Kafe Knesset for April 10
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Cabinet debates humanitarian aid for Syria: After the dramatic weekend, the security cabinet convened last night for a three-hour session on the latest in Syria. Most of the meeting was dedicated to diplomatic and security briefings, with the PM updating the ministers on his last talks with President Putin and VP Pence after the tomahawk attack. But in the wake of the recent atrocities, some of the ministers have been calling to increase Israel’s humanitarian efforts. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz of the Likud, for instance, has been pushing to offer medical treatment to the victims of last week’s chemical attack in Idlib and even bring some of the wounded to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Ahead of the meeting, Katz made the media rounds promoting this idea, and he also brought it up last night, supported by fellow Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, also of the Likud. “As Jews and Israelis, we must do something and not stand idly by in the face of this horror,” Katz said, and Erdan argued the same, adding that such an act could make a positive contribution to Israel’s image abroad. Netanyahu heard the ministers and instructed his staff to check if the idea is even possible, as the IDF, backed by defense minister Liberman, are not that enthusiastic about it, citing logistical constraints and deeming the proposal quite unpractical. Another humanitarian plan, aimed at absorbing 100 Syrian orphans in Israel, wasn’t discussed at the cabinet meeting. The initiative, which was drafted by the Jewish Agency and the Population and Immigration Authority, was approved by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri more than two months ago and is waiting for Netanyahu’s green light.
New names in Netanyahu investigations: Just before Passover festivities begin, Netanyahu’s police probes made it back to the headlines. Channel 10 reported last night that State attorney Shai Nitzan has decided to expand the legal team accompanying the Police investigations into files 1000 and 2000. One of the new lawyers who will be dealing with Netanyahu’s alleged misdoings will be Liat Ben-Ari, one of the leading litigators on corruption in recent years, who was responsible for former PM Ehud Olmert’s conviction in the notorious Holyland trial. Ben-Ari also handled the corruption cases against former Labor leader Binyamin “Fuad” Ben Eliezer and business tycoon Nohi Dankner.
However, despite previous predictions that the conclusion of the investigations against the premier is a matter of weeks, the new deadline, stressed in recent police briefings, is months away. More work is needed on both probes – file 1000, in which Netanyahu is allegedly suspected of receiving luxurious gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and other close, rich friends, and file 2000 – which is focused on his connection with Arnon “Noni” Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Aharonoth daily, considered one of most powerful men in Israel.
Netanyahu is set to be investigated again in the upcoming weeks, but investigators are reportedly still trying to reach Aussie billionaire James Packer and fetch his version of the events. Meanwhile, another BB billionaire friend visited the Lahav 443 special unit’s offices last week and testified about their relationship. British-Finnish magnate “Poju” Zabludowicz, a renowned art collector, media and business investor and founder of BICOM, the UK version of AIPAC, already starred in a BB affair in the past, as he was mentioned in the Bibi-tours probe as funding flights and luxury hotel stays for Netanyahu and his wife Sarah. Now, the police is investigating whether Zabludowicz provided other gifts to the Netanyahus.
Zabludowicz, who has varied business interests in Israel, including El Al shares, gave an open testimony and was not questioned under caution, but channel 2 reported last night that his testimony “strengthens the suspicions” and is supporting the notion of an alleged pattern of accepting gifts by Netanyahu and his family. Netanyahu released a statement dismissing all reports about Zabludowicz’s testimony stating “it will not produce anything for a simple reason: he never gave any gifts, not to the prime minister and not to the Netanyahu family, and was never asked to do so. This is another futile attempt to inject media interests into nothing. We repeat again: there will be nothing, because there is nothing”.
Meni Naftali tells all: But if anyone is looking to hear some more about the dirty details of the Netanyahu scandals and behind the scenes secrets of the household and residence, Meni Naftali, the former housekeeper who sued the Netanyahus for harmful and abusive behavior, has a new gig: paid lectures. “Come and hear what is happening in the PM’s residence from the only person in the country who has been there and has the courage to tell the truth. Because the truth always wins,” Naftali wrote in an ad he posted on Twitter yesterday. While Sara Netanyahu is still hoping to appeal the court ruling, which awarded Naftali with NIS 175,000 in damages, the former caretaker has been very vocal in the last few months, and has been regularly protesting outside the attorney-general’s house calling to speed up the various investigations against the PM. Will his new business venture work out? Not necessarily, but it might provide some more juicy stories about cigars and pink champagne.
Another bad hair day: Meanwhile, social media is abuzz over the prime minister’s coif. Netanyahu has veered all the way into black hair this week. Some speculated on social media that he was wearing a toupee, but it’s just the dark color making his comb-over look less patchy. Chiming in on Twitter was former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who said Netanyahu’s hair was a sure sign of an early election. Netanyahu’s media arch-enemy Yediot Aharonot made an infographic of all of the premier’s recent hair colors, with the headline “black is the new purple.” The prime minister is not going to get back to the wavy-haired glory of his youth (Google Ben Nitay if you don’t know what we’re talking about), so maybe he should give the hair dye a rest.
A very viral Passover: In Israel, everyone’s phones are blowing up with “Happy Passover” messages. A lot of MKs make a sort of greeting card that they e-mail or send over whatsapp, but the most creative among them produced videos. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman probably wins this round. In a video posted on his Facebook wall, two comedians are sitting around, bored, and decide to invite a new friend over who turns out to be none other than Liberman. “What do you do when you’re bored?” one asks. “It’s never boring in the Defense Ministry.” Finally, the trio come up with something to do – make a viral video. Liberman throws a bottle in the air, and (thanks to editing) it does a 360-degree flip and lands perfectly on the table. But the best moment of the clip is when Liberman, satisfied with his trick, folds his arms and gangsta rap plays in the background. He promises viewers to do all he can to ensure a safe and quiet Passover.
Another tough guy made a funny video for Passover: Former Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon. A few weeks ago, Bogie revealed that his nephew is Static, the rapper half of Israel’s biggest pop duo, Static and Ben-El. In his new video, Static calls Bogie, saying Ben-El (son of Shimi Tavori, for those of you familiar with Israeli pop from the 70s and 80s) borrowed his car and he needs a ride to the Seder. Ya’alon mispronounces “Static” and thus begins a sort of dialogue of the deaf in which Static uses one slang term after another, even calling saying his uncle has “swag,” while Bogie uses military language, like telling his nephew to meet him at 1600 hours. “What speaks to Israelis are Zionism and values of a Jewish and democratic state,” Ya’alon said. “That’s what keeps us united as a nation.” “Easy,” Static said – the current teen slang version of saying “duh.”
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) took a different tack, filming a video of herself making matza balls in her kitchen. With a Martha Stewart-like cadence, Livni explained how she will fit 33 relatives in her living room, and how she makes the matza balls by feel, without an exact recipe, because that is how her mother makes them. Livni also talked about Passover being the Festival of Freedom: “Freedom to think, freedom to speak, freedom to criticize, freedom to love. We are a free nation in our land, and every one of us is a free person.” This video isn’t the first time we’ve seen Livni in the kitchen; before the 2013 election, she let Channel 2’s cameras into her house while she made stuffed peppers, and revealed that, while she’s a vegetarian, she cooks meat for her family.