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Israel's New Government Up and Running


JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel's 34th government began in earnest Sunday, seemingly unfazed by disparaging remarks from the opposition or the predominantly leftist media.

The initial government consists of 20 ministers plus the prime minister, who has kept the foreign ministry and four other ministries under his jurisdiction. He's kept them in the event parties now in the opposition would join the government.

One possibility is a change of heart by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman or Labor Party chairman Yitzhak Herzog, who may realize the government isn't doomed to failure as he's predicted and decide to come on board.

Former Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovitch simultaneously praised and criticized the new government over the weekend, saying she's lined up with its social and economic priorities but its right-wing ideology is isolating the Jewish state from the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, MK Gilad Erdan, who finished second to Netanyahu in the Likud lineup, decided not to join the government after the prime minister turned down his requests for the foreign, interior, or internal security ministries. That too could change.

Some believe the hours of negotiations to distribute portfolios to individuals with the ability and drive to work hard has produced a strong, albeit small, government.

In an op-ed entitled "The Scaremongering Ritual," Hebrew University lecturer Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash admonished Israelis to ignore the media assaults. She said they're a repeat of past predictions that failed to materialize.

"This repetitive ritual is disturbing and outrageous," she writes. "Instead of yielding to it, we must keep reminding ourselves again and again of the truth. We must remember why a right-wing government was elected in the first place."

Samimian-Darash said the challenges facing the Jewish state are not going away.

"The dangers facing Israel have not changed; Israel's relationship with the Palestinians has not improved, despite [Hatnua Party head Tzipi] Livni's begging," she continued. "Iran is getting stronger by the day; the rising cost of living and housing crisis require real change not cosmetic solutions like [Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair] Lapid's. If you keep all this in mind, you will understand that it is fine to be optimistic, regardless of the scaremongering."

The Hebrew University staffer said Israelis got the coalition they wanted: "a homogeneous coalition of center-right parties; a coalition of partners with a shared ideology on diplomacy and economics. This coalition can repeat the successes of previous right-wing governments," she reasoned.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's admission Friday that a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is unlikely in the next year because of both sides' stances seemed a slight improvement over his previous stand of holding Israel responsible for stalemated talks.

Speaking with reporters at last week's summit with Gulf state representatives, Obama admitted the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian deal "seems distant now."

Calling himself a "a deep and strong supporter of Israel," the president acknowledged Israel's "legitimate security concerns" while acknowledging his commitment to a future Palestinian state.

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