Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements that he would oversee ultra-conservative MK Avi Maoz’s actions after he receives control of the education system’s external programs are false, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid said.
“Netanyahu, you at least once knew how to lie,” Lapid wrote on Facebook on Sunday. He accused the Likud chairman of knowing fully well that he would not be able to oversee Maoz’s actions in what is known as the GEFEN unit – a Hebrew acronym that means “pedagogic managerial flexibility” – but of promising it regardless.
What is the Israeli GEFEN unit?
The unit is responsible for “the development and leading of dialogue between societal sectors in the units of the Education Ministry while imparting skills for sharing processes and creating a culture of participatory governance.”
Everything from art programs to science programs to political and societal programs is offered by external organizations with the approval of the unit.
GEFEN is currently part of the Education Ministry, but according to the coalition agreement between the Likud and Maoz’s Noam Party, it will be transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office and placed under Maoz, who is openly anti-LGBTQ and chauvinistic.
“Netanyahu is saying it because he knows that he did a terrible thing – giving a dangerous racist a budget of over NIS 2 billion, with an open door into the hearts and minds of every student in Israel,” Lapid wrote.
Netanyahu, Lapid clash once again
Lapid argued that even in the Likud there has been a realization that giving the unit to Maoz was a mistake, but that Netanyahu had no choice because he was “being extorted these days by people who are younger and more determined than him.”
“It will not help him this time. Israelis are willing to turn a blind eye to many things, but not when it comes to their children,” Lapid wrote.
Lapid’s post on Sunday came after he and Netanyahu clashed on Facebook on Friday over a letter that the outgoing prime minister wrote to all of the country’s municipal leaders calling on them to use their authority to combat changes that Maoz will attempt to make.
Netanyahu “strongly condemned” what he called an attempt by Lapid to call on senior military officers and mayors to rebel against his future government.
“Lapid’s behavior is dangerous and harmful to democracy,” Netanyahu wrote. Lapid responded by stating he would “not take lectures” from Netanyahu on democracy.
“You had no respect for democracy for even a single moment in the past 18 months. We will fight on and find every legal avenue to maintain Israel’s status as a Jewish, democratic and liberal state,” he added.
Netanyahu to NBC: I am on the wheel
Netanyahu, in an interview on NBC that was aired on Sunday, brushed off US Jews’ concern over the power given to Maoz. Netanyahu argued that Ra’am, an Islamist party that “answers to the Muslim Brotherhood and does not support LGBT or women’s rights” was a part of the previous government and no one complained against that. Lapid’s current comments were merely an excuse to stir up unrest and a symptom of not accepting the election results, Netanyahu argued.
He stressed that he was the one who would “hold the steering wheel” of the upcoming government and that he would be the one to decide policy – and, as his record shows, he will not allow for LGBTQ and women’s rights to be curtailed.
Netanyahu also said in the interview that there would be a “serious discussion” about the initiative to cancel the “grandfather clause” in the Law of Return, but that the law will likely not be changed.
The clause enables anyone with one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel, even if he or she is not Jewish according to Halacha.
Netanyahu met on Sunday with the representatives of United Torah Judaism in an attempt to settle the remaining issues in the sides’ coalition agreement. The Likud chairman also met separately with the representatives of UTJ’s hassidic Agudat Yisrael faction, MKs Yitzhak Goldknopf and Meir Porush.
A central remaining issue in the negotiations is that Agudat Yisrael is demanding the reenactment of the Tal Law from 2002, which grants ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students who wish an exemption from IDF or national service, but was struck down by the High Court in 2012. A reenactment would likely be struck down again, but an override clause would enable the Knesset to override the High Court ruling.
Porush is reportedly UTJ’s candidate for Jerusalem affairs minister, which will be split from the Heritage Ministry. The latter will be given to Otzma Yehudit. UTJ reportedly claimed that Otzma Yehudit received nearly all of the power of the former ministry, and the haredi party is demanding that the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry receive wider powers.
KAN reported on Sunday that UTJ MK Uri Maklev will receive two deputy minister positions. The first is deputy transportation minister, where Maklev will receive control of the haredi public transportation system, and the second is a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, where he will receive control of the Authority for the Development of the Haredi Sector.
Other probable jobs will include Goldknopf as housing minister and MK Yakov Asher as the Knesset Interior Committee chairman. UTJ is also expected to receive chairmanship of the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee and the Special Knesset Committee for Public Petitions.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday called on the party leaders in the opposition to band together and create a forum to coordinate actions against the “expected harm to democracy.”
“I see the reality emerging from the coalition agreements and the violation of democratic values, and I think it is important to found an executive forum that will begin to think about combined parliamentary, public and media initiatives,” Gantz said.
Tzvi Joffre and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.