Kafe Knesset for July 24

All about the Temple Mount: The security and diplomatic fallout surrounding the Temple Mount tensions has been the only thing on Netanyahu’s agenda in the past few days. He is engaged in round the clock talks and consultations to handle the situation. The Security Cabinet is set to convene this evening for the third time since the weekend, after two late night meetings on Thursday and Sunday. These consultations continue against the backdrop of growing Arab and Palestinian pressure to remove the metal detectors from the Temple Mount entrances. Netanyahu canceled a speech to the Knesset in memory of Likud ideological forebear Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940) that was supposed to take place tonight, because of the ongoing meetings.

The metal detector crisis has only gotten more complicated after the weekend’s horrific developments. These include the Halamish terror attack, in which a Palestinian terrorist massacred three members of a family eating Shabbat dinner, and the shooting incident at the Amman embassy. In Amman, a local mover tried to stab an Israeli security guard, who then shot and killed him. At the core of the discussions is a professional dispute between the Police on one hand and the IDF and the Shin Bet on the other, about the necessity of the metal detectors to ensure calm and quiet in the Old City. But as always, the professional dispute has turned into a political issue with right-wing ministers calling on the PM not to succumb to Palestinian threats and terror and not to withdraw the metal detectors.

The issue has also prompted criticism about the decision-making process. The PM spent his morning yesterday defending the decision to install the metal detectors in the first instance. That decision was made last weekend in two security consultations among Defense Minister Liberman, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the Police, the IDF and the Shin Bet. “Despite all the rumors that we had a brief discussion on metal detectors, it was a responsible and orderly discussion,” Netanyahu told Likud ministers yesterday. According to several sources, during these initial consultations, the IDF and the Shin Bet did not raise objections to the metal detectors, and their opposition and warnings only surfaced a few days later after Palestinian protests erupted. The Cabinet, however was brought into the picture only after a week. On Thursday night, when Netanyahu returned from Europe, he convened a four-hour meeting, during which the ministers were asked to decide whether to remove the detectors or leave them in place. A majority of cabinet ministers supported the police position, and the only two to support the IDF and Shin Bet were Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz and Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF Lieutenant General. Yesterday the security cabinet met until 4:00 am to discuss the matter, but did not make any new decisions about the metal detectors, as the unfolding crisis in Jordan took over most of the meeting.

When the violence quiets down a bit, Erdan, whose portfolio makes him in charge of police, can take a step back and bask in the political points he seems to be scoring. Erdan is the most visible minister after Netanyahu among those dealing with the matter. Today, a Hamas outlet released a cartoon of Netanyahu and Erdan hanging from metal detectors. Once you get over the gruesomeness, the fact that Erdan is featuring in Hamas propaganda means he has “made it” in a sense. It is just a little boost for Erdan in his war against Yisrael Katz and Gidon Sa’ar war over who might become Netanyahu’s heir.

Lapid swerves Right: For a little while, it looked like Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid was trying to prevent newly-elected Labor leader Avi Gabbay from stealing his thunder. Gabbay, after all, was supposed to have centrist appeal and hopes to draw voters from Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid to the left-wing Labor Party. But Lapid bucked that narrative with actions that appeal more to the Right, starting with a visit to a West Bank outpost yesterday. Of any outpost that Lapid could have visited, Nativ Ha’avot is probably the tamest. It is part of Elazar, a legal settlement in the Gush Etzion region that many two-state solution backers, including Lapid, think should remain part of Israel. But it is still an outpost, meaning, a neighborhood not legally authorized by the government. Lapid planted a tree there with his former “bro,” Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett. This combination raised more than a few eyebrows in the political sphere. The Lapid – Bennett activity came on the heels of an announcement that Lapid is withdrawing a no-confidence motion in the government, in light of the ongoing wave of Palestinian violence. Lapid stated that it is important to be “united against terror.” Such a gesture of gathering around the flag used to be considered fairly normal, but it is become more unusual in the polarized Israeli political environment. Gabbay, for his part, said the party will keep the motion on the agenda, saying that “even when the tension in our area is at its peak, we have to speak the truth to the public…Netanyahu is not running the country properly, is not listening to the security services, and therefore, more and more Israelis do not trust him anymore.” As of now, Meretz and the Joint List still have their no-confidence motions on the docket, as well.

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