Kafe Knesset for September 25

Trump’s mystery peace plan: Jason Greenblatt is on his way back to Israel for another round of peace talks followed by a family Sukkot holiday, and the Israeli PM wanted to welcome him with a warm hug. Yesterday, Netanyahu convened the Security Cabinet for a three hour meeting, during which he briefed the ministers on his last trip to the US and his meeting with President Trump. According to a well-informed source, Netanyahu told the ministers he is interested in “pleasing” Greenblatt and the administration with new economic gestures. The PM specifically discussed a plan to build a new industrial zone near the city of Tulkarem and expanding the road to the West Bank city of Rawabi, but none of these plans were actually approved. Approvals have been postponed until further discussions. Netanyahu also told the Security Cabinet that he decided to postpone by a week or two the upcoming meeting of the Civil Administration’s planning committee. The planning committee has several settlement construction projects on the agenda. The PM explained the rationale for the postponement “because we have no interest in annoying the friendly administration”. President Trump, Netanyahu added, is “determined to get the ultimate deal, and is putting a lot of weight and importance on the matter”. Netanyahu said he presented Israel’s positions to POTUS, and that Trump is preparing a plan. When one of the ministers asked what the plan is – Netanyahu declined to answer and said “I still don’t know.” On the Iranian issue and the future of the Iran deal, Netanyahu said he’s waiting for Dermer to arrive in Israel, and that he would convene the Security Cabinet again ahead of the 15th of October, the decertification deadline.

Caught unprepared: The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is in the headlines today but not for the usual reasons. Typically the FA&DC makes the headlines for something a visitor says. Visitors like the prime minister, defense minister or IDF generals. Today, the headlines were for a report the Committee itself released examining the implementation of the IDF’s multi-year plan. While the report praised the IDF, finding it to be a “a smart army, with values, that knows how to examine itself and make decisions, as hard as they may be, to ensure emergency preparedness,” it said the opposite about the government. According to the report, the government waffles and avoids making decisions, which makes things difficult for the IDF to be prepared. Yesh Atid’s military expert MK Ofer Shelah was in charge of writing the report, but Likudnik FA&DC chairman Avi Dichter signed it. However, two coalition MKs, Yoav Kisch of Likud and Moti Yogev of Bayit Yehudi did not join in the Committee report, saying that it was unfair and one-sided. Sources say Kisch faced pressure from the top – coalition chairman David Bitan reportedly told the Likud MK that Netanyahu doesn’t want him to sign the report.

Culture wars continue: Culture Minister Miri Regev is at war again, this time against “Jenin, Jenin” director Muhammad Bakri. “Jenin, Jenin” is the controversial film about the Second Intifada, in which Palestinians accuse the IDF of massacring residents of the Jenin refugee camp – something that the IDF and international human rights organizations have denied. The film was the subject of a famous censorship hearing in Israel’s Supreme Court, which Bakri won even though the judges said the film is full of “propagandistic lies.” In any case, it’s safe to say that the average Israeli is not a Bakri fan. This time, Bakri, an Israeli citizen, courted controversy by traveling to Lebanon for a Palestinian culture festival. (It is strange that Lebanon is so interested in Palestinian culture, when the Palestinians living in Lebanon are not allowed to own property and are denied access to the country’s social services, and few are ever given work permits – but hey, any opportunity to bash Israel, right?). A Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper quoted Bakri as saying that Arab countries’ ties with Israel are “treason.” Regev pointed out that Lebanon is an enemy country, and visiting an enemy country is illegal, so she wrote a letter to Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit demand that he investigate Bakri, because “he has crossed a line, literally and figuratively.”

Regev’s Bakri campaign came one week after her war on the Israeli film “Foxtrot,” which she has not seen, but which she says is anti-Israel and anti-IDF. After trading barbs in the press with the film’s star, acclaimed Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi, the Ophir Prizes, Israel’s version of the Oscars, decided it didn’t want politicians to speak at the ceremony, in order to keep things less controversial. Regev, of course, took that as a personal affront, and gave a speech live on Facebook during the ceremony, instead. “Foxtrot” took home the Best Picture award, and will be representing Israel in the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards, much to Regev’s disappointment.

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