Nir Orbach: Leading Identity Service As Coalition’s Gravedigger

Responsible for supervising school programs, this service is an idea of far-right minister Avi Maoz, who is not “in a logic of settling scores” with Orbach.

Far-right Deputy Minister Avi Maoz announced on Thursday the creation of the Jewish National Identity Service, at the head of which he appointed a former right-wing MP from the previous coalition, responsible for the ousting of Benjamin Netanyahu from power. He will ultimately play a vital role in the downfall of this government and the return of Netanyahu to center stage.

Elected MP under the colors of Yamina, the party of ex-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, from 2021 to 2022, Nir Orbach today takes over the management of the monitoring service for educational service providers in public schools on behalf of the ultraconservative and anti-LGBTQ Maoz.

The only lawmaker from the Noam party, Maoz resigned from his post as deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this year, on the grounds that Netanyahu was refusing to keep his promise to create a Jewish identity service. In May, he returned to his post and 285 million shekels in the budget, under an agreement to ensure his full support for the 2023-2024 budget bill.

Maoz, notably through his Noam party, openly displays his opposition to LGBT people, pluralism and feminists, much to the chagrin of politicians and organizations opposed to the control of educational service providers who enrich the programs of public schools.

In 2022, Orbach had slammed the door of the eight-party coalition led by the leader of his party, Bennett, leaving it in the minority in the Knesset.

Like that of fellow Yamina MK Idit Silman — who resigned in April to join Netanyahu’s Likud, where she is now environment minister — Orbach’s departure was the trigger for the fall of the previous government. Yair Lapid then succeeded Bennett and led the interim government until the victory, in the elections last November, of the coalition of right-wing, far-right and haredi parties led by Netanyahu.

Orbach said at the time that the coalition was taking “a problematic direction”, following the refusal of the Arab deputies of the coalition – Mazen Ghanaim (Raam) and Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz) – to vote for the extension of the already old device allowing to apply Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank.

Orbach announced his retirement from political life last September.

On Thursday, Orbach said in a statement that the duties entrusted to him were part of a “public mission of importance, especially in these difficult times marked by divisions in Israeli society.” He added that his service would “work to iron out differences and place the lowest common denominator – namely Jewish identity – at the heart of building the unity and resilience of the nation of Israel.”

“Jewish values are the subject of a consensus. I am convinced that it is possible to act, together, to spread the love of the Jewish people,” he added.

In a statement to his political base, Maoz said he was “aware of the surprise, even outrage” that the appointment of a man who “actively participated” in the formation and operation of the previous ” government of sad memory”.

“I criticized Nir Orbach on several occasions,” Maoz recalled, even adding that he organized demonstrations outside his home.

“I am not in a logic of settling scores or punishment,” he hastened to clarify.

Maoz said Orbach “will implement our program, namely the strengthening of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, which drives us all.” He added that he would work with all the ministries to “smooth out the difficulties, move the projects forward and ensure the release of the budget lines necessary for the implementation of all the projects”.

This new service created by Maoz will oversee Gefen, the set of providers authorized and subsidized by the Ministry of Education, which implement more than 20,000 programs accessible to public schools. Ranging from sex education to bar mitzvah preparation to agriculture, these external providers contribute significantly to public education.

The nickname of this new service should be “Shaveh”, a Hebrew word which means “equivalent” or “worthy”, the full title being “Transparency and information for parents”.

One of the main objectives of Maoz is to provide parents with information on the content of educational programs, the identity of providers and their method of financing. Some programs are indeed subsidized by the Ministry of Education, but others are funded by donors – according to Maoz, foreign entities -.

In addition to “transparency to parents,” Maoz’s Jewish Identity Service will have three goals, in the somewhat vague terms of the official government decision.

It will also “strengthen Jewish identity” through research projects and grants, “help educational institutions” on the issue of Jewish identity, and publish information on “deepening and strengthening national identity.” Jewish”.

Several mayors, including those of Hod HaSharon and Givatayim in the center of the country, said their schools would not work with Maoz’s service.

Maoz has – still recently – asked for the banning of Gay Pride parades, the reinstatement of the terms “mother” and “father” on official forms, instead of “parent” and the authorization of homosexual conversion therapy, today prohibited and greatly questioned.

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