Kafe Knesset for March 13

Watch out, UN Human Rights Council, Yair Lapid is coming to get you. The Yesh Atid leader, and likely leading challenger to Netanyahu in the next election, headed to Washington D.C. on Monday to advocate for the US to stop funding the panel. Lapid recently called the UNHRC “the rotten core of [the] antisemitic campaign” to delegitimize Israel. Lapid plans to meet with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Congressional Israel Allies Caucus chairmen Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Trent Franks (R-AZ). Lapid will also meet with Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and others in Congress and make appearances in the American media.

Just a few hours before Jason Greenblatt landed in Israel, Minister of Defense Liberman conveyed his message to the first Trump administration envoy arriving in the region to explore the prospects of Israeli Palestinian peace. “Ahead of another attempt to launch Israeli Palestinian negotiations, we should learn lessons from the past and the first lesson is that any attempt to solve the Palestinian issue by the ‘land for peace’ formula is doomed to fail. The only way to reach a viable agreement is a broad regional agreement which will include territory and population exchange,” he wrote on Facebook this morning.

Liberman will not be meeting Greenblatt during his Israel trip, though Kafe Knesset has learned that during his visit to DC last week, the Defense Minister and the President’s special advisor did have a chance to sit down, during Liberman’s meeting with NSC director McMaster.

In the emerging flurry of ideas floated to revive the peace process, Liberman is playing a double game: On the one hand, he is the responsible adult, vocally opposing right wing annexation plans and calling to restrict settlement construction, but on the other hand he is now reviving one of his oldest and most controversial plans – the populated territory swap, while attacking one of his oldest political rivals – the Arab MKs. “There is no reason Sheich Raed Salah, Aiman Odeh, Bassel Ghattas or Hanin Zoabi continue to be citizens of Israel,” he wrote in his Facebook post today, which, as usual, prompted a strong reaction from the Joint List. Party leader Odeh slammed Liberman’s “transfer” plans and said “the settlers’ government knows that the Arab minority will take a substantial part in replacing the government. That’s why they are obsessed with threatening us with revoking our citizenship.”

It’s still Purim in Jerusalem, so it’s not too late to check out what some Israeli politicians dressed up as. Liberman won “costume of the day” by donning a curly wig and glasses to play Shauli, a character on Eretz Nehederet (Israel’s answer to SNL) played by Asi Cohen, who also portrays Liberman. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan couldn’t catch a break from work even on the holiday – his kids dressed up as police officers and firefighters. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked wore a moose hat, complete with antlers, to hear the Megilla reading at a yeshiva in Tel Aviv, and MK Bezalel Smotrich from Bayit Yehudi, the religious-Zionist party, decided, in the spirit of Jewish Opposite Day to dress like he’s from a non-Zionist stream of Judaism, donning a shtreimel and bekishe (fur hat and satin coat that hassidim wear). MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Independent) dressed up as Robin Hood, a fitting choice for an MK who crusades to tax the rich and increase welfare for the poor. Meretz’s Michal Rosin dressed as a settler, complete with a map of “greater Israel” that is all of Africa. And, exemplifying the difference between political correctness in Israel vs. the US, MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) wore a Native American costume that never would have passed muster in America.

Unlike other politicians, Bibi didn’t dress up, but he did take part in Purim festivities during the weekend. On Saturday evening he joined the Caesarea central synagogue’s Megillah reading and spoke to the congregation’s younger generation, giving them a lesson in historical analogies. “Why do we celebrate Purim? What do we mark? What did they try do to do us then? Where did they try to kill us? That’s right, in Persia. Did it work? No! On the contrary! But just like in the past, today Persia is still trying to kill us and it will not work.” Bibi choosing to emphasize the historical perspective of Purim and to talk about Iran should not come as a surprise to anyone, but in the general atmosphere of festivities, parties and costumes, his fatalistic message to the children was cynically dismissed on Twitter. And then came Iranian FM Javad Zarif, who decided to give Netanyahu – the son of the historian – a history lesson of his own.

“To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews three times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history and falsifying Torah. Force of habit,” Zarif tweeted, attaching a post in which he claimed the Persians-Iranians actually saved the Jews three times in history, conveniently skipping over the part of the Megillah in which the Persian king signed a genocide order against the Jews. This is the second time this week that Netanyahu’s historical analogy of Purim has been publicly countered: During his visit to the Kremlin last Thursday Netanyahu compared modern Iranian threats to ancient Persia’s attempts to destroy the Jewish people but Putin rejected the parallel. “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bibi’s significant other, Sarah, had a special Purim treat of her own last night, as she starred on the red carpet of Tel Aviv Fashion Week’s opening night. Accompanied by Bestie and Culture Minister, Miri Regev, her hairdresser Jan Cohen and her stylist Sandra Ringler, Sarah joined all of Israel’s fashion world Who’s Who. The Ringler-Cohen hair-stylist duo is responsible for Sarah’s couture makeover in recent years, since a miserable fashion incident in 2013. After stunning the fashion columnists last month with a bright pink dress for the Netanyahus’ meeting with the First Lady at the White House, this time the color of the evening was green.

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