Kafe Knesset for July 31
A pardon for Azaria? Another chapter of the Hebron shooter case came to a close yesterday. The IDF’s Military Court of Appeals upheld Elor Azaria’s manslaughter conviction and year-and-a-half prison sentence. A minority of the judges thought his punishment should be more severe, but none thought Azaria should be considered not guilty. The trial of the former soldier, who was convicted after killing a Palestinian terrorist who attempted to stab a soldier, and was already subdued, or “neutralized” in the IDF parlance, was deeply controversial in Israel.
The case was a major topic of conversation throughout the country and the political sphere for much of this past year. Yesterday’s appellate decision had less of a public resonance, but politicians still talked about it. Following the verdict, Netanyahu said Azaria should ask IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot for a pardon. The PM said that he would support the pardon idea, as he did when the original verdict came down in January. Last year, Netanyahu waffled a bit on his reaction immediately after the shooting last year, saying that Azaria violated the rules of engagement and conducted himself in a way unbefitting of IDF soldiers. But following public pressure, Netanyahu called Azaria’s father to reassure him. Defense Minister Liberman said the same, and called on Azaria not to appeal the decision and go to the Supreme Court. Labor leader Avi Gabbay criticized Netanyahu and Liberman for taking a public position on the case. Eizenkot, for his part, said that if Azaria asks for a pardon, he will consider it, as is his duty.
No more Bibiton, meet the Deriton: As it is growing evident that Sheldon Adelson’s freebie newspaper “Israel Hayom” is drifting away from its pro-Bibi editorial line, haredi Shas leader, Aryeh Deri, appears to be in need of his own supportive publication. Deri summoned party activists yesterday to a special gathering in which he launched a new party newspaper – “Haderech” (The Path) – directed to his Sephardi haredi constituents. Shas traditionally appealed to voters through “Yom Leyom”, but the relationship has soured since the passing of Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Deri relationship with Yom Leyom recently deteriorated further due to ownership changes. Deri, who is currently suffering a decline in the polls and is also under criminal investigation, did not hide the fact that the move is aimed at consolidating his base: “Our activities are not represented fairly. We live in another age. You have to talk about the competition,” he said. Unlike Adelson’s well-known support of Israel Hayom, the identity of the people behind Haderech remained confidential.
Bibi’s Dog’s life: The Knesset started its summer break this week, but the lawmakers will be gathering this Wednesday for a special recess session, convened by the Coalition head, David Bitan. While the country is engaged in serious debates about issues like the Temple Mount tensions, the police probes involving the PM and the Elor Azaria trial, the lawmakers will be discussing a totally different topics – dogs, or more specifically – the Netanyahu family dog, Kaiya. The MKs will vote on a new bill, which seeks to change the quarantine procedures for dogs and other pets who are involved in biting incidents. The bill is known as the “Kaiya bill,” as it was submitted by Likud MK Sharen Haskel last year, after “the First Dog” bit her during a Likud gathering and then was put in a detention facility, as the law dictates. Last week, before adjourning for the summer recess, the bill failed to pass its first reading, and Bitan accused the opposition of backtracking from previous understandings to support it, so he decided to pay them back with a special interruption of the MKs’ summer break.
Kaiya, a 12 year old canine, will probably be the star of the discussion. She has now spent two years in the Netanyahus’ Balfour residence. When she was originally adopted Bibi described her as a “gentle and mild mannered dog.” She has become a well documented member of the family, but also periodically causes social media storms, as occurred again last weekend. On Friday evening, a neighbor of the Netanyahus posted a Facebook post accusing the couple’s eldest son, Yair, of walking Kaiya without scooping her poop. According to the account, which included photos with visual evidence, when Netanyahu Jr. was asked to pick up after Kaiya, “he gave me the finger, turned his back, and left.” The post immediately went viral, prompting Yair to issue a rare statement – on Saturday morning – in which he stated that the woman is a regular harasser of the family who bothers them during their dog walks with “abusive remarks and aggressive actions, without any interaction from their part.” The statement, however, confirmed the incident, since it mentioned that Yair was on the phone when the woman harassed him, and he does not know whether Kaiya did, or did not, commit the alleged deed.
While the Internet was going berserk over Kaiya, the Twitter brouhaha continued. A fictional Facebook post, allegedly written by Yair, was disseminated online. “My name is Yair Netanyahu and my father is the PM,” the fictional monologue wrote, “While you and your children sit in the living room, watch TV and complain, my father spends almost every night in endless consultations and meetings. If my father was a citizen now he could have made a fortune, but he has one goal in life – and that is to lead this nation to a better place and keep it safe, even if the world doesn’t always like how it sounds or looks.” The fake monologue sparked a wave of social media reactions: Netanyahu’s fans thought it was moving and sincere. The PM’s opponents thought it was stuck up and arrogant. It took a few hours for the truth to come out: that the post was written in 2016, by a Netanyahu fan who wanted to make a point, and that it was a clear case of “Fake News.”