Kafe Knesset for July 21
Metal detector dilemmas: A tense weekend is starting at the end of a fabulous week for the PM. Netanyahu concluded a five-day visit to France and Hungary, a trip that provided a well appreciated respite from the ongoing investigations of corruption and alleged criminal affairs. The PM did not have much time to rest after he landed in Israel, as Friday prayers for Muslims on the Temple Mount were just around the corner. Bibi drove straight from the airport to the Tel Aviv Defense Ministry headquarters, where he convened a special security consultation. This was followed by a four-hour long late night Security Cabinet meeting. In the past few days, the top security brass has been engaged in internal fighting over the metal detectors which were installed at the Temple Mount’s entrances following last week’s terror attack. On the one hand – the Police, supported by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, was opposed to the removal of the metal detectors, and on the other side – the IDF and the Shin Bet were pushing to dismantle the metal detectors in order to defuse tensions and lower the risk of a violent outburst. As always, the disagreements turned political, and Naftali Bennett and the other right-wing ministers pressured Netanyahu all week not to succumb to the Palestinian demands. The PM decided to share the decision-making, perhaps predicting a political fallout from either course of action.
Netanyahu, with the majority of the Security Cabinet ministers, supported the Police stance, and voted to keep the metal detectors intact and in place. Only Yuval Steinitz and Yoav Galant voted with the IDF and Shin Bet who wanted the metal detectors removed. But the PMO’s statement at the end of the meeting was drafted in vague wording, stating that the Security Cabinet “authorized the Police to make any decision to ensure free access to the holy sites while maintaining security and order.” This ambiguity was followed by speculation that the cabinet is preparing to throw responsibility on the Police if anything goes wrong. But Israeli officials then clarified that the Idea was to leave the metal detectors in place, and give the Police on the ground the authority to decide when and how to use them.
Meanwhile, there was a flurry of diplomacy and behind-the-scenes talks attempting to lower the flames. Abbas reportedly called Jared Kushner last night to enlist him to pressure Israel to reverse the decision. At the same time, Israeli officials diplomats attempted to convey the message to the Arab world that the metal detectors are not a violation of the status quo.
A controversial call from Ankara: Yesterday evening, President Rivlin received a call from Turkish President Erdogan. Rivlin urged Erdogan to denounce last week’s terror attack and to assist in diffusing tensions. However, not everyone was happy about the call. The effort by Rivlin actually enflamed internal frictions in what appears to be the latest chapter in the long and storied rivalry between the Israeli PM and the Israeli President. President Rivlin took the call from Erdogan even though the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office strongly advised against it. The opponents of the call argued that Turkey should not be part of the diplomatic process, since Ankara continues to incite and encourage Palestinians and Israeli Arab citizens to violence. But Rivlin thought refusing a call from Erdogan was undiplomatic and would only make things worse. So President Rivlin defied the advice and then leaked the whole story to the press. “The President is engaged in huge efforts to calm down the regional situation and restore the calm and security to Israeli citizens. We are sorry that some of the bodies that are supposed to share that goal prefer instead to disavow the President and his efforts for the sake of the country.”
Rally for gay adoption: Quite a few opposition MKs and even some from the ruling coalition came out in a show of force at an LGBT rights rally on Thursday night. The protest was organized over discriminatory adoption policies. These policies were highlighted this week when the State described them to the Supreme Court. Same-sex couples have the right to adopt in Israel, but they are pushed to the end of the line, after heterosexual couples. The Welfare Ministry’s reasoning was that children put up for adoption are already at a disadvantage, and somehow letting them be raised by LGBT parents would make that situation worse. After the controversy broke out, and Likud’s one openly gay MK announced a rebellion. This action was just one among other outraged responses. As a result, the government asked the court for an extension to re-evaluate its position. Meanwhile, thousands protested in Tel Aviv last night. Meretz MK Michal Rosin, co-chairwoman of the Knesset Gay Caucus (odd fact – none of the three chairwomen of the Gay Caucus is actually gay) said: “We are united to show the government that LGBT rights are human rights. These rights include the right to be a parent, which is a basic right that cannot be taken from any man or woman.” Another caucus co-chairwoman, MK Meirav Ben-Ari of Kulanu, meaning she’s in the coalition, had a daughter this year via IVF. The father is her friend and neighbor, a gay man. Ben-Ari took part in last night’s LGBT rally, saying that gay rights are not a left-wing issue and everyone should be involved.