On Purim, a Jewish woman politician channeled Queen Esther, single-handedly averting a political disaster that would have put Israel under the rule of a Haman-like power bent on the destruction of the preservation of Torah.
Like the first two rounds, last week’s elections left both parties scrambling in an impossible attempt to cobble together a coalition. Likud, led by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, was the big winner with 36 seats but it was clear he could not hammer down promises of support from enough parties to form a right-wing 61-seat majority. It seemed far more likely that Blue and white, headed by Benny Gantz, could achieve a majority. But to do so would require a coalition in which the Joint Arab List, with 15 seats, would wield an inordinate amount of power.
On Tuesday, Joint List chairman Aymen Odeh announced the number one condition for even entering into talks with Gantz; a total ban on all Jewish visitation to the Temple Mount.
“We have a clear position on the issue of the al-Aqsa mosque. We want to see the cessation of all visits of extremist settlers [i.e. all Jews] to the mosque. This is something that [began] during the Netanyahu era, and we want the status quo to be restored. Al-Aqsa is a Muslim place of worship, and East Jerusalem should be the capital city of the Palestinian state. We will be focusing on the issue of al-Aqsa at the present stage [of negotiations].”
Trump’s proposed deal of the century states explicitly that “people of every faith should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in a manner that is fully respectful to their religion, taking into account the times of each religion’s prayers and holidays, as well as other religious factors.” By rejecting the president’s proposal, the Arab party is essentially demanding that the current racist policy under which Muslims maintain a religious monopoly on Judaism’s holiest site will be adopted by a left-wing Israeli government.
Other demands made by the Joint list include:
Building new neighborhoods in Jerusalem – for Arabs.
No more Jewish construction in Judea-Samaria, and giving in to all PA demands.
An end to the drafting of Druze fighters into the IDF.
Veto power over all IDF operations.
Ending the Jewish Law of Return and Immigration Benefits.
Enacting an Arab Law of Return and encourage millions of Arabs to immigrate to Israel.
Providing 100% autonomy to Arab schools, and all other Arab sectors. Provide generous subsidies for free housing, etc…
It is important to note that in a speech on Saturday night, Netanyahu said that he rejected a deal with the Otzma Yehudit party that might have given him the necessary two seats. He explained that the party head, Itamar Ben Gvir, established as one of his conditions the removal of the Waqf’s authority on the Temple Mount, thereby paving the way for a Jewish return to their holiest site.
Netanyahu rejected Ben Gvir’s proposal on the basis that “it would have ignited the Middle East and brought down the anger of one billion Muslims on us.”
Some of the more cynical Israeli pundits have suggested that perhaps the real motivation for Netanyahu’s rejection of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount was to leave open the option of a coalition including the Joint Arab List.
All of this speculation became moot on Tuesday when Orly Levy-Abecassis, the head of the Gesher party, announced on Facebook that her party would not be part of a coalition that included the Arab parties.
“We are all witnessing leaders who promised to act with credibility and responsibility dealing these days with shameful courting [of the Joint List],” Levy-Abecassis wrote. “They are willing to pay any price in order to form a minority government even if it will rely on undependable people.”
The Gesher party is in a union with the left-wing Meretz and Labor parties. The three parties won a combined seven seats in the last elections. Without Abecassis, Gantz cannot form a majority coalition of 61 even with the Arab parties.
Abecassis worked as a model and a local television host before entering politics. In conjunction with her rejection of a union with the Arab parties coming on the holiday of Purim, a comparison to Queen Esther is inevitable. Queen Esther saved the Jewish people, paving the way for a return to Israel and the Second Temple. Similarly, it is clear that Abecassis’ intervention prevented a coalition that would see the Israeli government enforcing an anti-Jewish policy that would have blocked Jews from connecting with their holiest site.
Abecassis’ break angered her partners. Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg called her a racist and said she had to quit the Knesset.
Abecassis-Levy was the ninth of twelve children of Moroccan-born former Foreign Affairs Minister David Levy. She lives on Kibbutz Mesilot. Despite the kibbutz defining itself as secular, Abecassis-Levy observes the Sabbath for “health reasons.”