Kafe Knesset for August 29
Greenblatt’s tour: The President’s special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, stayed on after the senior White House delegation visited the region last week. According to senior Israeli sources, Greenblatt is dedicating his attention on economic and civil steps to improve the very frosty atmosphere between Israeli and Palestinians. Today, Greenblatt will be meeting Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who is pushing a regional railway plan to create a rail network between Israel, the PA, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Kafe Knesset learned that on Friday, Greenblatt met with the PM and also with Deputy Minister Michael Oren, to discuss further economic steps. Greenblatt also met Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, prior to his encounter with António Guterres, the UN Secretary General. Both Gutterres, who arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, and Greenblatt are staying at the King David Hotel.
Keeping a distance from the press and discretion has been a significant attribute of the Trump team’s peace efforts so far. Aside from periodic leaks from the Palestinian and Arab press (which are usually staunchly denied), not many details of the talks have made it to the media. Thus, journalists are left to explore Greenblatt’s social media accounts and speculate and read between the lines. So, judging from yesterday’s tweets, he is definitely trying to reach out to the Palestinians, as well. These outreach efforts take place against the backdrop of criticism by Ramallah officials over Greenblatt’s pro-Israeli stand, Greenblatt dedicated yesterday to meetings with Palestinian opinion makers, activists, and civil society members: He met with a group of Gazans for the second time, and moved on to a meeting with pollsters Khalil Shikaki and Ghassan Khatib “to understand more about Palestinians’ views on peace.”. Greenblatt then continued to a private tour of Rawabi, Rawabi is the first planned city built for and by Palestinians., (“Maybe we’ll try the zip line next time!”). Greenblatt ended his day meeting by Palestinian university leaders “to discuss role of higher education in economic growth and a stronger civil society.”
Greenblatt also launched a new Facebook page today to “highlight some of the matters that I work on relating to Israelis and Palestinians and the quest for peace.” In his debut post, he poetically wrote that “Aspirations for peace already exist in the hearts and dreams of Israelis and Palestinians alike. In fact, glimmers of the possibility of peace hide in plain sight around us. We need to stop and look closely enough to see them, but they are there.”
Settlements forever: Meanwhile, a few days after Jared Kushner’s peace trip and a few hours after UN Secretary General Guterres urged the pursuit of the two state solution, the Prime Minister addressed settlements. The PM presented his current standpoint on one of the main tipping points stalling the process. “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel. No settlements will be uprooted.” Netanyahu offered these comments in the West Bank city of Barkan at a special event marking the 50th anniversary of this Samaria settlement. “It’s already been proven that evacuating settlements does not help peace. We uprooted settlements, what did we get? We got missiles.” Netanyahu also bragged about the “momentum of development and construction in Judea and Samaria. We led this great activity together, and there is no government that worked more for settlements than my government.” Netanyahu’s right flank, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, also spoke at the event, and called on him to do even more. “We must not stop this tune. I call on the PM to put his signature on construction plans or even enable free construction without requiring his approval. It is unthinkable that we have been here for 50 years and we are still second-class citizens. It is time to apply Israeli law in the area. It is the only way to promote peace, We are here, and we are here to stay.”
Temple Mount Tuesday: The day has come. MKs are allowed back on the Temple Mount for the first time since October 2015, but only for a one-day pilot. Likud MK Yehudah Glick, the lawmaker who survived an assassination attempt related to his activism for Jewish prayer on the Mount, and who is taking Netanyahu to the Supreme Court over his ban on politicians at Judaism’s holiest site, visited, as did Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Muallem. Some of the other usual suspects relative the Temple Mount – Uri Ariel and Tzipi Hotovely – did not go, because they are a minister and deputy minister, respectively, and Netanyahu only lifted the ban for regular lawmakers. Other MKs, who would be interested in visiting the Temple Mount, boycotted the one-day pilot. MK Ahmed Tibi of the Joint (Arab) List called it a “provocation,” and said that Muslim lawmakers can go to the Al-Aksa Mosque whenever they want, not under conditions set by Netanyahu and the police. Tibi called Jews who visit the mount “right-wing extremists who are seeking to change the status quo.” Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich called the conditions of the visit “humiliating.” The conditions include separate times for Muslims and non-Muslim legislators, and prohibit speeches and media interviews at the site. Smotrich said that he will not go to the Temple Mount “like a thief in the night.” Smotrich implied that Netanyahu is trying to provoke violence today, so he can continue to ban MKs from visiting.
“Consensual deportation”: A few years ago, thousands of migrants from Africa were illegally entering Israel from its southern border. Some were refugees of wars, but most were just looking for economic improvement. Their fate was the hottest topic in the news. But then Netanyahu built a wall, and the flood of illegal African migrants turned into a trickle, and most of the country stopped thinking about it. However, when the migrants entered Israel, they were mostly transported to south Tel Aviv, and thousands of them remain there today. The Israeli residents of those already low-income neighborhoods have not forgotten about the issue. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its umpteenth ruling on the topic . Every time the government passes a law or tries to implement a policy, a human rights NGO sues – and said that it is illegal for the government to deport the migrants to a third country without consent (the agreements are secret, but the likely candidate are Rwanda and Uganda). This brought up the philosophical question of whether it is deportation if its consensual. In any case, the government already paid off a small number of the migrants to leave, but most of them did not agree to it. These remaining refugees cannot be forced out of the country or kept in prison indefinitely until they agree. Interior Minister Arye Deri said he plans to consult with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to pass a law that will change that situation. Last Saturday night, a group of south Tel Aviv residents protested outside Supreme Court President Miriam Naor’s house and are expected back this weekend. Last night they took over a playground where a lot of African migrant children normally play to hold a demonstration.