Kafe Knesset for March 6

Police investigators are set to arrive to the Prime Minister’s Balfour residence this afternoon for the fourth time to continue the probe of “File 1000,” concerning alleged gifts from millionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer, and “File 2000,” regarding his contacts with Noni Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Aharonoth daily. For weeks the police have been waiting to continue questioning Netanyahu but due to his constant traveling lately it took quite a while to coordinate the meeting. Today, Netanyahu cancelled the weekly Likud faction meeting and will be facing some difficult questions instead. But hopefully for BB, things will soon reach a conclusion. Police chief Roni Alsheikh said today that “we are at the end, and now conducting last supplements of the investigation. We don’t have much left to complete and the minute we are finished we will reach a conclusion and pass is it on to the Attorney General.”

Meanwhile, right wing pressure on Netanyahu is growing. The PM succeeded in postponing until next week the ministerial vote on the Maale Adumim bill, which seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty on that West Bank city. Defense Minister Liberman told the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs committee today that Israel received a clear message from the Trump administration that applying sovereignty to Maale Adumim will lead to a crisis. Meanwhile, the Jewish Home party is not sitting still and is also pushing Netanyahu to stand by his commitment to establish a new settlement for the Amona evacuees.

Netanyahu has denied reports that he is reconsidering the Amona resettlement move due to White House pressure, but Bennet and friends apparently don’t believe him. Minister Uri Ariel has started to circulate a draft of a government resolution that will start the planning and construction of the settlement. Yesterday at the weekly meeting of coalition party heads, Bennet asked Netanyahu about what is happening with the new settlement and pointed out that the residents are now on a hunger strike. “Its complicated. We haven’t reached understandings with the US yet. We are committed to finding a solution and don’t need more pressure or any recommendations.” Liberman also weighed in, and with humor asked Bennet “Where are they on strike? I need to lose some weight, perhaps I’ll join them.” This reply prompted a strong and angry reaction from the Amona settlers. The right wing Greater Israel lobby also slammed Liberman today, and called on him to “quit the intimidation campaign against sovereignty. This is not annexation!”

The Jewish Home party was also very unhappy with the Haaretz expose yesterday on Netanyahu’s second proposal to opposition leader Isaac Herzog last September. The proposal was an attempt to launch a regional peace process and establish a unity government, which would have included territorial compromises on Israel’s part. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said today that the party did not know about the draft agreement published in Haaretz. “We were surprised. The PM acted behind our backs. We would object of course.” Yesterday during the cabinet meeting Bennet and Shaked asked Netanyahu for a clarification of the Haaretz report but he told them not to believe the leaks and advised them “not to be dragged into the mud fights of the Labor party.”

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