Kafe Knesset for April 19

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The hottest show in town today was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responding to the State Comptroller’s Report on Protective Edge in the Knesset. Content-wise, there was not much that was new in the response – MKs rehashed the Comptroller’s criticisms of Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that they were not prepared to deal with Hamas terror tunnels and that they did not adequately consult with the cabinet before making decisions. Instead, what stood out most in this meeting were the high emotions. Several bereaved parents questioned Netanyahu and said they didn’t get the satisfaction of at least knowing that the mistakes leading to their sons’ deaths won’t be repeated. One bereaved father, Ilan Sagie, said Netanyahu “stabbed me in the heart and twisted the knife,” and pleaded “Why won’t you say you will fix the failures of Protective Edge?” Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin, a soldier presumed to be dead whose body is held by Hamas, broke down in tears while speaking to Netanyahu. The premier came off as patient, but at some times stern, explaining to Goldin, for example, that he is willing to make sacrifices to bring back her son’s body – but there is a limit. Bibi clearly knew there was no way for him to come out of such an emotional situation unscathed, and looked like he was having a difficult time. Other Likud MKs, however, didn’t seem to get the message, and seemed to think that they needed to invoke their usual take-no-prisoners attitude towards defending Netanyahu. David Bitan and Miki Zohar both shouted at bereaved parents and argued with them. Bitan called one of the fathers a liar, and later released a statement saying that the Left is using bereaved families to attack Netanyahu. Left-wing MKs shouted back at Bitan and Zohar. Bibi, for his part, told Bitan to simmer down: “You’re helping me too much again.”

It was payback time for Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon yesterday: After weeks of fighting and bickering with the PM over the broadcast crisis, Kahlon made a brilliant move. Under a veil of secrecy, he summoned the media for a press conference in which he presented a new and dramatic economic plan. The plan will benefit hundreds of thousands of middle class families in Israel. “Net family” is the name of the plan, which includes tax cuts for young and working families, subsidies for afternoon day care and tax reductions on baby clothes and mobile phones. The plan has an estimated cost of 4 billion shekels a year for the government. Guess who had no idea about the plan until he heard bout it from the media? Indeed, it was Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The war for credit between Kahlon and Netanyahu has been going on for a while, and the tensions have escalated in recent weeks after the IBC crisis. Kahlon hasn’t hidden his discontent from the premier’s tendency to join in on his economic plans and achievements, and this time he wanted to present himself as the sole master of the new plan, which promises to bring thousands of shekels to the average Israeli household and deals with one of the most contentious topics in Israeli society: the cost of living. “There was no need to update anyone. This is a continuation of the government’s policies,” he said, displaying an unconvincing naïveté.

Not only BB: Other coalition leaders were also not happy that they were not updated about the plan in advance: UTJ’s Yaakov Litzman wanted to publish a joint statement by all the faction leaders against the plan, but that was thwarted by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in an attempt to lower the flames. And Netanyhu himself, despite being blind-sided, also reacted in a polite manner, stating that the proposals are “in the right direction and will be examined in a positive matter.” But once again, some of his Likud soldiers lashed out while Netanyahu was trying to keep things calm. Coalition chairman David Bitan threatened that the program will not be approved until another grandiose plan – to increase welfare for disabled citizens, is first approved. “We must remember that without the Likud’s support the plan will not be approved,” MK Yoav Kisch said. Off the record, Likud MKs and ministers pointed out that the new plan is only Kahlon’s way to distract attention from the looming housing crisis.

But on the other side of the Knesset bench, Kahlon got a lot of praise, and the Zionist Union has already pledged to support the plan, with opposition leader Isaac Herzog terming it a “good, important, and welcome plan.” Even Kahlon’s predecessor in the Finance Ministry, Yair Lapid, tweeted rare compliments, stating his plan is “good for the middle and low classes, and is good in general.” Kahlon appears to be confident he will succeed, as he knows it will be very difficult to oppose such a popular plan which tackles such a wide and important constituency. “I haven’t heard of any anger, and there cannot be any anger when you help families with children. I have no doubt that the plan will be approved as is.”

Anyone reading haredi magazine Mishpacha over the last day of Passover in Israel, got to read about how much Netanyahu enjoyed seeing Hamilton on his last trip to NYC. Not only that, but Netanyahu said he made a suggestion to Lin-Manuel Miranda on how to improve the play. As Spamalot taught us, you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews, so Netanyahu touted Hamilton’s Jewish connection. Bibi says he read that when Alexander Hamilton was a child in the Caribbean, his tutor was a Jewish woman, who taught him to recite the Ten Commandments in Hebrew. Later in life, Hamilton expressed admiration for the Jewish people, saying they have a “unique destiny” that is “part of God’s greater plan.” That, Netanyahu said, should go into the play.

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