Speaking out of Two Sides of the Mouth

The Israeli government is making itself famous for making public statements to the media that it appears to have no intention of actually living by.

When reports surfaced that some burial societies were preventing women from eulogizing their dead, the Religious services ministry promised to change the contracts to require that women be permitted to eulogize.  Soon after it backed off saying it need a rabbinic opinion from the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar.  When public pressure made that position untenable, it agreed to use an older opinion by Chief Rabbi Metzger permitting women to eulogize.  However, instead of the promised changes in contracts it only issued instructions to the burial society.  The Religious Services Ministry has no authority to enforce these instructions so this amounts to window dressing.

Amid much fanfare the IDF announced it would require all soldiers to attend official ceremonies regardless of whether women are singing.  However, now there are rumors that soldiers may indeed walk out even on official ceremonies without consequences.

This summer Israelis gathered week after week in cities across the country for mass rallies to protest the high cost of living for middle class Israelis.   Prime Minister Netanyahu responded by setting up a committee that was supposed to make bold proposals for change.   However, a month later when its report was released, the proposals were anemic.   They offered a handful of changes, all of which would be funded without any budget increases.  The money was supposed to come from defense cuts.  Kadima called it a deception that spit in the face of millions of IsraelisThe IDF said cuts were unrealisticLabor said that it will never be implemented because it merely shifted funds from one place to another.    And indeed it hasn’t been – this December the IDF budget was increased, not decreased.

And perhaps one has to wonder whether the Trachtenberg commission was ever intended to be more than window dressing.  As the Mossawa Center observed:

The committee’s assertion that it is unable to reevaluate the allocation of the State Budget sets the tone of the entire report. The report does not propose to make any changes to socio-economic policy because the committee does not have the mandate to do so. However, the most unfortunate and disappointing aspect is that the committee employed the discourse of the protest movement to frame the report, but refrained from applying the demands of the discourse to the content of the report and the recommendations. Therefore, on face value, the report seems promising. However upon further investigation, it becomes abundantly clear that the report is lacking substantial means to achieve progress.

The committee wasn’t even allowed to consider an appropriate range of changes.  Further when a committee has no authority of its own, then it must rely on its convener, i.e.  the Prime Minister to use his political clout to carry out its proposals.   Not only did the scope of the report fall well short of its stated mission,  Netanyahu has done nothing to mobilize likud to carry out even its scaled down proposals.

In all of these cases the lesson is clear:  the Netanyahu government is only too happy to tell us what we want to hear even when it has no intention of doing anything other than business as usual.

Categories: Building a Just Israel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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