PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin. Photo credit: Kobi Gideon (GPO)
Putin’s perfect present: At home, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dealing with an inconvenient gift scandal, but during his visit to Moscow yesterday, a gift from President Putin actually warmed his heart. The Russian president and Netanyahu are considered quite close, and Putin chose the perfect gift for Netanyahu, the son of the historian: An antique copy of Josephus Flavius ‘ “The Jewish War”, printed in Italian almost 500 years ago. “It’s a very special gift.” Netanyahu told reporters in a phone-call briefing from the tarmac before flying back to Israel. “There is no doubt this book has a significant place in our historical heritage. I really appreciate it,” he added, stressing he will be passing on the book to the National Library.
Gifts aside, Netanyahu stressed the importance of his Kremlin meeting, which was dedicated to the Syrian front and Israeli concerns about Iran bolstering its standing in the post-war Syria. Netanyahu presented Putin with intelligence demonstrating recent Iranian moves from the past few weeks, which show Tehran is attempting to create a permanent military presence in Syria, including attempts to build a naval port. “I can tell you from past experience that these face-to-face conversations between us are very significant. It was a direct and frank conversation,” Netanyahu said, refusing to reveal what Putin’s response was. “I can tell you for sure – he got the message”.
Greenblatt to meet with Palestinians, too: Meanwhile, Jerusalem is preparing for the first visit by a Trump administration official, as the president’s special representative to the Mideast region Jason Greenblatt is set to arrive next week. A U.S. official told Kafe Knesset that Greenblatt will be visiting both Jerusalem and Ramallah, meeting both Netanyahu and President Abbas, as well as officials from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side. Just a few hours later, the White House announced Trump’s first call with Abbas.
On the Israeli side, Greenblatt’s visit is likely to be dominated by the settlements issue, as he is the U.S. point man on the team coordinating the matter with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer. He will arrive against the backdrop of right-wing pressure on Netanyahu to expand settlement construction and stand by his commitment to build a new settlement for the Amona evacuees. The Jewish Home is now threatening not to support Likud legislation until Netanyahu fulfills his promise on Amona.
Knesset gets a makeover?: Ahead of this weekend’s Purim festivities, the Knesset told MKs and aides to dress up – though not in costume. There’s a new recommended dress code: Suits for men and women – never mind that a suit for a woman is pretty hard to find in Israel – with button-down shirts. The men’s suits should be black, grey or navy blue. In apparent deference to the local culture, the recommendations do not mandate wearing ties.
The recommendations came after a “miniskirt protest” spurred a review of the existing dress code, which bans short skirts, as well as sweatpants and crop tops, among other sartorial sins. A committee made up of MKs and Knesset staff decided last month not to change the code by which security could bar entry to the building, and stick to non-binding recommendations. And since they’re non-binding, don’t expect the number of suits in the Knesset to rise much.