Kafe Knesset for July 26

Yisrael Hayom says “Bye, Bibi.” Readers of Yisrael Hayom were shocked this morning to see the following headline: “Removing the metal detectors shows Netanyahu’s helplessness. Israel’s response to the terrorist attack on the Temple Mount was weak and panicked, and the step the prime minister took goes against his base of supporters.” Yisrael Hayom, in case you forgot, is the Sheldon Adelson-owned pro-Netanyahu free daily newspaper. So, what is going on? The prevailing theory is that the paper is trying to distance itself from Netanyahu because of “Case 2000,” one of the many corruption cases relating to the PM. Case 2000 is the one in which the publisher of competing paper Yediot Aharonoth, Noni Mozes, offered Netanyahu positive coverage in exchange for support for a bill that would make Yisrael Hayom’s business model illegal. If there is proof that Adelson and Yisrael Hayom are in Netanyahu’s pocket, there might be some campaign finance issues added to the mix. So the solution is to try to prove to Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit that they are not Netanyahu’s newspaper after all.

Cleaning the table at the Knesset: It is that time of year again, when the Knesset holds marathon voting sessions to pass as many laws as possible before it goes on summer recess at the end of this week. The Jerusalem Bill, backed by Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin is on the agenda for today. The bill is supposed to keep Jerusalem united by requiring a two-thirds vote to give up sovereignty over any part of Israel’s capital. But what’s most interesting about the bill is what is not in it. Nothing in the bill could stop the government from redrawing Jerusalem’s municipal borders so predominately Palestinian areas are no longer part of the city, and only after that step, then cede that portion of Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The bill is expected to go to a first reading later today, after a long debate.

Jewish? Democratic? Earlier today, the Knesset debated the controversial Nation-State bill, which declares Israel to be the nation-state of the Jewish People. This would be a law meant to be part of a future Israeli Constitution. Netanyahu is a big proponent of the bil. The PM was even expected to make a rare Knesset committee appearance at the meeting today, but he canceled minutes before it was supposed to begin, citing security discussions. The bill’s proponents say it is fixing an imbalance between Jewish and democratic in the constitution-level laws in Israel, as there are many laws ensuring Israeli democracy but none having to do with its Jewishness. Its opponents are worried that it will create an imbalance in favor the Jewish side. The meeting was as heated as would be expected over a contentious topic like this one. MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) gave an impassioned speech saying that the bill’s proponents are endangering Israeli democracy. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh called it an “apartheid law.” Likud MK Avi Dichter, who proposed the bill, called its opponents hypocrites, especially Livni, who as head of Kadima allowed him to submit the bill and allowed other Kadima MKs to cosponsor it. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, meanwhile said that the bill represents the consensus over Israel being the Jewish State and pointed out that it includes very basic elements that constitutions all over the world include, such as the language, anthem and symbol of the state. Earlier this month, Netanyahu had hoped the bill could pass a first reading this week, but that turned out to be impossible. Considering how absolutely nothing got done in the committee’s first meeting today, it will be surprising if the bill is passed this year.

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