Kafe Knesset for March 2

Netanyahu has decided to extend Ron Dermer’s term for one additional year as Israel’s ambassador to Washington. The extension, through October 2018, will be presented this Sunday at Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. Ahead of the US elections, talk in Jerusalem was that if Hillary Clinton were to be elected, Dermer would likely have come back home, but as he is now the top contact person for the Trump administration, the PM wants him to stay as close as possible to the White House. After the Trump meeting last month, Netanyahu told his fellow cabinet ministers that Dermer would establish a special consultation mechanism with Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt to coordinate Israeli moves vis a vis the settlements.

This coming Sunday that mechanism might come into play as another contentious piece of legislation is back on the agenda at the Knesset. The right wing settler lobby for Greater Israel is pushing for a preliminary vote on the Maale Adumim bill, which applies Israeli sovereignty to that West Bank city. The bill, sponsored by Jewish Home and Likud MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Yoav Kish, was initially put on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda on the 22nd of January, two days after Trump’s inauguration, but Netanyahu succeeded in convincing the MKs to postpone the bill until after his meeting with the President. Now, Smotrich and Kish are resubmitting the bill for the ministers to vote on this Sunday, and are accompanying the efforts with a massive SMS campaign pressuring the cabinet to approve the bill.

Smotrich told Kafe Knesset that “the government and the Knesset must be attentive to the public sentiment. 80 percent of the Israeli public supports applying Israeli sovereignty in Maale Adumim now, without any correlation or dependence on the existence or absence of a diplomatic process. So this is a decision the government must make and a move the Knesset must lead.” Netanyahu’s office has refused to comment on whether the PM is going to let the legislation move forward but pressure from the right is mounting.

This morning, seven of the Amona evacuees announced they are launching a hunger strike until the government fulfills its commitment to build a new settlement for them. Last month, during the Amona crisis, Netanyahu announced that he will build a new settlement but after the PM’s meeting with Trump, he has reportedly backtracked on that commitment for the time being. The PM’s office continues to denies those reports. “Will you keep your promise? What is your signature worth if you don’t respect agreements?” Amona community spokesman Avihai Boaron blasted in a demonstration outside BB’s residence today. “We are a month after the evacuation and we are treated like dogs. Where are you? Where is your word? We will not give up. The public will not forget and will not forgive.” Yesha Council head Avi Roeh also spoke at the protest. “The Prime Minister needs to make the right and brave decision. Even if there are pressures from inside and outside he must do it because there is no other way. The PM needs to give a simple order to start building a new settlement and that will bring some hope to the people who can’t find themselves right now after they were expelled from their homes.”

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