Kafe Knesset for September 12

Iran, Iran, and Iran again: High on PM Netanyahu’s agenda yesterday, as he launched his historic Latin America visit in Buenos Aires, was Iran. He visited the sites of the two deadly terror attacks that rocked the city’s Israeli Embassy and Jewish community center in the 1990s. “The time has come to place full and complete responsibility on Iran for the attacks,” Netanyahu said. The PM commended his host, President Mauricio Macri, for renewing the investigation of the attacks in the South American capital, after years of his predecessor’s cover-up of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement. Teheran is still the main source of global terrorism, the PM pointed out in two speeches. “Global terrorism has two main addresses. The terror of radical Shiite Islam led by Iran, and the terrorism of Sunni Islam, first under Al Qaeda and now under ISIS. Iran was behind the major terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires, and Iran’s terrorist octopus, along with its spokesman Hezbollah, continues to send tentacles to all parts of the world, including Latin America.” Against the backdrop of last week’s attack on a Syrian missile factory, Netanyahu added: “We are determined to fight Iran’s terrorism. We are determined to prevent it from establishing bases near our border.”

The premier is probably already thinking of his big speech next week at the UN General Assembly, in which Iran is expected to be a dominant motif. Iran will also take center stage during the PM’s meeting with President Trump. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said yesterday that the PM’s “first mission on his trip to the US is to demand that President Donald Trump freeze, change or cancel the Iran deal, which in its current form protects Iran and leads to a future nuclear Iran.” Katz spoke at the at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya during its annual International Institute For Counter-Terrorism conference. Katz gave a rare statement by an Israeli official on the Iranian nuclear deal, against the backdrop of the internal debate in the Trump administration about the deal’s decertification. “Iran must be forced to sign a new agreement that will not allow it to advance to nuclear weapons, as promised by President Trump, and will cover both the missile issue and Iran being a sponsor of terrorism.” In addition, Katz argued that “the prime minister should demand that the administration not give up on US involvement in shaping Syria’s future, and should play an effective role in safeguarding Israel’s national security interests in the crystallizing reality. The administration must understand that the battle to contain Iran in the region must also be conducted in Syria.”

Gorka’s friends in Israel: Among a long list of keynote speakers at the International Institute For Counter-Terrorism conference who also mentioned Iran, was President Trump’s former advisor Sebastian Gorka. Gorka totally endorsed Bibi’s strategic vision. “If you want to understand the disaster that is the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring, all you need to understand is that it is a ‘Game of Thrones’ for the caliphates. Why? Because we have two vision. One vision is the amateurish one of ISIS, and the other vision is the professional one. I have become convinced there is a bigger problem than Sunni Jihadists, and unfortunately there is a nation that understands the bigger problem and has been trying to tell us since 1979 – and that is Israel. … We need to learn from our Israeli friends that Israel is and was right about the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Gorka’s invitation to the conference stirred controversy in the US, but here in Israel, it was hardly noticed. Nevertheless, Gorka expressed his gratitude to the ICT director, Boaz Ganor. “When the going gets tough, that’s when you find out who your real friends are, Boaz Ganor included,” he said.

Bibi bypasses Bennett on the Right: Netanyahu may be in South America, but he managed to get a dig in against Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett from across the world. The Prime Minister recorded a message for tonight’s National Union ideological conference. The National Union, also known as Tekuma, is a party to the right of Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, both religiously and on diplomatic matters. The National Union’s representatives in the Knesset are Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and MK Bezalel Smotrich. The two parties have run separately or jointly, going back to the days when Bayit Yehudi was called the National Religious Party. Currently, they are in one Knesset faction, under the Bayit Yehudi name. Bennett is constantly toying with the idea of running without them, since there is little indication that they are worth the two seats they hold and they are a thorn in his side when it comes to appealing to the broader, more secular public. In any case, Netanyahu’s video sends a message to Bennett that the Prime Minister is still the leader of the whole Right wing.

Netanyahu praised the National Union for “discussing the future of the Land of Israel,” but the party’s idea of the future is very different from the premier’s own actions and words. At the conference tonight, the National Union is expected to adopt Smotrich’s diplomatic plan as its own. The plan consists of taking immediate action to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Smotrich plan includes annexing the entire West Bank. Palestinians, or as Smotrich calls them, Arab residents of Judea and Samaria, could accept payment to move to another country or stay and declare loyalty to the Jewish State. Palestinians would have the right to elect local, but not national, representatives. Smotrich had his plan translated into English with the quixotic hope that he can convince the Trump administration to adopt it. Smotrich plans to travel to Washington D.C. to that end, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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