Kafe Knesset for August 17

Alternative realities: The front pages of the two biggest Israeli newspapers – Noni Mozes’s Yediot Aharonot and Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom, are many times mirror images of each other. The two newspapers present two alternative depictions of the same reality with the structure reversed as in a mirror. Typically, this comes into focus on things that have to do with Bibi, as Yedioth tends to present a more critical account of the PM, and Israel Hayom is usually much more supportive. This morning, however, the striking differences between the two popular newspapers had to do with President Trump, and the ongoing criticism of his reaction to the Charlottesville demonstrations. “Shame” read the headline of Yediot, which spread a photo of the president on the whole front page accompanied by two editorials headlined “Horror show,” and “Who is maintaining silence,” which criticized Netanyahu for not denouncing the President. At the same time, on the front page of Israel Hayom there was no mention of the US drama and the backlash that the President’s “both sides” comments have elicited this week. Instead Israel Israel Hayom’s report about POTUS was placed modestly on page 24, as a side column accompanying news of Hope Hick’s appointment as the new White House communications manager. Following a raucous Twitter uproar, Israel Hayom’s editor, Boaz Bismuth went on Army Radio to explain and said “it is unfair that papers are making up stories about Trump, and it is not right and unjust that Israeli papers are turning this friend into an enemy.”

A new kitchen for Sarah: The Netanyahus’ discontent with their living conditions at the official PM residence in Jerusalem is a well known story. This unhappiness was made even more public after Sarah Netanyahu complained about it during President Trump’s visit to Israel. One of Sarah’s new BFFs, Nicol Raidman, who is a colorful society woman who starred in “Meusharot,” basically The Real Housewives of Tel Aviv, has taken a personal interest in the issue. Yesterday, Raidman released her second video within a few months with an inside look into the Balfour Street residence, which is far from luxurious. Raidman received rare access to the Netanyahus’ residential floor, and revealed mildew and mold and peeling walls all around, “The situation here is shocking, no one here lives happily ever after.” Apparently, a kitchen renovation is almost underway and has already been approved by the Finance Ministry, but is stuck due to internal bureaucratic procedures and disagreements inside the PM’s office. A source close to the PM told Kafe Knesset that “it seems that the officials were reluctant to approve the budget because of the way it would be perceived publicly.” The truth of the matter is that the PM’s residence is in bad shape, and could use some serious renovations, but the timing of the video raised some eyebrows. Another chapter in the budding friendship between Sara Netanyahu and Nicol Raidman is set to be told, as Raidman interviewed her earlier this week, and the conversation will be broadcast tomorrow. In an excerpt which was released ahead of the interview, Netanyahu revealed that in the past, when she was a student, she used to work in office cleaning. “For years I cleaned floors, toilets, sinks, everything in the office, and after I left I could eat from the floor,” Sarah told Raidman. The interview appears to be an attempt to brush off the criticism of her luxurious lifestyle at the center of the “Residence Affair” in which she is expected to be indicted.

The Rabbi who cried wolf: Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, head of the Zomet Institute famous for developing technology that can be used on Shabbat, made headlines today. Rabbi Rozen announced that he will resign from Bayit Yehudi because party leader Naftali Bennett’s spokeswoman is a lesbian, and therefore should not represent a religious party in his opinion. “I have nothing against her or [gay people], but I think that having a gay community is inappropriate. The displays of pride are impossible in a party that claims to represent religious Zionism,” he wrote. Bennett tweeted in response that all people are created in the image of God, and “whomever thinks that I should discriminate against a person based on his or her sexual orientation, gender or skin color, will get a total refusal from me.” But, it turns out that Rozen is a serial party-quitter. This is the third time he resigned from Bayit Yehudi. The first resignation was when soccer star Eli Ohana was appointed to the party’s list of Knesset candidates – Ohana stepped down soon after. The second resignation by Rozen was in protest over Bayit Yehudi not fighting the ultra-Orthodox parties’ policies on conversion, one of Rozen’s areas of expertise. A party source told Kafe Knesset that Rozen sought to lead a discussion at the party’s ideological conference last month and was shut down. The belief in party circles is that this snub is the rabbi’s real reason for making a stink, and pointing out that Bennett’s aide’s sexual orientation became public a month ago.

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