Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Domestic tranquility

Even with the two sides meeting in Amman, which noone expects will yield any useful results, and Iran threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, the focus in Israel's media is on domestic issues.

The Israeli Cabinet agreed to a plan to extend pre-school financial support down to the age of 3 years. This was in response to the demands of the demonstrators at last summer's social protests. PM Netanyahu had set up the Trachtenberg Committee to recommend actions by the Government and this was one of the main ones. To pay for it and not increase the budget would require each ministry to give up 4% of its budget. But, some Ministers were squeamish, so after some politicking with the Shas, Israel Beitanu and Independence (Barak) parties in his coalition, Netanyahu persuaded them to go along. The Defense budget will not only not be cut, but due to the "volatile" situation in the region it will be increased by NIS 3 billion. Other changes include establishing 2,000 more pre-schools and supporting after-hours activities. These changes, if approved by the Knesset, will make the lives of young couples with children much easier. This is only one of several initiatives that the Netanyahu Government intends to introduce, even though the social protesters rejected the recommendations of the Trachtenberg Committee.

Yair Lapid, the anchor of channel 2 TV news, has announced that, like his father Tommy Lapid, he will leave journalism and enter politics. Because he is so popular it has been estimated that he alone could receive 15 Knesset seats. This would decimate the centrist Kadima party that is led by Tzipi Livni. Kadima was the successor of Tommy Lapid's Shinui party. But, it is not known yet whether or not Yair Lapid intends to form his own party or join an existing party. Naom Schalit, father of the exchanged IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, also announced his intention to enter politics and in his case join the practically defunct Labor Party.

Another devstating scandal features the Head of the Israel Football Association, Avi Luzon, who was questioned under caution by the police Fraud Squad yesterday for 8 hours, on suspicion of fixing premier league games. He is supposed to have chosen specific referees for certain games with the intention of obtaining fixed outcomes. So far the police say they are not satisifed with his answers after they have also spoken to several other people involved in the suspected game fixing.

At an IDF checkpoint near Jenin four Palestinians were arrested with 11 pipe bombs, a gun and a knife. They were planning a major terrorist attack in Israel. Luckily they were detected and the plot foiled. It is not known to which group they belonged. Even while talks are ongoing in Amman, Israel must protect itself against continuing attempts to carry out terrorist attacks.


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