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Monday, October 16, 2006

Circus Knesset opening today

The annual meeting of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus Israeli Knessset will begin this afternoon, with speeches by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. The one act we will be spared is twenty or more MK's protesting the presence of President Moshe Katzav. Katzav has decided to absent himself from the Knesset session. With good reason. On Sunday, the Police announced that they have recommended to the Attorney General that Israel's first 'religious' President (he was the first to have a synagogue installed in the President's residence) be indicted for a range of criminal offenses, including raping two women, as well as indecent acts using force, indecent acts without consent and sexual harassment offenses. His lawyer now says that if he is indicted, he will resign. At least that.

As a religious Jew and a married man (Katzav is ostensibly both of those), I am disgusted and offended (and I am not naive enough to think that these things don't happen in the religious world - I know that they do). Even if Katzav is eventually acquitted (which seems unlikely), the desecration of God's name (Chilul Hashem) by a 'religious' President being charged with these kinds of morals offenses is horrifying to me. In this morning's JPost, Rabbi Stewart Weiss compares Katzav (not favorably) with American philanderer Bill Clinton. I never thought that we would reach this point with a 'religious' President in office.

But that's not the only circus in the Knesset. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to try to give his government breathing room to function. As of now, it looks unlikely that Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party will join the coalition, since the Presidential election bill they have demanded is most unlikely to pass. The Labor party has decided to vote against it, and at least until the next Knesset elections, Labor has more seats than Yisrael Beiteinu. So Olmert will look for another solution - possibly trying to throw enough money and perks at United Torah Judaism to entice them to join his coalition. Hopefully they will not take the bait, and in any event, they will not provide him with as many votes.

My prediction: the government will fall at the end of March because it will not be able to pass a budget. We will have elections in June. That is subject to acceleration if the Supreme Court mandates the appointment of a State Commission of Inquiry and the findings are what we all expect them to be.

Until then, look for the no confidence vote circus every Monday at 4:00 Israel time.


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