|Yemenite Passover Matzah|
Days went by and the agreement was still not signed. Netanyahu began telling Gantz that he had to have more concessions in order to finalize the deal. He wanted an agreement to annex parts of the disputed territories while Trump was still the President. Netanyahu demanded a veto over any judicial appointments, even as he had agreed to have Blue and White appoint the Minister of Justice. He wanted key decisions made by the Minister of Justice and by the Minister of Internal Security to be made with his approval. In other words, once Gantz had prematurely split apart his party and indicated his willingness to enter a coalition with Netanyahu, Netanyahu realized that Gantz had been defeated and began to insist on further concessions. Netanyahu now saw that Gantz had very little political ability to resist and saw that he could continue to try and reach his ultimate goal of getting an immunity deal to avoid his ongoing criminal trial (the start of which had already been delayed by Netanyahu's hand-appointed justice minister).
The clock continued to tick and sure enough the initial 30 day period for forming a government came to an end without any agreement. Gantz requested a two week extension but President Rivlin declined (earlier today) since he saw no chance that Gantz could actually form a government. But he did not pass the mandate over to Netanyahu. Instead he exercised an Israeli law to allow any Member of Knesset to form a government over the next two weeks. If no government is formed, Israel will have a fourth election - presumably in September.
A fourth election would be Netanyahu's preference. In the current negotiations. he eviscerated Gantz. Gantz was left looking weak and useless. He made a whole series of concessions to Netanyahu and wound up getting nothing out of it. It seems unlikely that he will run again if there is a fourth election. He would have no support from two-thirds of his party and even the other one third might not support him. Netanyahu probably believes that there will be no suitable centrist alternative and he may be able to get the additional three or four seats that he needs to form a narrow right wing government or even more. Netanyahu will also argue that Israel has done a reasonable job containing the Covid-19 crisis, especially in comparison to many other countries, and that he is largely responsible.
I should note that Netanyahu also managed to convince Labour leader Amir Peretz to join the coalition talks. Peretz, before the election, had shaved his moustache and said "read my lips, I I will not join Netanyahu." But somehow, inexplicably, he decided to take the remnants of the once proud left wing Labour party and join Netanyahu in exchange for a cabinet post and some other minor concessions (unsigned of course). This is surely the death knell for the Labour party and a significant blow to any left wing opposition to Netanyahu.
So all that is left on the centre and the the centre left to oppose Netanyahu - are the remaining half of the Blue and White Party (consisting of Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid and Telem led by Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon), the Meretz party (which has been reduced to a handful of seats) and the Joint Arab List (many of whom are staunchly anti-Zionist). The opposition will have a short window to find a new leader (or agree to run under Lapid or Yaalon) and convince the public to stick with them. Since a big chunk of people were prepared to support the idea of a coalition government under Netanyahu, this will be a difficult task. And Netanyahu knows it. He also knows that this is his best chance of getting an "immunity bill" to end his criminal proceedings.
This may still end with further concessions by Gantz and some sort of deal over the next two weeks. But a fourth election is also becoming a very realistic option.
Israel, like most other countries, continues to struggle to contain the spread of Covid-19. Currently, Israel has about 1,300 cases, which puts it 25th in the world when looking at cases per million population. In terms of deaths per million population, Israel's number is at 13. Canada is at 19, the United States 67 and Italy 367. The Israeli government has also announced that there are several thousand available ventilators. Even if many of the people who are currently affected become more seriously ill, Israel's hope is that it will have an adequate availability of ventilators to avoid the situation that was taking place in Italy and Spain.
Israel is still under a wide ranging lock-down. Supermarkets are open and other essential services. But the number of services deemed "essential" was recently reduced. For the Passover holiday, the Israeli government mandated a complete ban on leaving your home for a distance of more than 100 metres other than for urgent medical attention or a handful of other reasons.
The government has also instituted more severe lock-downs in certain areas of the country. Some of the highest infection rates are being reported in ultra-religious neighbourhoods in B'nei Brak and Jerusalem. The Health Ministry tried to institute a closure of these areas but some of their proposals were blocked by the current Health Minister Litzman, who is himself a member of the Haredi (ultra-religious) community. The closure of B'nei Brak went ahead initially but it has apparently been eased up somewhat. News reports have indicated that a high percentage of the Covid-19 patients who are classified as in serious and critical condition are members of the ultra-religious community.
The Israeli government instituted a program to give each family 500 shekels per child aged 18 or younger to ensure that people could buy food for Passover. The money was delayed and did not arrive in time for the start of the holiday and it is unclear when it will arrive. Even if they had received this 500 shekels (about $130 USD), many people in Israel (like most other countries) are suffering from a lack of work, lack of income and some very difficult economic challenges. The government is trying to develop a plan to reopen sectors of the economy gradually if it can do so while continuing to minimize the Coronavirus spread.
I think this was one of the smallest Passover Seders we have ever had. Although we knew several people hosting Zoom Seders, we opted to hold a Seder with just our nuclear family. We asked each person to prepare an activity, lead a discussion or prepare a section of the Haggadah. We arranged to have some really nice wine ready and we probably had enough food prepared for a Seder of 20 or more.
It worked out really well. Since we had five willing participants for reading, singing and discussions, we had a very active evening. The wine also helped. We wound up finishing at about 3:30 a.m., which was late for us, even compared to our usual Seder with 25 or 30 people. I guess we had a "captive audience" and no one had to be anywhere. No one was driving home afterwards and no one had anything to do that was pressing the next day. We had lots of really nice singing, some really fun activities and some pretty decent food. It was a really special evening - lots of naches for us as parents.
Because of the time distance, it didn't really work out well for us to join the huge family Zoom Seder - which started at 2:30 a.m. Israel time - though we dropped in to say hi at some point after we had finished our Seder.
I should mention that Israel, unlike the U.S. and some parts of Canada, has had no shortage of toilet paper. But instead we wound up with an egg shortage. Yup, right before Passover, an egg shortage. As you know, you need many eggs to make just about anything for Passover since can't use yeast or other leavening agents. We were able to get 30 from a friend (whose brother has a Moshav) and we were also able to buy a few of the last remaining organic eggs at the corner store. We still have a few left so it has not been a disaster for us by any stretch. But hordes of Israelis were running around everywhere before the start of the holiday, clamoring desperately for some eggs for the holiday.
|Imported Eggs Arriving in Israel|
Here in Israel, the holiday officially ends on Wednesday night. Tuesday night marks the start of the second "Yom Tov" - which runs until sundown on Wednesday. There will likely be another complete closure of the country though it has not yet been announced. No one will be hosting any large scale "maymuna" celebrations (the customary Moroccan party marking the end of Pesach - celebrated by Israelis everywhere - even non-Moroccan Israelis) though I was thinking about making some Mufleta (the Moroccan bread/pastry served at a Maymuna).
Then it will be time to put away all of the Passover dishes, switch the kitchen back to Hametz and hope that well before next year things will have gone back to "normal."
B'Shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim - Wishing everyone the best of health and Mo'adim L'Simcha.