Kafe Knesset for October 24

Pickles and politics: Both PM Netanyahu’s speech and President Rivlin’s speech at the Knesset winter session’s opening meeting yesterday made big waves. Netanyahu’s speech was based around a Hebrew pun on the word for “pickles,” which could also mean “sour.”. Throughout his memorable speech, he called his opponents in the Knesset and the media sour\pickles\sourpusses. What can we do, the pun only works in Hebrew! “Who won’t admit that Israel is flourishing economically, technologically and diplomatically, and that Israel ranks high on international happiness rankings. It is hard for you sour ones to accept it,” he said. “When sour ones talk, you hear conversations like, ‘Isn’t the situation here horrible and terrible? Isn’t everything falling apart? By the way, did you order tickets to London or Berlin?’ They are sour, and they fly away,” Netanyahu quipped. Of course, he thanked Trump in his speech, as well.
Then, playing on the whole sour/pickles thing, Netanyahu tweeted a photo of himself with an enormous can of pickles (in brine, the superior choice, not vinegar) and a huge grin, with the caption “We have a wonderful nation that loves pickles, but is not sour,” and a cucumber emoji. Likud MKs tweeted pictures of themselves enjoying pickles with the Prime Minister.

President Rivlin took the opportunity to address what he said was the politicization of everything: “A reality is growing in which everything is political. The media is political, democratic institutions are political – all of them, from the civil service to the state comptroller – the Supreme Court is political, security forces are political, even our IDF is political.” Rivlin warned that this attitude towards democratic institutions is weakening them. The opposition cheered for Rivlin, while the coalition was stony-faced. After the speeches ended, Likud MKs put out statements slamming Rivlin. This morning, Culture Minister Miri Regev said on Army Radio that Rivlin is the least statesmanlike president in Israel’s history. Asked about former president Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape, Regev said the question was unfair and that Katsav paid his debt to society. It appears that in Regev’s estimation, criticizing the Likud is worse than rape.

Liberman’s flub: Perhaps he was still jet lagged from his weekend in the US, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said one word too many yesterday. Liberman got entangled in a clash with the IDF over the burning issue of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. Opening the Yisrael Beitenu faction meeting in the Knesset, Liberman accused Hezbollah and deemed them responsible for the rocket attack on the Golan Heights on Saturday, during which five rockets were fired into Israeli territory. “This was not a drizzle, but a deliberate attack by a local Hezbollah cell. Nasrallah’s personal order was to compartmentalize Assad and his regime from carrying out the attack in order to drag Israel into the Syrian swamp,” Liberman said. However, a short while afterward, it turned out that no one in the IDF or the defense establishment could confirm his statement. The military correspondents were briefed that there is no intelligence that supports Liberman’s statements, and his office was forced to clarify that his remarks only “reflect the Minister’s best judgment and assessment.”

The verbal contradiction between the IDF and their superior comes against the backdrop of rare criticism over Netanyahu’s government policies – and words – vis a vis Syria and Iran. Former IDF Major General and Labor activist, Amiram Levin, published a controversial op-ed in Sunday’s Yedioth Aharonoth in which he blasted the government’s policies and conduct and accused the PM of “dragging the country” into war. “The prime minister is not occupied with statesmanship, but mostly with public relations. In another place it might have passed peacefully, but in Israel it could end in a war,” Levin wrote. “When the Israeli Prime Minister announces loudly that “we will not allow Iran to establish itself in Syria,” what are the implications? Does that not begin a deterioration? If Iran will be established in Syria, what is he planning to do? To declare war? Unfortunately, the Prime Minister prefers empty headlines and slogans instead of advancing a logical strategy.” Levin’s stance was backed by former defense minister Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, who told Army Radio that we need “to continue to act, but speak less. Less politics, and more statesmanship.”

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