Kafe Knesset for March 8

The Knesset erupted in debate today over the controversial Muezzin Bill, which limits the use of outdoor loudspeakers by houses of worship to daytime only. The bill passed a preliminary vote. The main target of the bill, proposed by MKs from Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu, is the crack-of-dawn call to prayer from mosques. Bayit Yehudi MK Motti Yogev said he proposed the bill after receiving complaints from both Jews and Muslims about the muezzin’s call. However, Likud MK Yehudah Glick and Zionist Union’s Zouheir Bahloul have commenced a bipartisan and interfaith campaign to reach agreements on the matter through a dialogue and not legislation. Glick rebelled against the coalition, absenting himself from the vote. The bipartisan efforts may be in vain, however, since Netanyahu has thrown his support behind the bill – some say at the behest of his son Yair, who can reportedly hear the mosques in Jisr az-Zarqa from the family’s home in Caesarea.

Meanwhile, another feminist storm emerged just in time for International Women’s Day. Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of the prestigious religious-Zionist Mechina (military preparatory academy) in Eli was heard disparaging women who serve in the IDF. The comments were made in a recording broadcast on Channel 2 News.”They drove our girls crazy,” Levinstein proclaimed about women in the mixed-gender Karakal combat unit. “They recruit them to the army. They go in Jewish, but they’re not Jewish at the end. Their entire value system gets mixed up.” He also posited that the women join Karakal because they’re unsure that they’ll be able to get married.

In response, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is considering removing Levinstein from the head of the Mechina. Liberman asserts that Levinstein may not be fit to prepare people for their IDF service since Levinstein opposes the values of the IDF and the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited Biblical and historical precedents in opposition to Levinstein’s views. The PM told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: “Female Hebrew warriors since the days of Yael and Deborah to Hannah Szenes and women of the Palmach, the Irgun and the Lehi, to today, our brave female fighters in the IDF, Border Police and female police officers, take an active part in our security, defending the State and the nation, and we are proud of this and cultivate it.” Levinstein previously came under fire in July for saying LGBT people are perverts and should not serve in the army.

Tzipi Livni and Ayelet Shaked are the top woman candidates for the premiership these days, according to a Walla! news poll published today for International Women’s Day. Livni has run for the job in the past, but lost to Netanyahu in the 2009 elections. Justice Minister Shaked, number two in the Jewish Home party, has recently stated that she sees herself as future PM candidate as well, and is probably the most promising woman politician in Israel today. However, Shaked rushed to avoid getting in trouble with her party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, saying she was talking about the distant future and that she believes Bennett will be the next PM after Netanyahu. The poll showed that 80% of the Israeli public believe that a woman can be prime minister. However, female representation in Israel 2017 is far from equal. The current Knesset has a record high number of 33 women MKs, constituting only a bit more than a quarter of the lawmakers. Around the cabinet table, statistics are even lower: only 4 women serve as ministers – 17%, and only one – Shaked – is a member of the prestigious security cabinet.

The Knesset marked International Women’s Day one day early. The stand-out event was a mass “Bat Mitzvush” – which is what some Israeli preteen girls call a Bat Mitzva. Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli, who was a prominent feminist activist and columnist before entering elected office, planned the equality-themed event. Michaeli selected 200 girls, who came to the Knesset with their mothers, through a contest on “Instush,” or as those of us over the age of 15 call it, Instagram.

While media outlets were swamped with leaks from Bibi’s fourth investigation, Netanyahu and wife Sarah continued their Bibi-tours yesterday, this time encouraging domestic tourism with a visit to the southern city of Eilat. Netanyahu spent the day signing housing agreements with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, pledging to double Eilat’s size and economy. This is the second time Netanyahu chose to spend some public time with Kahlon in recent weeks, picking one of the most cozy and smiling politicians as his main BFF. Galant. who is number 2 in Kahlon’s Kulanu party, is considered to be very loyal to Netanyahu, possibly eying a future move to his Likud party. Netanyahu, of course did not forget to go live on Facebook with BBtv, in which he broadcast the warm welcome he received from Eilat’s residents and tourists. Netanyahu and Sarah made a rare visit to a coffee shop, taking some time off to meet fans at the Eilat branch of the Aroma chain and taking a break from the disturbing news of progress in police investigations.

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