Grapevine April 24, 2020: Is the next step a triumvirate?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

INDEPENDENCE DAY Flags.  (photo credit: UNSPLASH)
(photo credit: UNSPLASH)
INTERVIEWED ON KAN Reshet Bet about agreements, developments and hurdles of the yet to be approved and appointed new unity government, former justice minister Prof. Daniel Friedman, in cognizance of the law that says that an indicted person other than the prime minister cannot serve as a government minister, noted that the future title of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he swaps places with Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and becomes the vice prime minister – or according to the Hebrew replacement prime minister – quipped that Israel might be heading in the direction of the Triumvirate of Rome. He was referring to the three-man rule in 37 BCE by Mark Antony, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Octavian, who later became Augustus Caesar (perhaps another hint that when Netanyahu stops being prime minister he will become Israel's next president – a subject frequently raised of late).
One of the interesting legal problems is what happens if a minister resigns or dies during Netanyahu's term as prime minister. According to law, the prime minister automatically assumes any vacated ministerial position until the appointment of another minister or acting minister.
There has also been a debate about an official residence for incoming co-prime minister Benny Gantz. If the apartment in the capital's Jabotinsky Street that was once occupied by the late Knesset speaker Menachem Savidor, and in later years by former president Yitzhak Navon up to the time of his death, is still state property, it could certainly serve as the official residence for Gantz. It is located on what is more or less a triangle between the Prime Minister's Residence and the President's Residence, within less than five minutes' walk in either direction.
ALTHOUGH THE media persists in mistakenly referring to the Prime Minister's Residence as being in Balfour Street, when the front entrance is in fact onSmolenskin Street, the person whose home is on Balfour Street is Supreme Court President Esther Hayut.
COMPARED TO previous Independence Days, it will be difficult to summon up national pride this year. Sometimes one has to look back on how little one had in the past in order to appreciate what one has in the present.
On November 29, 1947 at the General Assembly of the UN, 33 countries voted in favor of the partition of Palestine, 13 were against and 10 abstained. Not all those who voted in favor were prepared to recognize the nascent State of Israel on May 14, 1948 or even at some later stage in that year.
There has long been an argument as to whether it was the US or the Soviet Union which first recognized Israel.
On the actual date of the proclamation of independence, US President Harry S. Truman announced America's recognition of the provisional government, 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion read out the Declaration of Independence. It took another seven months before America gave Israel de jure recognition, but the Soviet Union gave Israel de jure recognition on May 17, 1948, and was the first country in the world to send an ambassador to Israel.
In fact, ambassador Pavel Yershov arrived in Israel in August 1948, six months before Israel had a president and therefore presented his credentials to Ben-Gurion.
James G. McDonald, the first US ambassador to Israel, was the first ambassador to present credentials to Chaim Weizmann on March 29, 1949.
At that time, the seat of government was in the Kirya in Tel Aviv, and it was there that the presentation ceremony was held.
According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report of the event:
"The Ambassador was escorted from the embassy to Hakirya, the seat of the government, in president Weizmann’s state car escorted by a squad of army and police motorcyclists. The ambassadorial party, whose vehicles were decorated with Stars and Stripes and red-white-and-blue streamers, was received at the government offices by a hand playing the Star Spangled Banner. After the 20 minute formal ceremony, refreshments were served."
These days, there's still a little more pomp and ceremony for a US ambassador than there is for ambassadors of other countries, because despite occasional differences of opinion between different administrations, America has been Israel's most steadfast and supportive ally for 72 years.
When the UN took the vote that determined the establishment of the Jewish state, there were only 56 member states. Today, there are 193, of which 162 have diplomatic relations with Israel, despite increasing global antisemitism and pressures by certain Muslim states.
That's quite an achievement in just over seven decades, especially considering Israel's starting point as a state.
Moreover, the two superpowers which supported the establishment of the State of Israel are today among Israel's best friends.
Netanyahu enjoys a special relationship with Russia's President Vladimir Putin and with America's President Donald Trump, each of who has shown great consideration for Israel – Trump initially by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and Putin by facilitating the return to Israel of the remains of Zachary Baumel and by pardoning Naama Issachar, who was arrested a year ago and sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing a minute quantity of marijuana.
Although relations between Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin are proper, they are tinged with hostility. There was even greater hostility between Weizmann and Ben-Gurion. It was Weizmann who played an important role in the drafting of what is now known as the Balfour Declaration.Without it, we might not yet have a State of Israel. As a former president of the World Zionist Congress, Weizmann was instrumental beyond the Balfour Declaration, in the establishment of the state. Following Weizmann's election as president in February, 1949, Ben-Gurion systematically deprived him of power and influence, so much so that according to his nephew Ezer Weizman, who was Israel's seventh president, Chaim Weizmann used to complain bitterly that the only thing in which he was permitted to poke his nose was his handkerchief.
THERE WAS a time when journalists were expected to give impartial reports of stories so that readers, radio listeners or television viewers could form their own opinions based on facts.
But journalists have increasingly become opinionated, and sometimes argue with their interviewees to the extent that they are not only shouting at them, but are not even allowing them to finish a sentence. Now, when children have become captive to various kinds of media, this is certainly not the best example to give them. Some parents have already complained about this negative influence, saying their children are so busy wanting to put forward their own viewpoints, that they don't have the patience to listen to anyone else. But there are exceptions to every rule. One can't say that Channel 13's Noga Nir Neeman was objective when she interviewed Yuval Carmi, the owner of a falafel stand who was not allowed to operate his business during the government's national lockdown. Carmi, who is far from being a young man, broke down during the interview and wept because he had no income and therefore was unable to provide for his family. He couldn't even buy a gift for his newborn grandchild. This was too much for Nir Neeman, and she began to weep herself and turned away from the camera. The effect on a soft-hearted public was instant and amazing. Both she and Channel 13 were inundated with calls from generous people who wanted to place mega orders for takeaway falafel and who also wanted to donate money to Carmi. After all, how often does one see a television interviewer cry? Carmi has received so many orders that he has now had to put people on a waiting list. While Nir Neeman is delighted that her tears helped to boost his business and to bring out the best in the Israeli people, she was quick to note that Carmi is one of tens of thousands of people who have lost their income and have not been able to re-open their businesses. The government should be doing more to help them, she says.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE of the beautiful Israeli was published in a column by Liora Goldman, a society writer in Maariv, who wrote about the passing of Brandel Maisels, the 97 year old grandmother of actor and film director Guilhad Emilio Schenker. Born in Poland, Maisels at age 15 moved with her family to Buenos Aires in Argentina. In 1973, she realized her dream to settle in Israel, and almost immediately became a volunteer with the IDF. She continued to work as a volunteer till not long before her death, and as far as is known was the oldest civilian volunteer working for the army. She was recognized by president Shimon Peres for her dedicated years of service.
She was a beloved figure in Kiryat Ono where she lived and was survived by her four children and their spouses, 13 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. Her final wish before she died was to have her favorite song “My Yiddishe Mama” sung by her favorite singer, Dudu Fisher, at her funeral. Her family was willing to pay whatever fee he asked, but Fisher declined payment. The request to sing at the funeral was not unusual. He receives many such requests, which he usually declines, but this time some inexplicable emotional force moved him, and he immediately agreed. He met a wonderfully warm and loving family, which in lieu of the payment that he had refused offered to invite him after the COVID-19 crisis is over, to a kosher asado dinner. That was something that Fisher was prepared to accept.