Kafe Knesset for September 13
Haredi-IDF Bombshell: Last night, the Israeli High Court threw a wrench in Netanyahu’s coalition. The court gave the government a year to pass a new law regulating the Haredi-IDF situation, or the Haredi exemption from military service will be canceled. You may recall that the previous government, which did not have Haredi representatives, passed a law to gradually integrate the community into the IDF, and then the coalition formed in 2015, with UTJ and Shas inside, canceled it. The panic from Mea Shearim, Bnei Brak and Shas stronghold Har Nof reverberated throughout the country. UTJ lawmakers are usually on the media-shy side, preferring to talk mostly to the haredi press, but they all sent out press releases last night.
Many of them compared the situation to times in Jewish history when Jews were prohibited from learning Torah – think Antiochus in the Hanukka story. Shas leader Arye Deri filmed a video at Jacob’s tomb at the Cave of the Patriarchs, saying they will not stop learning Torah.
Netanyahu kept mum from Argentina, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman didn’t say anything, either, but he’s expected to address the matter at a Yisrael Beytenu conference tonight. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who led the effort to pass a Haredi conscription bill in the prior government, cheered on the decision. Now, the question is can Netanyahu follow the court’s instructions and keep his coalition together? The Prime Minister generally takes the Haredi side on religion and state issues – see the Kotel, conversion, Shabbat wars – so it’s likely he’ll try to get away with the most minimal conscription law possible.
Deal or no deal: Journalists following Netanyahu to Buenos Aires got a preview of what he’ll likely tell President Trump next week: When it comes to Iran, no deal is better than a bad deal. “Let me take this opportunity to clarify. I’ll be straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it or cancel it. This is Israel’s position.” The JCPOA “paves the way of Iran to a nuclear arsenal,” he said. “It is a bad agreement that needs to be changed.” Netanyahu said he was responding to “stories about Israel’s purported position,” like one in Reuters quoting US officials who said Trump’s top national security advisers want to keep the deal intact, “as do US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement.”
A more surprising statement from the Prime Minister came in connection to the Kurds. Although the Kurds are thought to be great supporters and admirers of Israel, Netanyahu rarely comments on them, probably because the US wants to keep Iraq together and Turkey is virulently anti-Kurd. However, he came out in favor of Kurdish independence for the second time this month. Still, Netanyahu clarified that he does think the PKK is a terrorist organization, the opposite of what former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan said in DC last month.
Shas LGBT flap: Shas lawmaker Yigal Guetta, a Deri loyalist known for his colorful and unconventional statements, resigned this morning after facing massive criticism from prominent rabbis because he admitted to attending his gay nephew’s wedding. Last week, Guetta told Army Radio about how, two years ago, his sister told him that her son was getting married to another man. Guetta said he told his children and wife that “attendance is mandatory” even though the wedding is “forbidden in Jewish law.” The Shas MK was denounced by several major rabbis, and rather than apologize, Guetta chose to resign. His departure is a loss for Deri, as Guetta often defended him to the media, and the Shas leader is said to have tried to convince him not to resign.
Yair Netanyahu’s Nazi fanclub: After Bibi’s son Yair shared a meme rife with antisemitic tropes over the weekend, it seems that he’s made some new friends – whether he wants them or not. The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer revealed a new banner on Monday, featuring the slogan “The World’s #1 Yair Netanyahu Fansite.” The banner features a picture of Netanyahu with sunglasses and a joint drawn on him, on the background of the West Bank separation barrier, a “Thug Life” meme, and the antisemitic caricature of the “Happy Merchant,” a hook-nosed man rubbing his hands together.