From The Jerusalem Post’s 50 Most Influential Jews of 2017

See the full list here.


#14 Netanyahu’s Right Flanks: Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, leaders of Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu, respectively, are the two most influential cabinet members after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself.

Liberman, because of his job, and Bennett, to some extent, because he outflanks Netanyahu from the Right. Both keep Netanyahu in line with the right-wing policies on which the coalition is based. As defense minister in a country dealing with daily threats, Liberman’s influence is apparent. He has a part in the major issues impacting Israel every day. While, for the most part, he’s stayed focused on security since entering the coveted role last year, Yisrael Beytenu has a detailed platform with ideas on social issues and relations with the Arab minority in Israel, and Liberman doesn’t hesitate to let his views known.

His MKs, who are thought to be firmly under his thumb, are often leading signatories on some of the most notorious right-wing legislation in the Knesset. Just about any time Netanyahu does or says something especially right-wing, the Left will say he’s trying to appease Bennett.

Bennett is the education minister, but he wishes he were the defense minister. He says Netanyahu promised him the portfolio before the last election, but reneged on the deal. That doesn’t stop Bennett from speaking out on security issues almost daily. He was especially vocal about changing the way the security cabinet makes decisions, threatening the coalition until Netanyahu agreed to have all security cabinet ministers get regular briefings.

When it comes to settlements, Bennett is uncompromising, and the prime minister knows he can’t concede one inch without him and the rest of Bayit Yehudi making a lot of noise. This year, Amona was evacuated by court order, despite the best efforts of Bennett and his second in Bayit Yehudi, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, but the Knesset passed a law that could retroactively legalize thousands of settlement homes. They lost the battle – Amona – but are not done trying to win the war to keep settlements intact for good.


#19 The Likudniks: Gilad Erdan, Yisrael Katz and Miri Regev

No one in the Likud is willing to openly compete with Netanyahu, but there are many contenders for the throne once the Netanyahu era comes to a close. While current Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar leads in the polls on this topic, there are current ministers whose jobs draw a lot of attention and who hope to be the next party leader.

Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan

The police, Erdan’s main area of responsibility, have been at the crux of many major events this year, from the Arab violence at the Temple Mount to questions of whether and how protests can be limited in a democracy in light of the weekly rallies in front of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s home. Erdan has an extremely high media profile because of his role as Public Security Minister, and over the years has become known as an eloquent, yet fiery, defender of government policies on various television and radio shows. Erdan’s other role as Strategic Affairs Minister has a lower profile. He has focused mostly on combating boycotts of Israel, but quickly learned that it’s something best done behind the scenes. Still, he has made connections with Diaspora Jewry in fighting the fight, which should help him politically in the future.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz

Katz has positioned himself as a Likud leadership contender who is mentioned in any post-Netanyahu analysis. He’s been very popular and effective as Transportation Minister, with new highways and interchanges going up regularly, as well as new train stations in the periphery, and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv express train is expected to be unveiled next year. All of this has given Katz a reputation as a “bulldozer,” an Israeli expression meaning he gets things done. Katz’s intelligence portfolio is not a very public one, but he still makes sure to bring up his idea to create a seaport island off the coast of Gaza regularly in the media and to international visitors.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev

Regev is a bit of a dark-horse candidate for future Likud leader, but no one should underestimate her. Regev is beloved by the Likud grassroots, who find her bluntness endearing and culture-warrior positions empowering. When she took to the Cannes red carpet in a Jerusalem-themed dress right after UNESCO omitted the Jewish connection to the capital from a resolution, the mainstream media may have jeered, but the Right cheered for how she stood up for Israel – and with panache. Theater actors may panic at her shifting culture funds to the periphery and refusing to pay for plays that glorify terrorists, but Likud voters are more likely to say “about time.” What the Attorney-General says, of course, is another matter, since he has blocked Regev’s most controversial proposals more than once.


#37 Speaking Truth to Power: Jake Tapper and Ilana Dayan

For better or for worse, 5777 has been the Year of the Journalist.

US President Donald Trump coined the now-ubiquitous term “Fake News,” which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gleefully adopted. Both leaders like to blame their troubles on the media, an easy target in the sense that it has very low levels of public trust and approval.

On the other hand, investigative journalism is thriving in both countries, between the Trump administration’s dysfunction and Netanyahu’s corruption cases. CNN’s Jake Tapper and Ilana Dayan of Channel 2’s investigative show Uvda are both prime examples of this trend, speaking truth to power, while facing vitriol that’s rooted at the very top.

Tapper, the chief Washington correspondent and anchor of The Lead with Jake Tapper and State of the Union, has become known for keeping politicians honest, no matter where they are on the political spectrum. He’s a live-on-the-air fact checker, who doesn’t hesitate to tell politicians where they’re being inconsistent or flat-out lying. Last year, he challenged Trump to condemn white supremacists and other overtly racist supporters more than 20 times in one interview, and this year he said Trump’s reaction to neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville and killing a woman was “un-American.”

Tapper is one of the 10 journalists targeted with the most online antisemitic harassment, according to the Anti-Defamation League. But he doesn’t hesitate to take on people on the other extreme of the political spectrum, like anti-Israel Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour, who bizarrely called him a member of the “alt-right,” and pointed out that the marauding, violent anarchist collective Antifa has assaulted journalists.

Dayan, known as Israel’s premier investigative journalist, became a prime target of Netanyahu’s barbs in late November, after airing a report on the role his wife Sara plays in his administration. The Prime Minister’s Office sent a tirade against Dayan, saying she has “no professional integrity,” and in an unforgettable television moment, she read it on the air, which took a full six minutes.

Unlike Tapper, Dayan doesn’t have as much success in targeting both political sides. Her show is often criticized for having a left-wing slant. Last year, it aired the first part of an investigation into extreme left-wing organizations, which included a clip of activist Ezra Nawi bragging that he reports collaborators with Israel to the Palestinian Authority – essentially sentencing people to death – but did not air the rest of the investigation, in a move that faced right-wing criticism as giving in to left-wing pressure.



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