Kafe Knesset for October 18

Hamas not welcome: Last night the Security Cabinet concluded a two-day session debating the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. A joint statement was issued describing Israel’s new “red lines” vis-a-vis negotiations with the Palestinians. According to an official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Cabinet decided not to hold any talks with any Palestinian government that relies on Hamas support. The statement outlined a series of Israeli conditions to acknowledging any Palestinian reconciliation process, primarily reiterating the well-known Quartet principles, but adding a few new demands to the list, such as Hamas disarmament and disengagement from Iran. The Security Cabinet stopped short of adopting the more aggressive approach proposed by Naftali Bennett, who demanded that Israel cut all ties with the PA. But right-wing ministers said the decision was a “dramatic message to the US, Egypt and the Palestinians,” bracing themselves for increased pressure on Jerusalem to re-launch a peace process with a Palestinian unity government, if it will be formed later. Several insiders told Kafe Knesset there was broad skepticism amongst the cabinet ministers about the reconciliation process and the prospect of it actually leading to a Palestinian unity government. “There are still serious unresolved issues between Hamas and Fatah, and the road to a Palestinian unity government is still far away,” one minister said, “but it is important that everyone understands that Abbas has to make a choice – he must disarm Hamas or abandon the reconciliation process in order for us to have any contact with him.” The opposition, in a series of tweets, ridiculed the cabinet decision. Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz mockingly congratulated the Cabinet for the “brave decision to stop negotiations that don’t exist.” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh tweeted: “Netanyahu’s guide to peace negotiations: If there are divisions = no negotiations, if there is unity = no negotiations. But at his next UN speech he will still say that his hand is extended towards peace.”

Bye, Zehava: Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On resigned from the Knesset, but is staying in charge of the party, where she wants to make major changes. Gal-On will be replaced in the Knesset by Mossi Raz, who was an MK from 2000 to 2003. Raz used to be the head of Peace Now. Gal-On is a bit of a lame duck in Meretz these days. Last month, the party voted on a motion to move up its leadership primary from 2019 to 2018, and while the motion didn’t get the necessary two-thirds vote, a majority of the party’s central committee did support it, which is not exactly a vote of confidence in Gal-On. The central committee is unhappy with Gal-On’s leadership because Meretz just barely squeaked past the electoral threshold in 2015. Gal-On has been pushing for open primaries, in which non-members can vote. Currently, only central committee members vote in the primaries, and Gal-On thinks her method will bring about a Knesset list that is more attractive to left-wing voters.

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