Kafe Knesset for November 21

The Knesset marked the 40th anniversary today of the historic 1977 speech by then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.  The event was, of course, filled with messages of peace, and the guest of honor was Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat. Speaking in Arabic, Khairat called upon his listeners to complete Sadat’s vision for regional peace and to seek an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the two state solution. “We must not rest until find a solution to the Palestinian problem that can live side by side with Israel in peace and prosperity. We need a vision to move beyond.  Courageous decisions are needed to overcome the past and the extremists,” he said. Against the backdrop of the American US efforts to renew Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations and the Egyptian effort to promote Palestinian reconciliation, the ambassador said that “Egypt is still waving the flag of peace and is working towards Palestinian reconciliation in order to advance peace. We and the Americans will continue to work to achieve the peace we all want, and not leave it to future generations.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein quoted then-opposition leader Shimon Peres who said that, in Israel, “there is no opposition to peace.” Sadat’s visit “opened the gate through which the leaders of Israel and Egypt walked with inspiring courage,” Edelstein added. Khairat said the peace between Israel and Egypt is stable and will remain that way, but he called for greater efforts to be made towards peace with the Palestinians. “We suffer from the phenomenon of terrorism, which is a great danger and requires regional cooperation. Therefore, achieving peace is important. We can reach the peace we hope for through a just solution to the Palestinian matter.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, in what could easily be seen as a message to the Trump administration, said: “We are used to the idea of peace being forced upon us, but here is an example that peace can be made without mediators.” Of course, that statement is not quite accurate, and the Carter administration was involved in the negotiations, but with a possible Trump ultimate deal plan looming, she has her reasons to present things differently. “We are all waiting for a Palestinian Sadat to be born, but the conflict will not just be solved when there is a Palestinian Sadat and an Israeli Begin, but when the Palestinians’ world view is no longer based on rejecting the existence of the Jewish People.”

Later today, PM Netanyahu is expected to speak to the Knesset about peace with Egypt.

The weekly Avi Gabbay: Labour party chair Avi Gabbay is constantly creating storms, with controversial statements and positions, almost on a weekly basis. After announcing that he opposes evacuation of settlements and quoting Bibi stating that “the Left has forgotten what it is to be Jew,” this time, Gabbay decided his party will support a governmental bill which regulates the expulsion and detention of asylum seekers in Israel.  According to the bill, which was approved by the cabinet earlier this week, asylum seekers in Israel will have two choices – either leave the country or go to jail, and a special temporary detention center which has been used in recent years will be closed. Ahead of the Knesset vote on the matter, the Zionist Union discussed the issue yesterday in their weekly faction meeting, and Gabbay told the MKs that he decided the faction should support the bill and vote yes, overturning a previous decision to oppose it.  “We will pay a heavy price for opposition to the law, it will be perceived as not good for the public”. Gabbay was supported by some of the MKs, including opposition chairman Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, but about half the faction voiced their objections, including Shelly Yachimovich and Stav Shaffir. Eventually, the MKs protested the decision in a no-show, only four Labour party lawmakers were in the plenum for the vote, while 13 other MKs – who were in the Knesset building at the time – were absent.

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