolerate a multiparty system, because in the hour-and-a-half to two hours in which the debate takes place, there is very little opportunity for participants to say much, especially when they are being heckled. It would have been a lot worse if all the parties had been represented.

One member of the capacity audience asked why there was no representative from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and was told that they don’t usually want to participate in panel discussions. No one asked why there were no Arab representatives, though equal rights for Arab citizens certainly came up in the conversation, as did fair conditions for Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria.

In the plethora of Hebrew, English and Russian political debates hosted by various media outlets and academic institutions in recent weeks, with more to come, few people get to say anything that might persuade voters in one direction or another. At the Post’s event, Glick was able to spell out her views more than the other panelists, primarily because she was the first speaker; secondly, because she is a very passionate orator, who fiercely believes in what she’s talking about; and thirdly, because she exercised a certain belligerence that was not emulated by her colleagues at the table. In fact, Hazan and Folkman each took her to task, saying that while they respect her right to voice her views, it was unacceptable for her to keep overriding other speakers, when no one interrupted her, when it was her turn to speak.

The quietly spoken Wasserman was asked by a member of the audience to explain Blue and White’s policy, which Wasserman had earlier stated had been drafted on 57 pages, with specific regard to improving the quality of life for various sectors of the public. Repeating this, she asked her questioner on which issue she wanted her to speak. But the questioner had her own ideas and butted in on every sentence. Without losing her cool, Wasserman sweetly stated that the questioner would not hear her reply, if she kept on interrupting her.

Zaki, realizing the limited opportunities to put his point across, had one eye on the soccer game relayed via his cellphone, and from time to time announced the score in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying tournament match between Israel and Austria, in which Israel scored a 4-2 victory. He did, however, explain that in terms of who will be the next prime minister, it does not depend on which party gets the votes, but which is the largest bloc that will recommend a particular member of Knesset to Rivlin.

Among the topics that came up for comment and discussion were reform of the justice system; who should decide the eligibility of Knesset candidates; the woes of the health system; the rights of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs; whether the mandatory retirement age should be abolished; the need to close the academic and economic gaps between the center of the country and communities living in the peripheries; separation of religion and state; and equal rights in all respects for the LGBTQ community.

With regard to the latter two topics, Biran advocated that everyone should be permitted to practice their faith as they see fit, including in matters of marriage, parenthood and death. Unmarried, but six months pregnant and anticipating a daughter, Biran disclosed that the father of her child is a gay man who will certainly play a part in the child’s life. In other words, her daughter, unlike most other children with gay parents, will not have two mothers or two fathers, but will have the traditional mother and father. This will not stop Biran from fighting for LGBTQ rights and for the cessation of control over people’s lives by the Chief Rabbinate.

She cited the ludicrous situation that affects her own family. Her sister was married in Israel by a non-Orthodox rabbi, and the marriage is therefore not recognized in Israel, whereas her brother was married in a civil ceremony in New York, and that marriage is recognized in Israel.

Ben Zion, though stressing that Israel is the Jewish homeland, was very clear about Israeli-Arab citizens being entitled to equal rights, and Palestinians in the (disputed) territories being entitled to the same employment conditions as Jews.

Glick spoke on the widest range of subjects and advocated that Naftali Bennett should be the next defense minister.

Folkman came to the defense of both the army and the judiciary, saying more than once that they should not be delegitimized. He also stated that members of the legislature should not be permitted to decide who is eligible to run for Knesset, but that this should be a matter for the judiciary.

Hazan maintained his belief in Netanyahu’s virtues, praising his diplomatic triumphs and voicing confidence in Netanyahu’s ability to overcome his legal problems.

While two or three of the panelists may have agreed on any specific issue, the only thing on which there was absolute consensus was that, regardless of which party they support, every citizen of Israel must go out and vote.

■ IN A reverse of the old adage of “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain,” Yediot Aharonot this week published the heart-warming story of 82-year-old Moroccan-born Isadore Sabag, who is currently suffering from a debilitating disease which has robbed him of his speech and has confined him to a wheelchair.

For more than 50 years, Sabag, a resident of the northern region of the country, participated in every parade in Israel, but especially in the annual 20-kilometer Gilboa parade. When organizers called him this year, his son answered the phone and explained that Sabag is no longer capable of marching in parades.

So Sivan Goldberg, the director of the Gilboa communities, in cooperation with regional council head Oved Nur, decided to bring a parade delegation to Sabag, and to award him with a certificate, a medal and a trophy cup, in recognition of the fact that he had participated in 52 Gilboa parades.

In addition to participating in the parades, Sabag had also been an active volunteer, for which he had previously received recognition. “His story is the epitome of modern Zionism,” said Nur, adding that Sabag’s involvement in education and sport in the region, together with his love of the land and of nature, was an inspiration to everyone.

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