Kafe Knesset for September 18
Making amends: Netanyahu dedicated yesterday afternoon to patching up relations with Jewish leaders. First, he met with WJC president Ronald Lauder, marking the end of a lengthy silent treatment between these two. Lauder and Netanyahu used to be BFFs, but the relationship soured in recent years and even more in the past year. Lauder was questioned in Israel on one of Bibi’s criminal investigations and Lauder, who is also close to President Trump, has been pushing his peace dreams on the past year, much to Netanyahu’s chagrin. Kafe Knesset learned that Lauder recently flew out to Jordan to meet King Abdullah. According to a source close to Bibi, the meeting with Lauder was mostly about Jewish issues, meaning the suspended Kotel agreement and conversion bill, and was “positive and good.” Kafe Knesset is still seeking a fly on the wall to get all of the juicy details.
After Lauder, Netanyahu gathered a small group of about eight Jewish leaders representing the Conference of Presidents, AIPAC, AJC and JFNA and discussed the Kotel crisis and other burning issues (read: Iran). The participants kept mum on the content of the meeting but defined it as “positive and forthcoming.” Unlike in Mexico and Argentina, Bibi did not hold a grand event for the Jewish community during his NYC visit, but the busy Jewish afternoon does show he is engaged with the community and is seeking to put the crisis to an end.
Abdullah sends a message: After his meeting with POTUS today, Bibi will be meeting the leaders of Japan, Brazil, Panama and Rwanda, but not with any of the Arab leaders who are in NY. Instead, the Arab leaders are making the rounds with the major Jewish groups here. The Conference of Presidents and AJC have a packed schedule of high-level meetings until Rosh Hashana on the sidelines of the UNGA. Yesterday, Jordanian King Abdullah met with a group of Jewish leaders lead by Malcolm Hoenlein, and, according to a participant in the meeting, held a lengthy and positive conversation about a range of issues. The king urged Israel to end the investigation into the Amman embassy shooting last July in order to restore the relationship to normal. The king expressed great concern over the Iranian presence in Syria, and also optimistically referred to the Trump administration’s peace efforts. According to the source, Abdullah expressed satisfaction with the Trump administration’s approach to “seeking results, not just a process,” and said he thinks a large summit meeting should be organized with all sides. He also said that the Arab Peace Initiative should be the basis for negotiations. “The Arab Peace Initiative is a proposal, not a done deal. We are ready to discuss it,” he said.
Liberman’s settlement love: Trump may refer to Israel as an example when talking about his Mexican Wall idea, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised a different kind of wall last night. “It is clear that the settlements in Judea and Samaria and those here in the area of Jericho and the Dead Sea are the State of Israel’s true defensive wall…even in the cyber age and the missile era,” Liberman said, during a Rosh Hashanna toast at Vered Yeriho, a Jewish settlement overlooking the Palestinian city Jericho. Liberman praised settlers as the “pioneers of security” for Israel and said that he has done more for them than anyone else in the 21st century. Liberman’s posture could be a response to criticism from some settlement leaders who say he is not supportive enough. Liberman, of course, lives in Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc close to Jerusalem, so his support for the enterprise is not surprising, but the timing is interesting – right before Netanyahu and Trump meet.
LGBT adoption on the way: The LGBT adoption issue that sparked a rebellion in the Likud seems to be winding down. The government announced on Sunday that it would amend adoption law to give same-sex couples equal rights to other adoptive parents by June 2018. The change came after an uproar in response to the announcement of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry that LGBT parents put an “additional burden” on children. Likud’s first gay MK Amir Ohana, who had twins through a surrogate, threatened to vote against the party over the matter, and Welfare Minister Chaim Katz waffled on the position. Now, Katz has reversed his position entirely.
On the topic of LGBT rights, the Shas MK Yigal Gueta who faced criticism over going to his gay nephew’s wedding, followed through on his plans and resigned yesterday, rather than apologize for what he felt was the right thing to do for his family. However, he was reportedly heard grumbling about how many other Haredi MKs have not cut off ties with their not-so-religious relatives, like UTJ MK Menachem Eliezer Moses, whose daughter Heidi Moses is a lesbian who lives with a partner and is a prominent Likud activist often spotted in the Knesset.
Drama in Meretz: The far-Left party is very good at presenting a united front in the Knesset, but Meretz is very much in turmoil these days. Last night, Zehava Gal-On both lost and won an important battle. The Meretz council voted on a proposal by a party activist on whether to hold an early leadership primary in 2018 instead of 2019, when Gal-On’s term was supposed to end. Gal-On won the battle and will not face early elections because the motion did not get the 60% of votes it needed to be binding. But she lost, because it got 54% of the vote, which means that a majority of the party’s council probably thinks she should be ousted. Gal-On said she will not resign, but she is a very lame duck. Popular MK Ilan Gilon is just waiting in the wings for Gal-On’s ouster.