Kafe Knesset for November 27

It’s time for a woman Jewish Agency chief: Netanyahu and Diaspora leaders have to agree on a candidate, who will then be brought to a vote before the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, who are set to convene in Jerusalem in February. It’s come to our attention that not only has there never been a female Jewish Agency chairperson but no women are being tapped as serious contenders for the job before February’s vote. A Jerusalem Post report this morning said that the American heads of the Jewish Agency and Jewish Federation gave Netanyahu their shortlist: Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz; opposition leader Isaac Herzog – who already said he doesn’t want the job – Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai; Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan; Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer. and former ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor. Netanyahu and Diaspora leaders have to agree on a candidate, who will then be brought to a vote before the JA’s board of governors, which is set to convene in Jerusalem in February.

Kafe Knesset says the time has come for a woman to represent the Jewish people. We’re half of world Jewry – why are we being ignored? It’s not for lack of candidates. Here are some very qualified possibilities: Former Justice and Foreign minister Tzipi Livni, former Likud minister Limor Livnat, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, Yesh Atid MK and author of the Jewish bestseller “A Women’s Prayer Book” Aliza Lavie, former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch, former MK and Ethiopian rights activist Pnina Tamano-Shata, Torah scholar Rachelle Frenkel, and more. It’s not too late to rethink the shortlist.

Shabbat crisis solved – for now: This was an action-packed weekend in Israel politics. A crisis has been brewing for a while over railway repairs on Shabbat, and each week, the government found a way to avoid it, but this week, there was nothing that could be done – certain engineers and technicians had to do the work, and they’re Jewish, and the work had to be done on Saturday, or else there would be national gridlock. After days of negotiations, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman of United Torah Judaism threatened to resign from the cabinet if Jews have to work on the train on Shabbat – and on Sunday, he followed through.

The big question was, what does this mean for the coalition? At the moment, United Torah Judaism is staying put. Litzman’s rabbi, the Grand Rabbi of Gur, insisted that he resign as a minister because ministers carry joint responsibility for government decisions. But as an MK, he’s not responsible, and the haredim know this is the best government they’ve ever been in. Still, haredi politicians were in a difficult position after Litzman made such a stand for Shabbat. They couldn’t continue as they were with continued Shabbat violations. Meanwhile, Netanyahu was caught between trying to placate the haredim to keep his coalition intact, and not irritating his voters, who don’t want religion forced on them, and don’t want to sit in hours of traffic if the train has to be shut down on a weekday.

In the end, an agreement was negotiated, such that a couple of bills senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni was pushing will pass – one to require the Labor minister to consider religious sensitivities when deciding whether to authorize work on Shabbat, and one shutting down all mini-markets on Saturdays, Tel Aviv excepted. Other than that, the status quo will remain. The trains will not be stopped on a weekday, and there will continue to be soccer games on Shabbat – something Shas and a couple of religious Likud MKs wanted to end. Plus, the coalition will pass a law allowing a deputy minister to run a ministry, so Litzman can get his Health portfolio back. In the meantime, Netanyahu will be Health Minister, and he’s not changing any of the staff.

Lapid up, Gabbay down: A new poll published last night on Channel 10 shows a tie between the Likud and Yesh Atid – for the first time in months. According to the survey, both parties would receive 24 seats, while the Zionist union lead by Avi Gabbay is far behind with 17 seats. The fourth largest party, according to the survey, is the Jewish Home, with 12 seats, followed by the joint list – 11, Kulanu – 9, UTJ -7 Meretz 7 Israel Beitenu 5 and Shas four. The poll continues a steady trend in recent weeks, with Lapid strengthening and opening a lead over Gabbay, and the Shabbat political crisis probably boosted him even more. Gabbay, on the other hand, got his lowest poll result since his victory of the Labor leadership primary back in July.

U.S. visits: Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay will be taking off tonight for a visit to the Big Apple and DC where he’ll be making his first formal acquaintance with US Jewry, ahead of his debut appearance at the Saban Forum this weekend. Gabbay is expected to meet with the Conference of Presidents and the Jewish Federations. Gabbay told Kafe Knesset, “We are facing a deep crisis with American Jewry that stems mainly from Netanyahu’s lack of leadership, and the Kotel Agreement debacle is the best proof of it. An outline that was already approved by the government, after years of work and in cooperation with American Jewry, was shelved only for political reasons. We will return to power and fix everything that this government has spoiled – including the critical alliance with American Jews.”

Another visitor to the U.S. this week is Israel Katz, the Minister for Transportation and Intelligence, who will join VP Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Danny Damon tomorrow at an NYC event marking 70 years to the UN vote on the partition plan. Katz will continue to DC later this week for meetings on Capitol Hill and with White House advisor Jason Greenblatt. The main topic on Katz’s agenda is Hezbollah, as he is calling for stronger enforcement of UN resolution 1701, which ended the second Lebanon war and called for the terrorist group’s disarmament. “Given the regional developments, it is time, after years of inaction to enforce the unanimous decision to remove Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, weaken it and disarm it,” Katz said.

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