Kafe Knesset for November 23

Veep at the Knesset – and maybe the Kotel: Vice President Mike Pence is set to deliver a speech at the Knesset during his visit to Israel on December 18, and has even requested to visit the Western Wall, according to Israeli sources. Pence would like to pay a personal visit to the Kotel, much like President Donald Trump did, and he asked to light Hanukkah candles while he’s there. As for his speech in the Knesset, it isn’t something to be taken for granted – POTUS wanted to do the same on his Israel visit earlier this year, but backed down after Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told his team that there’s no guarantee that Trump won’t be heckled by some Knesset Members. The whispers in Israel are that Pence may present some kind of details of how President Trump plans to make the ‘ultimate deal,’ which has been stressing out right-wing politicians in Israel in recent days.

Hotovely in the hot seat: Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is under fire today for comments she made in an interview with i24 News, discussing recent tensions between Israeli and American Jews: “People that never send their children to fight for their country, most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.” Another comment Hotovely made, which is getting less attention, is that non-Orthodox Jews don’t avoid the Western Wall because they want more space for egalitarian services, rather, it’s because “most of the time these people aren’t interested to go to the Kotel.” Netanyahu immediately condemned Hotovely’s remarks, saying: “Diaspora Jews are dear to us and are an inseparable part of our people. There is no room for such an attack, and its words do not reflect the position of the State of Israel.” Now the opposition wants Hotovely to be suspended or even fired, with more than one Zionist Union MK calling for her ouster. Tzipi Livni tweeted: “In order to patch up the rift with the diaspora, we need an actual policy that will embrace and accept all streams within Judaism. One that will represent the values of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state.” And Gideon Sa’ar, the former Likud minister working on his political comeback, wrote an especially sharp tweet: “The Dep. Foreign Minister’s words against our brothers and sisters in the US are disgusting and outrageous, and demand an immediate apology.”

Tel Aviv train troubles: The coalition is in turmoil, yet again, over train work on Shabbat. Last week, a crisis was averted by having non-Jewish workers repair the rails on Saturday, but this week, over 100 high-level engineers and technicians are needed and having Jewish people work is unavoidable, according to Israel Railways. Netanyahu met last night with Social Services Minister Haim Katz and the heads of United Torah Judaism and Shas to try to solve the dispute, but UTJ leader Ya’akov Litzman threatened to quit the cabinet if any Jews work on the trains on Shabbat, since, as a minister, he holds collective responsibility for any decisions the government makes. Katz hopes to pass a law that would take Jewish traditions into account when government bodies decide whether to allow work on Shabbat or not. Israel Railways said that if work is not done on Saturday, the trains would be shut down for an entire weekday, impacting thousands of commuters.

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