Kafe Knesset for August 24
Bibi-Putin bromance – the aftermath: Before Bibi headed to Putin’s dacha in Sochi, politicians across the political spectrum wished him luck. But now that the meeting is over, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has his claws out. Lapid says that he expected the meeting to be a failure and, in Lapid’s opinion, it was. “The Russians already said today that they have no plans to change their policy. They will continue cooperating with the Iranians in Syria, and will allow them to create a base 20 kilometers from the Israeli border, with a possibility to build a naval port and air bases at our front door…It turns out that on the most critical topic for our security, the government could not come up with a good plan to work with the American government, either.” Lapid mocked Netanyahu for talking about Iran for 20 years and then bringing “the worst result possible – Iranians on the Israeli border,” which he said is a result of not putting together a coherent policy.
Meanwhile, former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro wrote a revealing Twitter thread about how the Obama administration felt about the “bromance” between Netanyahu and Putin. On the one hand, the US had misgivings about it, but on the other, it was clear that Israel had to work with “the superpower operating in its backyard.” Shapiro said Netanyahu was using his frequent visits with Putin effectively, and “provided clarity on Israel’s redlines in Syria and set up channels to avoid unintended conflict between Israeli and Russian aircraft.”
Bibi imitating Trump: Netanyahu pulled another Trump-esque move this week, in an interview with the right-wing Channel 20. This week Trump complained in Arizona that the media did not cover his condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Trump conveniently omitted the fact that most of the media criticism was over his comment that “both sides” were violent, and that there were “nice people on the neo-Nazi side.” A day later, Netanyahu said to Channel 20: “I said, and of course our media didn’t exactly cover it, that these people should crawl back under the rock that they came from. I usually choose my words carefully, but this was a very sharp statement. It, of course, was not covered, and there was all kind of irrelevant commentary. Anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism are bad things in any place they appear, in Europe, the Middle East or the US, and that is what we have to say.” It happens to be that The Jerusalem Post did report this statement, but the Hebrew press did not, only pointing to his tweet: “Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.” There’s a simple explanation for the snub by the Hebrew press. No one told them about it. Netanyahu did not say it publicly. He said it to Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer – who does not really speak to the Israeli media – and Dermer repeated it at an event in Arkansas and it was posted on the “Israel in the USA” Facebook page.
Mazal Tov! The biggest political event yesterday was a wedding. The daughter of coalition chairman and Bibi loyalist, David Bitan, got married. Bibi and Sarah themselves made an appearance. The prime minister took the microphone to wish the new couple well, and praised “my friend David.” Bitan has organized pro-Netanyahu rallies and went to the media to fight for Netanyahu and defend him from corruption allegations when no one else in the Likud would. In his remarks, Netanyahu thanked Bitan repeatedly for his “courage.” “I had a feeling that he would be an excellent coalition chairman, but he surprised me. He is even more outstanding than I thought!” the premier said. The way to Bibi’s heart is through defending him in the fake news media, apparently. Other attendees, by the way, included cabinet ministers, opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) and MKs from the opposition and coalition. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef performed the wedding.