Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar addresses young Anglo Likudniks at the
Knesset as part of Likud Anglos' "Ze'ev Jabotinsky Conference for Young
Activists" on Monday, August 1st.
JERUSALEM, August 1, 2011—A few hours before the Knesset held its memorial for the Zionist visionary and leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky last Monday, a group of approximately forty-five “Anglo” olim from various parts of the country gathered on the other side of the building for a Jabotinsky memorial of their own, meeting with top Likud lawmakers, Likud activists as well as Jabotinsky’s grandson and namesake, Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
The event was billed as the Ze’ev Jabotinsky Conference for Young Activists and was organized by Likud Anglos. Participants heard from and asked questions of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, and MK Yariv Levin, who addressed various issues facing Israel.
Jabotinsky discussed Jewish rights to the Land of Israel under international law and called for an effort to educate the Israeli public regarding those rights.
“No person can remove our rights to this land,” Jabotinsky said. “The only thing that can take our rights away is if we forget them.”
When during his address, Jabotinsky was asked by a participant about whether world guilt over the Holocaust was the real driving force in the creation of the State of Israel, Jabotinsky retorted that on the contrary, “Israel was created in spite of the Holocaust, not because of it.”
Jabotinsky further pointed out that the international community had sanctioned the Jews’ right to “reconstitute” their homeland in Palestine twenty years before the Holocaust with the San Remo Decision and the Mandate for Palestine.
Jabotinsky was a candidate in the last elections with the Likud,, the party whose whose founding is often credited to his grandfather, the founder of the Revisionist Zionist Movement, from which the Likud sprang decades after Jabotinsky’s death.
Both Ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Silvan Shalom discussed the Palestinians’ efforts to have the U.N. recognize a Palestinian state, a topic many participants asked about. Both stated that because of the automatic anti-Israel majority in the U.N. General Assembly, a pro-Palestinian vote cannot be avoided there. However, they noted that Israel is making diplomatic efforts, working to convince developed Western states to oppose the measure with the aim of getting a respectable minority to oppose the Palestinian effort.
Sa’ar, the top-ranking Likud member after Netanyahu, addressed specific proposals for education reform. Sa’ar proposed removing VAT on textbooks and suggested it might be possible to expand subsidies for school children ages 3–5, for whom there are only limited subsidies.
Responding to a participant’s question, Sa’ar also said that teacher’s salaries would soon be increased as part of a new agreement with the teacher’s union: high school teachers’ salaries will be raised by 50% and bonuses will be given to the top teachers.
Vice Minister Silvan Shalom, who spoke next, discussed his proposal to make Sunday the day off in Israel instead of Fridays, saying it would be a “day of leisure, entertainment, family and friends.”
Shalom said he believed that the Israeli economy would benefit from a Saturday–Sunday weekend. He explained that retail sales, participation in cultural and sporting events, as well as commerce with neighboring states where Friday is a work-day would all be boosted.
Responding to the argument that lost hours from a shortened Friday would hurt productivity and the economy, Shalom said their were various proposals being discussed to make up the lost hours. He further noted that making up the lost time might not even be necessary as Israelis already work 42–43 hours per week, several hours longer than their counterparts in all other developed countries.
Shalom also argued that having Sunday as the day off would enable greater participation of the religious sector in the country’s cultural life and would even increase Shabbat observance among the more secular.
After Shalom, MK Yariv Levin addressed participants. Levin, an attorney and former deputy chairman of the Israeli Bar Association, focused on the role of the judiciary, which he said interfered far too much in the democratic process.
“The Supreme Court acts as a superpower within the country, as above the people and the Knesset, and this is anti-democratic,” Levin said. “This must change.”
He stated that under current Israeli law, the Knesset does not have much input in the selection of judges, while Supreme Court judges have a practical veto in the judicial selection process. At the same time, the judiciary has the power to interfere with the democratically elected Knesset by reviewing and ordering changes to legislation or vetoing it altogether.
Countering arguments that curtailing judges’ role in judicial selection would create a non-independent judiciary, Levin pointed to the example of the U.S., in which the President and the Senate choose judges, yet the judiciary remains very much independent. He further noted that in no other developed country do judges have such input in the selection of other judges.
Concluding the conference, Daniel Tauber, chairman of the Likud Anglos Jerusalem chapter, called on participants to honor Jabotinsky’s legacy by participating in the political process, citing Jabotinsky’s statement in the last line of the Anthem of Betar, the Zionist youth movement: “Silence is despicable, it leads to a loss of flesh and blood.”
Tauber’s grandfather, the late Rabbi Jack Tauber, served as personal secretary to Jabotinsky prior to Jabotinsky’s death in upstate New York in 1940.
Jabotinsky’s 71st yahrtzeit (memorial date) is 29 Tammuz on the Hebrew calendar, which fell out this year on Sunday, July 31st.
The Conference was one of many activities organized by Likud Anglos over the past year that have given olim from English-speaking countries a voice in Israeli government and the Likud party, in keeping with Jabotinsky’s principles.
Likud Anglos has held town-hall style meetings with both Members of Knesset Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon, has held a memorial for the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin at which Minister of Hasbarah Yuli Edelstein was the keynote speaker and took members on a tour of east Jerusalem with Hotovely and the Keep Jerusalem organization.
The group’s leaders also lobby Members of Knesset on issues of concern to “Anglo” olim care in private discussions with Members of Knesset and their staff, including ensuring a strong foreign policy, the dangers of creating a Palestinian state, the quality of day-to-day life in Israel, electoral reform, and other issues.
In March, after a terrorist attack at Binyanei Hauma in Jerusalem, the group sent a letter to every Likud Member of Knesset demanding that all necessary action to prevent further attacks be taken and warning against doing nothing in an attempt to avoid a diplomatic backlash.
Likud Anglos is an organization of English-speaking Likud members and supporters who believe that the Likud is the political party best suited to lead the State of Israel. The grassroots organization is committed to the idea that “Anglos,” hailing from advanced democracies, have a special role to play in the State and the Likud, and provides the English-speaking community with a voice in the Likud and Israeli government.
Michael Weinberg contributed to this report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.