Kafe Knesset for September 28

Settlements staying put: Netanyahu relayed a very clear message in his speech at the national ceremony honoring the 50tth anniversary of the return to Judea, Samaria, Jordan Valley and Golan Heights. In the face of pressure from settler groups and Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt, the PM announced “I say before all, clearly: There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel. It is not just a question of the connection to the homeland – of course that is correct – but, first of all, it is not the way to make peace. We will not uproot Jews and we will not uproot Arabs,” he said. Thousands of people attended the ceremony but, as expected, no representative of the Supreme Court. Only one opposition MK appeared, and despite being known as a staunch supporter of the settlements, US Ambassador David Friedman did not attend.

Unlike Netanyahu, Ambassador Friedman left open the option of evacuating some settlements as part of an American peace plan. Ambassador Friedman’s comments appear, in an interview with Walla! News published today. Asked about whether it would happen, he said “wait and see.” Friedman said he thinks UN Resolution 242 entitles Israel to secure borders, and pre-1967 lines were viewed by the world as not secure, so that means Israel would be allowed to “retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank.” Currently, Friedman argued, Israel is only occupying 2% of the West Bank, which is of “important nationalistic, historical [and] religious significance.”

Conversion check-in: Six weeks have passed since the Prime Minister’s Office announced the appointment of former Justice Minister Moshe Nissim, to find a solution to the conversion crisis and lead the efforts to review the government’s conversion policy. But so far, Nissim has not approached any of the relevant actors. The spokespeople for the Israeli Reform and Conservative movements told Kafe Knesset that Nissim has not initiated any contact or dialogue with them. Sources in the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations confirmed that no progress has been made on the matter. Recap: Back in late June, Netanyahu suspended the promotion of the Haredi parties’ conversion bill for 6 months, during which a special committee was to be appointed to discuss conversion policy. Three months passed, Nissim was appointed, but there has been no dialogue with the Conservative and Reform movements about any solution. Nissim himself confirmed that he had not yet contacted any of the relevant players in order to begin discussions on the matter, but refused to elaborate or comment.

Gilad Kariv, director general of the Reform Movement, told Kafe Knesset: “For a year and a half, the government refrained from holding a genuine dialogue with the Reform and Conservative Movements over the non-implementation of the Western Wall agreement, and now, the same phenomenon repeats itself on conversion. The government is disavowing its obligation to create a fruitful and respectful dialogue between the streams and communities in the Israeli and Jewish society and people, while allowing extremist forces to dictate the agenda.” However, some insiders pointed out that the lack of progress could mean that Netanyahu intends to “bury” the Haredi conversion bill under the work of the Nissim committee, as a Jewish Agency whisperer told Kafe Knesset. A senior coalition MK told Kafe Knesset that the “conversion bill is no longer on the table.” Time will tell.

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