Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day
Queen Haley: Early this morning, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley landed in Israel. Haley was greeted by her Israeli counterpart, Ambassador Danny Danon, who will be accompanying her during most of the visit. Haley’s first meeting was with the Israeli PM Netanyahu, who expressed his deep gratitude for her “standing by Israel and the truth.” Haley has already become one of the most popular figures in the Trump administration, as the Israeli government is highly enthusiastic about her pro-Israel stand and attempts to change the anti Israel bias that is so prevalent at the UN. The warm embrace of Ambassador Haley was apparent in every meeting she has had in Israel so far. “People appreciate the truth,” BB told Haley. “We have an ancient Hebrew saying that when people tell the truth, you can sense it and people feel it. They not only understand it, they feel it. And we feel it. We are pleased to see the fruits of your efforts. It’s simple logic. A simple logic that you do not see often, and people respond to it along a very broad spectrum. President Trump and you have changed the discourse, and people are paying attention.” Haley told Netanyahu she is thrilled by the reactions. “If there’s anything I have zero tolerance for, it is bullying, and the UN behaved so brutally toward Israel simply because it can. We are starting to see a change. I think they know that they cannot go on responding as they have until now, they feel that the tone has changed.” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who also attended the meeting, gave Haley a necklace with a gold pendant of a Menorah symbol which was found in excavations in the City of David.
President Rivlin, in Haley’s next meeting, echoed the same warm sentiments. “With your support, we see the beginning of a new era. Israel is no longer alone in the United Nations, Israel is no longer the punching bag of the United Nations,” he told her. Haley then said that she feels “a bit embarrassed because all I do is tell the truth. The UN has been abusing Israel for a long time and we will not let it happen anymore.”
Later on today Ambassador Haley will continue to Ramallah and tomorrow morning she will start off in Bethlehem. Then, Haley will get a special aerial view of the country, as she is set to embark on a helicopter tour from north to south, which will include security briefings from IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi. The tour will bring Haley down to the Gaza border and the Kerem Shalom crossing, where she will meet Israeli residents and visit one of the terror tunnels exposed on the border. Then, she will fly up north to the Lebanese and Syrian borders and meet with IDF officers as well as officials from the UN peacekeeping forces in these areas. On Friday, Haley will conclude her visit meeting with Defense Minister Liberman, a visit to Yad Vashem, and a tour of Tel Aviv – justin time for its gay pride parade.
Annexation on the agenda: The legacy of the Six Day War is controversial, so it is no surprise that the Knesset’s commemoration of it made waves. The commemoration was a mostly right-wing affair. Many of the meetings were dedicated to boosting settlements. Netanyahu called himself “privileged” that a new settlement is being established while he is Prime Minister. BB hinted that he is considering building more than the 2,480 West Bank homes that are already planned. “I have done what is needed to preserve these communities [in Judea and Samaria]. I promise you, no one has done more,” he said. In another meeting in the Knesset, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who is close to Netanyahu, discussed their initiative to apply Israeli law to Israelis living in Judea and Samaria. Under current law, those Israelis technically live under IDF military control. The center and left say that this new law would be tantamount to annexation; the right argues that one cannot annex what is historically yours. In any case, every law the cabinet proposes will now include a mention of the West Bank. Shaked called on MKs to do the same in private member bills, a move that Levin said would drastically improve their lives. According to Levin, the fact that an IDF general has to sign an order in order for the rules in sovereign Israel to apply in the West Bank is “shameful and outrageous…The selectivity has to end.” Meretz boycotted all of the events, because none were related to the “occupation.”
Incitement fight: The Israeli version of the Taylor Force Act is heating up and will go to a first vote on Sunday. The bill is not as extreme as Sen. Graham’s proposal, which would cut all funds to the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying salaries to terrorists and their families. The Israeli version, proposed by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), reduces the tax money that Israel transfers to the PA in proportion to how much of its budget goes to terrorists – so, Palestinian law currently states that 7% of its budget pays terrorist salaries, and if the Israeli law passes, Israel will withhold 7% of the tax funds. The bill has support from MKs in the coalition and opposition, including former generals (like Stern himself) and former Shin Bet chiefs, but the fact that Stern’s party leader Yair Lapid has kept mum on the issue raised eyebrows. Lapid’s office told Kafe Knesset that he does, in fact, support the bill.
Tremors and changes in Sheldon’s paper: A month after Boaz Bismuth was appointed editor-in-chief of Yisrael Hayom, dramatic changes are starting to take place. Veteran journalist Dan Margalit, who is considered one of the most prominent writers in Adelson’s newspaper, was sacked yesterday, and Margalit claims it is because he did not toe the pro-Netanyahu editorial line. “My income fell while defending freedom of speech. Boaz Bismuth, who just came back from a flight with Bibi, fired me. It is not for economic reasons because he did not offer to reduce my salary. I am proud, but sad, Margalit tweeted yesterday, immediately sparking waves and reactions. Margalit has been considered by many a “fig leaf” for Adelson’s newspaper, as his experience and reputation covered up for the newspaper that usually only praises Netanyahu. In recent months, Margalit has intensified his criticism of the PM, especially on social media, and he claims that is the sole reason for his dismissal. “If I wrote that Bibi is a genius and Sarah behaved wonderfully with Trump, they would have found some source for my salary,” he told Army Radio yesterday. “Of course it is not an economic matter. It’s a political matter. Bibi cannot stand the criticism I have been writing for the past three to four years”. However, Margalit, 79, was also one of the highest-paid employees of Israel Hayom, and one of Bismuth’s main tasks is to do some cost-cutting in the newspaper, which reportedly has already lost millions of dollars in the recent years.
Netanyahu bids farewell to one of his closest advisors: Shaya Segal, a former adviser to Netanyahu and former PM Ariel Sharon, passed away yesterday at the age of 66. Segal started his career as a reporter and photographer for Ma’ariv, and later founded a PR firm and built a consulting career, first with Sharon and then with Netanyahu. Segal was considered one of the Netanyahu’s closest confidants, but the close relationship reportedly soured in recent years, after he started to write a book about his experiences. In January, he was summoned to the police to give testimony in Netanyahu’s investigations. The PM and his wife published a special statement saying they will remember Segal with “love and appreciation,” noting his Zionism and love of the country. “Shaya never bent his principles against the winds of fashion, and always remained loyal to the national idea,” the couple said.