Shas' Spin

Shas was busy last week with a series of public relations maneuvers intended to show that it has become a normal party, one whose ranks can include non ultra-Orthodox members and that punishes any of its members who run afoul of the law. So, for example, MK Shlomo Benizri signed a commitment to resign from the Knesset if an indictment is issued against him. Since the indictment is expected soon, it would have been expected that Benizri would be elected and then resign right after.

In practice, the Shas Knesset members signed commitments to resign if indicted - but only in future investigations. In this case, Benizri promised to resign if he is convicted, and the resignation will not come after the appeal but only after a conviction in the first instance.

In addition, Shas also promised that the former director general of the National Insurance Institute and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's personal physician, Prof. Yohanan Stessman, would be the party's candidate for health portfolio.

So it promised. There will be no ministers who are not ultra-Orthodox, a senior Shas official told Haaretz. "It was spin," he said.

But the reporters will remind you that you promised.

Who will remember? was the answer.

Apart from that, even if we do remember and remind others, it will be after the elections. And also, there is always the option of making Stessman a director general.

Budgetary discipline in Hetz

The financial liquidation of Shinui has been completed. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss approved the transfer of NIS 1.3 million from Shinui to Hetz (Hebrew acronym for the newly formed secular Zionist party). Hetz in turn transferred NIS 600,000 to MKs Hemi Doron and Eliezer (Mody) Sandberg, who resigned from that party. Together with its election campaign financing advances, it has NIS 8 million, but chairman Avraham Poraz intends to use only NIS 5 million. The reason for the economic restraint is not the (very likely) fear that Hetz will not succeed in getting into the Knesset. Even the parties that do not get in do not return the money. The reason is Poraz's fear that Hetz will make it past the threshold, just barely, with three or four Knesset seats and then be stuck with huge debts. The truth is that even NIS 5 million for a party fighting to pass the threshold is a huge sum of money.

And why is Poraz hoping for three or four seats and not making do with two? The threshold, 2 percent, or approximately 70,000 votes, makes it almost impossible to enter the Knesset with less than three seats. Following the split in Shinui, polls showed that the party has a hard core worth four or five seats of constituents whose foremost concern is the ties between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox. The question is, what are Poraz's chances of convincing them to vote for the new brand, Hetz, without Shinui party leader Yosef Lapid? Poraz this week explained Lapid's departure: "If I get four or five seats, it will be a tremendous accomplishment. For Tommy, on the other hand, four or five seats would be a terrible failure."

The second spot in Hetz, after Avraham Poraz, was surprisingly filled by Shinui backbencher Ronnie Brizon. Brizon was undoubtedly Shinui's most prominent MK in the outgoing Knesset and was amazingly knowledgeable about the subject of budget allocations for the ultra-Orthodox and the secular. But at the moment, no spot on Hetz's list, even Brizon's, is considered realistic.

Therefore, Hetz's first fight will not be at the ballot box. In order to reach the minimum threshold, Hetz has to convince its constituents that they are not wasting their vote. To do that, it has to gain a fixed and solid foothold in the surveys. One of the party's greatest advantages is that its nine current MKs entitle it to 73 minutes of television airtime. That is quite a chunk to build up a brand.

Jihad is leading

During the High Court of Justice hearing on the citizenship law on Tuesday, Supreme Court Vice President Mishael Cheshin's remarks drew most of the attention. Don't we all want to live, Cheshin asked, and suggested that an Israeli man who marries a Palestinian woman should move to Jenin. Presumably, Cheshin's opinion was affected by the summaries submitted by the state to the High Court of Justice, which focused on Hamas' rise to power within the Palestinian Authority (PA). These summaries included a collection of detailed and comprehensive data on Palestinian terror.

The state argues that the big terrorist attacks "could not have been carried out without the 'sine qua non factor'" - the Palestinians who receive Israeli identity cards thanks to family reunification. Therefore, residents of the PA should be prevented from obtaining citizenship. The appellants argued that the number of people involved in terrorist acts is very small and it is impossible to punish the thousands seeking family reunification because of them.

And what do the numbers say? Of the 60,000 Palestinians in the security forces, one out of every 10 was involved in terrorist activity against Israel. Some 262 security personnel are in prison "with blood on their hands" for perpetrating or being involved in terrorist attacks. Approximately 1,000 people from the Palestinian preventive security force and approximately 1,000 people from the General Intelligence service were involved in terrorist activity.

Seventy women were involved in suicide attacks. Most of them were aged 17 to 30. Eight women carried out suicide attacks on their own. Of them, Fatah handled five. The involvement of women in suicide attacks started with 16 women in 2002 and increased to 36 in 2004. Some 39 people were killed in terrorist attacks carried out by female suicide bombers and 314 were injured. Some 236 minors under the age of 18 were involved in terrorist acts, and the lion's share was involved in suicide attacks (136). Among these minors, 36 were younger than 15. Some 217 were boys and just 19 of them were girls.

Since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000, the state reported to the High Court of Justice that a total of 26,844 terrorist attacks were carried out, of which 25,248 (94 percent) occurred in the territories. Another 1,596 (6 percent) were carried out inside the Green Line. These attacks killed 1,080 Israelis, 626 of them inside the Green Line.

But the situation is completely different with regard to suicide attacks. A total of 167 suicide attacks were carried out, of them 148 (89 percent) within the Green Line and 19 in the territories. Some 26 Palestinian Authority residents who received some legal status in Israel as a result of family reunification are now under investigation for involvement in suicide bombings that were carried out or thwarted at the last minute.

The state attached to its appeal a booklet on suicide bombers prepared by the Information Center for Intelligence and Terrorism. The booklet was written two months ago and relates to 146 suicide attacks. The booklet indicates that in carrying out suicide attacks, Hamas is in the lead (58, or 40 percent of these attacks) followed by Islamic Jihad (27 percent) and Fatah (23 percent).

However, in 2005, a relatively calm year, Islamic Jihad took the lead and perpetrated four suicide attacks as opposed to two by Hamas.

Three out of every four suicide attacks are directed at civilian targets; the remainder are aimed at military targets. And that is no coincidence. In more than 80 percent of the suicide bombings against military targets, there were no fatalities. Greater Jerusalem suffered the highest number of suicide attacks, with 30. The Sharon region (Netanya, Hadera, Kfar Sava) suffered 19 attacks, of them three during the period of quiet. Tel Aviv and the Dan region had 17, and the Wadi Ara area had 10.

As predicted, less requests

Yesterday, the Rubinstein Committee issued its recommendations for Israel's immigration policy. Among other things, the committee recommended expanding the program of granting some status to the children of foreign workers. The program applies to children aged 10 and older who were born in Israel, and the committee is recommending applying it to children from age 7 and older.

In order to explain its recommendations, the committee attached some data that was very embarrassing for the Ministry of Interior's Population Registry. The Ministry of Interior initially estimated that 2,000 children of foreign workers would receive citizenship as part of the program. Aid organizations for foreign workers estimated 300. The Rubinstein Committee found that 308 requests were submitted through the program. If all the requests are approved, around 800 children and their families will receive permanent status. But it is not at all clear that all will be approved.

Committee chair Amnon Rubinstein explained the committee's recommendation by noting that even if the cutoff age is lowered to 7, there will still be fewer children receiving some legal status than the original estimate presented to the government.