Kafe Knesset for April 16

Photo by Jacob Kornbluh

Photo by Jacob Kornbluh


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Jerusalem syndrome: At Jewish weddings, we always recite the Psalm that we will raise Jerusalem above our joys. With President Trump’s upcoming visit, Jerusalem is not only above Netanyahu’s joys, it is ruining any chance for joy. After years of hoping to be prime minister at the same time as a Republican POTUS, it is clear that Netanyahu is not having as drama-free a time as he thought he would.

The Western Wall was at the center of Israeli politics Monday night, following a Channel 2 report that a Trump administration official would not let the Prime Minister’s Office coordinate Trump’s photo-op at the Kotel because it’s not part of Israel. Israel pretty much flipped out at that comment. The PMO called it “astonishing,” and said it would clarify the matter with the White House, which then denied it was authorized, saying it is not the US position or that of the President.

The Western Wall was at the center of Israeli politics Monday night, following a Channel 2 report that a Trump administration official would not let the Prime Minister’s Office coordinate Trump’s photo-op at the Kotel because it’s not part of Israel. Israel pretty much flipped out at that comment. The PMO called it “astonishing,” and said it would clarify the matter with the White House, which then denied it was authorized, saying it is not the US position or that of the President.

Perhaps a more powerful message than an anonymously-sourced US official was that of new US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman visiting the Kotel with his wife and daughter yesterday. After all, he is the US Ambassador to Israel, not the ambassador to the Palestinians. The Friedmans went straight to the Kotel from the airport, and he said in a video posted on the US Embassy’s Twitter account that he prayed for the health of his family and for the President to succeed, and he also said a “shehechiyanu.” In the video, Friedman made sure to emphasize that the Kotel is the holiest place in the Jewish world. During the visit to the Kotel, Friedman bumped into Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, who will be performing in Tel Aviv on his band’s farewell tour Wednesday.

Today, Friedman presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin and said he will work to strengthen the “unshakable bond” between the US and Israel. Friedman said Trump gave him “a clear mandate to aid Israel in any way possible,” and that Trump’s support for the Jewish State is “rock solid.”

Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

The Kotel matter may have been resolved for now, but the controversy over whether or not the US Embassy will move to Jerusalem is far from over. While Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett were continuing their spat over whether the PM was doing enough to push for the move, Fox News’ Connor Powell tweeted that everyone in DC says Netanyahu told Trump to hold off on it. Netanyahu then released Israel’s then-National Security Council chairman Jacob Nagel’s notes from the Bibi-Trump meeting in the White House earlier this year. Nagel wrote: “From the meeting in the Oval Office, the embassy, the PM supports moving it…The PM was asked about the embassy and explained [the move] would not lead to bloodshed in the region as some were trying to intimidate [POTUS] into believing.”

IBC opens with a scoop from Bennett: The Israel Broadcasting Corporation, known as Kan, began airing TV and radio programming Monday. Kan opened with higher ratings that its predecessor, as people were eager to see if they would succeed and what things would look and sound like. On the first night of Kan’s main news broadcast, Bennett was asked if he would leave the coalition over corruption charges against Netanyahu. Bennett replied that it would depend on their severity – the first time any coalition partner said anything of that nature. The anchor of the 8 o’clock news, by the way, is Geula Even-Sa’ar, wife of former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, a possible successor to Netanyahu, who the prime minister is not particularly fond of.

Edelstein’s historic speech in Moscow: Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s office announced that he would be speaking at the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, next month. This isn’t just any political speech for Edelstein, however. He was a former refusenik, who was arrested in the Soviet Union after asking to be allowed to move to Israel, and spent years in the gulag. In 1987, he was one of the last Prisoners of Zion to be released, meaning that this speech will be soon after the 30-year anniversary of his momentous aliya. “This is a special trip and there is great excitement about it. We can not ignore the symbolism of something that could have been considered a mirage not that many years ago, that someone who was a prisoner in the Soviet Union will stand on the stage of the parliament in Moscow and give a speech as the speaker of the Knesset of Israel,” Edelstein said.


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