Kafe Knesset for April 26

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Welcome President Trump: Israeli sources tell Kafe Knesset that there are early attempts to coordinate a first presidential visit to Israel by the end of May. More details to follow.

Putin says ‘Nyet’ to Liberman: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is off to Moscow for the first time since taking this office last year. On the top of the agenda for the visit, which includes meetings with his Russian counterpart and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is the Syrian issue and the Israeli concern with a growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Who is is missing from Liberman’s itinerary? President Vladimir Putin. Off course, diplomatic protocol does not require Liberman be granted such a high-level meeting, but in the past, he was Putin’s guest of honor. In 2009 and 2011, when Putin was Prime Minister, he didn’t care about diplomatic protocol that much and he met Liberman, then Foreign Minister, during both of Liberman’s Russian visits.

Putin’s cold shoulder is interesting against the backdrop of recent events in Syria. After the Idlib chemical attack earlier this month, Liberman was the first to point a direct finger at the Assad regime, and Putin didn’t like it, expressing his discontent in a phone call with Netanyahu a few days later.

Israel’s eye on North Korea: Before leaving Israel, Liberman gave a rare Israeli statement on the North Korea escalation. “A confrontation with North Korea has direct implications for Israel,” he said in an interview to the Walla news site. “Kim Jong-Un is an ally of Assad, and they form an axis, from North Korea, via Iran to Syria and Hezbollah,” Liberman said. “Their aim is to destabilize the world”. According to Lieberman, a nuclear crisis, even if it focuses on North Korea, will also drag the Middle East into the battle. “Any nuclear crisis anywhere in the world will affect the whole world; there is no limited nuclear crisis.”

IBC saga still isn’t over yet: The Knesset is scheduled to pass the public broadcasting bill in a final vote at around midnight, which is a prime opportunity for the opposition to filibuster. But, fun fact: You can’t filibuster in the Knesset. In the legislature’s rule book, it states that in the budget vote and “unusual cases,” the House Committee can establish the order for the discussion. So, the procedure for any particularly controversial bill goes something like this: Opposition MKs sign up for several days’ worth of speeches, the ruling coalition blocks the speeches, opposition complains that it is undemocratic or unfair. That is exactly what happened this morning, and now the opposition is giving speech after speech on the bill, but they are limited to 11 hours. The one trick the opposition can pull is to withdraw a lot of speeches from the schedule at the last minute, making the actual vote happen hours earlier than anticipated, when many coalition MKs are out of the building, increasing the odds that the opposition will have a majority. It has worked before – will they try it again? We’ll know tonight.

Independence Day is almost here: Also today was the traditional lunch in the Knesset in honor of the Yom Haatzmaut torchbearers. In honor of this also being 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, all of the torchbearers have a Jerusalem connection. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat joined such luminaries as philanthropist and Birthright Israel co-founder Michael Steinhardt and Simon Wiesenthal Center founder Rabbi Marvin Hier. These two are the first Diaspora representatives ever chosen for the honor. Other torchbearers include Israeli singer and actor Yehoram Gaon, retired soccer star Uri Malmelian and Hadassa Mount Scopus Chief Surgeon Ahmad Eid. They and eight others will light torches at the ceremony marking the annual transition from the solemn Yom Hazikaron to the joyous Yom Haatzmaut on Monday night.

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