-- January 4, 2012- Actions Against Iran, Charedim vs Secular, Coalition Difficulties

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 4, 2012- Actions Against Iran, Charedim vs Secular, Coalition Difficulties?

It looks like the United States and the EU are actually taking the maximum action possible to pressure Iran into stopping its nuclear program. The EU has decided to ban the purchase of Iranian oil, while President Obama has signed a bill that will force almost every company in the world to choose whether they want to do business with Iran or the United States. These are finally sanctions that may be strong enough to change the Iranian's minds. Of course, it is not clear that the Iranians are capable of acting rationally. Yesterday's threat by the Iranian Chief of Staff warning the US not to send an aircraft carrier back through the Straits of Hormuz, was one of the most irrational statements I have heard in a long time. There are only two options: one, he is bluffing. However, this is a bluff that the US Navy will call in short order. Alternatively, he really plans to attack a US Carrier Task Force. Let's assume the worst case scenario: Iran could succeed in the attack and actually sink a US warship in international territory. That would be a very clear act of war against the US; an act that could only be responded to by all out war. Do the Iranians really want that? Is it possible they do not understand Americans enough to understand the consequences? It is possible they do not understand, since the US did not attack in 1979 when the hostages were taken.

The questions that surround relations between the Charedi world and the rest of Israeli society continued today. It was announced last night that the Chief Rabbi of the Air Force, who was in charge of the special project to integrate a small number of Charedim into the IDF, was resigning. The Chief Rabbi claimed he was forced to resign as a result of the fact that promises were not being kept relating to keeping the Charedi soldiers away for all contact with woman.

It is my sense the conflict may have finally reached a point that will not fade away quickly. The secular society has finally woken up to the fact that time is running out. I was speaking to a cab driver the other day and he asked me: Do you realize that Charedim pay nothing for education for nursery school? and that they do not pay Arnona (property tax), since they do not work? They do not pay anything for medical insurance, or most things that the average Israeli pays. The cab driver, a native born Israeli, in his 50's, seemed genuinely shocked at these facts he had discovered over the previous weeks. Now as soon as Israeli society realizes the connection between what they were protesting over the summer and the resources that the Charedi world consumes we might really see a national revolt on the subject.

The government coalition, which for a while, seemed like such a well oiled machine, has shown more and more signs of discord in the past few weeks. The latest sign of dissonance cropped up over an attempt to pass a law that would invalidate the selection of the judicial appointment committee by the bar association. The ultimate attempt is to make sure Likud supporters are the majority on the committee (that committee is about to select new Supreme Court Judges) and not supporters of the current, more liberal Supreme Court Chief Justice, Dorit Beinisch. The general goal of maintaining conservative control of the Supreme Court is supported by most of the coalition (and certainly by most of the Likud members). The initial plan had been to pass a law regulating how the Bar Association voted... before it voted. However, the government could not get that vote passed in time. The Bar Association voted two new representatives to the committee, both of whom are considered supporters of the current Supreme Court Chief Justice. Now, after the bar association has already voted an attempt was made to pass a law to invalidate that vote. The deputy legal advisor to the government came out in the Knesset against this tactic, saying it violates the norms of democracy to invalidate a vote retroactively. Despite the deputy legal advisor's plea, the Knesset was going to go ahead anyway, until there was a near revolt among the major Likud Ministers: Dan Meridor, Gideon Saar, and Limor Livnat (all of whom are lawyers). While these ministers may or may not support the goal of stacking the court with judges who better reflect the Likud's views, they could stomach such a violation of due process. As a result, the law has been tabled for a least a week.

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