Kafe Knesset for April 28

Bennett for the win: As expected, Education Minister Naftali Bennett was re-elected as the Bayit Yehudi leader. Any concerns that Bennett’s camp may have harbored about low turnout ended up being unfounded, since, even though only 50.67% of party members attended, Bennett still won 80.3% of the vote. The unknowns who ran against him, Yonatan Branski and Rabbi Yitzhak Zagha, got 12.2% and 7.47% of the votes, respectively. Bennett said he saw the results as “a cornerstone on the way to leading the country” and an indication that the party should be opened up to people who wouldn’t usually be its constituents – meaning, not only religious Zionists. Bayit Yehudi has room for anyone who believes in “protecting Israel’s security without compromise, protecting our Jewish identity, protecting our unity,” he said. Whether Bennett will inherit Bibi’s job or not remains to be seen, but there is one tactic they share – calling a snap primary and blowing their unprepared competition out of the water. In fact, the first time Netanyahu pulled that trick, Bennett was his campaign manager.

Occupation as insult: Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein was “personally hurt” by an initiative of an MK. No, it wasn’t Oren Hazan implying that Edelstein is a drug addict (because that’s how the KGB framed Edelstein the refusenik in the 1980s) again. It’s because MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint (Arab) List decided to book a conference room in the Knesset to hold an event marking “50 years of the occupation.” According to a report in Yediot Aharonot today, Edelstein took the unusual move of blocking the conference, which he said was “insulting” to most Israelis and to him, personally. The Knesset Speaker lived in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank since he was released from a Soviet prison and moved to Israel in 1987, and only moved to Herzliya recently because his new wife and her young children live there. Touma-Sliman responded by accusing Edelstein of “running the Knesset like a chapter of the Likud and not a house of representatives,” petitioned the Knesset Legal Adviser to overturn the decision, and threatened to go to court. The strangest thing about this story is that in February, four MKs from the Zionist Union and Joint (Arab) List co-hosted a conference on the exact same topic without any trouble – it must have flown under Edelstein’s radar.

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