Kafe Knesset for October 17

To evacuate or not to evacuate? New Labor chair Avi Gabbay has been making headlines for a few days now with a series of statements signaling an apparent “wink at the right” in an attempt to appeal to non-traditional Labor voters. Gabbay declared that he will not sit in a government with the Joint Arab List – which, of course, none of his predecessors have done either. He also doubted the notion of a Palestinian partner in the peace process in different public appearances earlier this week. Yesterday Gabbay made waves with another political hot potato: settlements. “If you make a peace agreement, then you can find solutions that do not require evacuation,” Gabbay said in an interview on Channel 2. Gabbay added that he believes that the “dynamics and terminology we use in terms of making a peace agreement – which includes evacuation – is not necessarily correct.”

This is not the first time Gabbay presented this position, but it prompted a series of strong reactions from all around the political system. Right-wing politicians depicted Gabbay’s statements as proof of the settlers’ ideological victory. Left-wing figures blasted Gabbay for trying to appease the settlers. Tzipi Livni, Gabbay’s partner in the Zionist Union, sent out an SMS message stressing that Gabbay’s stance does not reflect her “Hatnua” party’s position, nor that of the Zionist Union, while Labor MK Itzik Shmuli tweeted that “separation into two states is an existential interest that will require painful concessions and evacuation of territory.” Other Labor MKs were less combative but did stress the traditional Labor distinction between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. Meretz MK Ilan Gilon accused Gabbay of “forgetting that he was chosen to head the alternative camp to the Likud, and that there is no political solution that does not include a territorial compromise.”

Following the major wave of reactions, Gabbay gave several interviews and statements clarifying his comments — in which he refrained from grand statements against evacuation and softened the language. “We need to avoid evacuation of Jews from their homes just as we should avoid evicting Arabs from their homes,” he said. In another interview, Gabbay stressed that “we do not need to apply the same trick that was used in Sinai to Judea and Samaria.”

Silencing Breaking the Silence: New details came to light about the coalition’s plan of attack against far-left NGOs. Last night, Channel 2 reported that Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, whom Netanyahu tasked with coming up with a legislative strategy to fight foreign government funding of Israeli political organizations, plans to draft a bill that will shut some of them down entirely. The proposal is to ban NGOs that seek to harm IDF soldiers directly or indirectly, to put IDF soldiers on trial in international courts, promote boycotts of Israel or promote boycotts of any area under Israel’s control – meaning settlement boycotts, too. The bill reportedly is meant to directly target Breaking the Silence, which has become infamous in Israel since its founding for collecting testimony from IDF veterans claiming the army committed war crimes, and airing these claims around the world. In addition to the bill, the coalition plans to push forward a parliamentary coalition of inquiry into foreign governments’ funding of the organizations that fall under the bill’s purview.

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