Kafe Knesset for November 13

Southern Syria Cease-Fire Agreement: As details of the cease-fire agreement for southern Syria are starting to emerge, the Prime Minister’s Office was originally keeping a low profile. No official response was issued by Israel to the US-Russia-Jordan tripartite agreement. However, Israeli security officials are expressing disappointment with two aspects of the proposed agreement. First, the fact that the proposed agreement does not include a timetable. Second, that it only refers to removing Iranian backed forces a relatively short distance from the Golan Heights border. These disappointments have prompted a lively political discussion on the topic this morning. The PM did have a comment later in the day at a Likud faction meeting. “We will safeguard our security and our borders and we will continue to do so. I made it clear in Washington and in Moscow that Israel will operate in Syria, and in southern Syria, according to our interests,” the PM stated. Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett was diplomatic, stating that “this agreement is not between Israel and anyone, but between other countries, which we certainly respect. It is good that there is an agreement that mandates talks about Iran leaving Syria, but the parameters should be much sharper.” Former Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz (Zionist Union), was much more blunt. “The agreement is a real danger to Israel’s security and to regional stability in general. The Prime Minister must use all political and other tools to remove the Shiite axis from the borders of Israel.”

Israel’s Version of the Taylor Force Act: While the Taylor Force Act is set to move forward in the US Congress this week, the Israeli version of the bill is apparently being delayed by the government. Today, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a meeting on the bill that aims to deduct the amount the Palestinian Authority pays to families of terrorists in Israeli prisons from the tax payments that Israel transfers to the PA. The Israeli version of the Taylor Force Act is sponsored by Yesh Atid’s Elazar Stern but it is supported by the coalition as well. It has been five months since the bill was approved in a preliminary reading, but a Defense Ministry legal advisor, who was present at the debate today, argued there’s still more professional work to be done. “Before the bill is drafted, serious staff work is needed in order to formulate all of the necessary data and mechanisms. At the moment it is not certain that the existing mechanism will provide the result that the law wants to achieve.” Likud MK Avi Dichter, who chairs the committee, fumed at the delay. “There is no dispute about the fact that a Palestinian terrorist, whether he is in an Israeli prison or in a Palestinian grave, receives a monthly salary for him or his family. This has been going on for 23 years. I am trying for a moment to understand the logic of how we are supposed to act as a Knesset. How long do you think the fire will continue to spread? I do not recognize any operative proposal of yours.” Thus, sources close to Defense Minister Liberman said after the debate that the Ministry will be promoting a government bill on the matter, which would freeze – rather than deduct – the transfer of payments to the PA. “The government bill will provide the best and most comprehensive response to the issue, and will make the private legislative initiatives on the subject redundant,” the sources said.

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