Kafe Knesset for April 11

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Raising Jerusalem above all our joys: The Foreign Ministry Workers’ Union, which is threatening to disrupt the Presidential visit over a labor dispute, is still waiting to hear if their demands have been accepted by the Finance Ministry. Last night, the Prime Minister also weighed in and sent his chief of staff, Yoav Horwitz, to try to push an agreement between the sides and enable proper preparations for the visit. Officially, the Foreign Ministry workers have stopped their handling of the visit for today and are waiting for a signed commitment from the Finance Ministry before they return to work.

Meanwhile, one of the most sensitive issues hovering over Trump’s visit to Israel is our eternal capital of Jerusalem. Repeated reports in recent weeks indicate that the President will not live up to his campaign promise to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, Mr. Trump will sign a presidential waiver next month further delaying the implementation of the law that would move the Embassy to Jerusalem. The most recent news report, one coming out yesterday in the right-wing Makor Rishon, stated that the White House has already informed Netanyahu that the decision has been made. The White House and the Prime Minister’s Office both denied the report, but a senior Israeli source told Kafe Knesset that Jerusalem has received messages that this is indeed the case, even though the source stressed that “it is still not official or final, and Trump – being Trump – might still change his mind.” Another source added that “we are investing all our energy in the Jerusalem issue. Any move or statement recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem will be historical,” also stressing the political impact such a move would bear. “The Right wing base’s expectations from Trump were so high, and the embassy move is an important symbol. If the Jerusalem issue collapses and nothing happens on the visit, the political pressure on Netanyahu will increase dramatically, especially regarding settlement construction.” So far, the Jewish Home has been relatively calm in their reactions to reports of an emerging peace process, but the settlers’ discontent with the de facto settlement freeze is growing by the day. A Haaretz report today, stating that Netanyahu decided to postpone a planning committee meeting until after the visit might prevent another rerun of the 2010 Biden incident, but at the same time is likely to add to the tensions and to the growing pressure on Bibi from his strongest political base.

In general, Trump’s statements that he can bring about the ultimate “deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, have been met by skepticism by many in Bibi’s right wing coalition, who are raising doubts that the business approach will actually succeed. “It’s not just business, it’s also an emotional dispute between two peoples and two leaders, and I’m not sure Trump takes that factor into account,” said a senior minister. “Trump believes that business thinking serves the cause – we think the opposite,” he added.

Who is a Jew? The Haredi parties have given their Shabbat battle a rest for a few days now, but it appears that the tense relationship between religion and state will continue to dominate the agenda for this Knesset session, as the controversial Kotel bill is also waiting on the legislative agenda. Meanwhile, a new Government law memorandum submitted yesterday deals with another dynamite topic – conversion. The bill, drafted by Shas’ Aryeh Deri’s Interior Affairs ministry, seeks to overturn a Supreme Court ruling from last year, which ordered the state to recognize private Orthodox conversions. According to the memorandum, the government will recognize only conversions carried out by the state and the rabbinate, “and no legal validity will be given to conversions that were not conducted in Israel by the state conversion system.”

Regev VS. Breaking the Silence, the Facebook sequel: Always-colorful Culture Minister Miri Regev, who is known to be provocative and outspoken, is under attack, at least on Facebook. Regev appealed to her followers today, urging them to rate her page, claiming left wing factors are systematically trying to lower her rankings and rating her page with a low number of stars. “It’s time to break Breaking the Silence,” Regev wrote with screen shots explaining how to vote, “If Breaking the Silence supporters are trying to deliberately harm the ranking of my Facebook page on the Internet, it is time to do something. This will be a victory for the Trojan horses over those who are faithful to the State of Israel. It requires us, Likudniks, rightists, Zionists, lovers of the Land of Israel, to stand as one strong and united bloc and defeat them, join me, spend two precious minutes of your time and strengthen my Facebook page.”

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