Kafe Knesset for October 19
Mr. Liberman Goes to Washington: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman departed last night on a four-day visit to Washington, DC and New York City. This is the second time Liberman has traveled to the US this year for a high-level strategic dialogue. He is slated to meet Secretary of Defense Mattis as well as National Security Advisor McMaster. According to an Israeli official – Iran and Syria will lead the agenda. Yesterday, Liberman said that “The Iranians are trying to take control of Syria, trying to establish themselves there, to be the dominant force, and we will not allow it. We are aware of this and we certainly have all the tools to deal with this challenge.”
IPU blues: Just a few days after Israel announced that it will follow in the Americans’ footsteps and quit UNESCO over anti-Israel bias, the Knesset is now considering leaving the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international organization of legislators, for the same reason. The US is not a member, so do not look for reciprocity there. In any case, this week the IPU held its annual assembly in St. Petersburg. Putin made a cameo appearance, and Likud MK Sharren Haskel got a selfie with him. The Knesset delegation led by Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai was very proud of itself for blocking an emergency motion to the agenda to discuss the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But things quickly went downhill when it came time for the committee on human rights of parliamentarians to convene. Several Muslim states pushed forward a motion calling on Israel to release arch-terrorists Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, as well as other members of the non-functional Palestinian National Assembly who were convicted of taking part in terrorist attacks. “I naively thought that this organization, like the whole world, is united against terrorism,” Shai responded. “You want us to release convicted terrorists from prison? I thought you wanted to fight terrorism, not aid it, but reality is different.” Haskel called it a “bad joke” that countries like Syria, Pakistan and Iran were lecturing Israel on human rights. Their speeches were muffled by representatives of Muslim countries who banged on their lecterns and shouted, and the IPU’s Bangladeshi president did not ask them to stop their disruptions. The Kuwaiti delegation accused the Israelis of murdering children – and then proudly put the video on their social media accounts. The MKs eventually decided there was no point in staying, and is weighing its future in the organization.
The Steinitz audition: Nathan Sharansky still has seven more months of his term as Jewish Agency director, but the question of who will succeed him has been floating around for some time now. The succession issue is expected to hover over the meeting of dozens of the Board of Governors in Jerusalem next week. On the first day of the conference, Likud minister Yuval Steinitz, who’s the most prominent candidate mentioned so far, will be addressing the Board of Governors as the government’s representative. Steinitz was invited to the event even though he was reported to be a candidate for the job, but his speech could be viewed as a kind of an audition. Steinitz’s name as a candidate has been mentioned in recent weeks as part of a Likud speculation of a deal in which coalition chair David Bitan will be appointed minister instead of him. Bitan denied it on the radio, being surprisingly modest for a politician and saying he has not been in the Knesset long enough to warrant the promotion. Other hot names that have been touted by the media for the Jewish Agency job are former UN Ambassador Ron Prosor, Mayor of Maaleh Adumim, Benny Kashriel, and Israel’s NYC Consul General Dani Dayan.