Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met her US counterpart Jeff Sessions yesterday for the very first time, concluding a five-day visit to NYC and DC in the midst of the Comey crisis. Shaked told Kafe Knesset that she and Sessions discussed the latest developments at length, and that “it was very interesting to hear his point of view,” although she refused to reveal any more details. Speaking from the train on her way back from DC, Shaked shared some impressions from her visit.
On the US Embassy move to Jerusalem: “I still hope that the President will stand by his commitment – to his voters and constituents – and move the Embassy. We need to ignore all the intimidation attempts. There will always be fears and concerns – we know that from every significant move we have made in the past, but we have to believe in the move and make it happen. Let us wait for the President’s visit, maybe he will surprise us.”
Q: Some people are suggesting that the PM himself is the one who conveyed the message against the Embassy move.
“I haven’t heard anything like that from the PM. The position of the Israeli government as I presented in all my meetings in Washington is that Israel very much wants the Embassy move to go through. I know this is the position Ambassador Dermer presented as well. All that is needed is for the President to do nothing – not sign the Waiver..The Embassy move was a promise that he made to his electorate and part of the election campaign. It appears he is trying to keep his promises – on Obamacare, tax reforms and immigration, so I don’t see any reason for him not to fulfill this promise.”
On the president’s peace efforts: “We have made our position clear to the Prime Minister and it has not changed. We do not oppose talks so long as there are no preconditions or demands. If they want to talk, they are invited to do so, as long as there are no preconditions. From our brief history in the Middle East, we have seen that after every intensive and significant effort to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, there has been a wave of violence. I am therefore afraid of such a scenario if we go back to intense efforts again.”
On PA payments to terrorists and the Taylor Force act: “The US gives the Palestinian Authority about $500 million per year. Depending on the calculation, the common assessment is that $300 million from that amount is designated for terrorist prisoners and their families. This is a huge amount of money. The American taxpayer has a right to know this and ask himself: Why do I transfer money to the Palestinian Authority if all the money goes to terrorists in prisons. It is not only an internal Israeli debate. I know the administration has not yet expressed support for this legislation and also the Democrats, I say – let Congress work.”
Speaking of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons – over 1,000 of them are still on hunger strike. If their leader, Fatah arch terrorist Marwan Barghouti, is any indication, they might be getting chocolate and cookie breaks. In any case, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh decided to join the hunger strike in solidarity but apparently did not want to have too difficult a time, so he just fasted for the day. His goal, he said, is “to increase awareness in the general public in the country for the just and basic demands of the prisoners.” Odeh accused the government of using “cheap and ugly tactics to break the hunger strikers, a possible reference to the Palestinian claim that the tape of Barghouti sneaking snacks is a fake. Plenty of right-wing politicians responded to Odeh’s announcement by calling for him to continue the hunger strike for real or offering him chocolate bars.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Kafe Knesset: “I am sad for the Arab citizens of Israel that the head of the Joint List in the Knesset that is supposed to represent them invests most of his time in helping and supporting terrorists and murderers. He should instead be helping me and the police open police stations in Arab towns to strengthen personal security. Instead of helping us turn to the younger generation in Arab society and call on them to join the police and save lives, Ayman Odeh is once again proving what is really important to him, and it is not the good of Israeli Arabs, rather just supporting enemies of the State.”