Turn the speaker down: 7 things to know for January 20
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Turn the speaker down: 7 things to know for January 20

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein is Likud enemy No. 1 after crossing Netanyahu; and a loud campaign for Naama Issachar is told to pipe down for Putin

President Reuven Rivlin (L) and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein at the opening of the Knesset winter sitting, October 15, 2018. (Knesset)
President Reuven Rivlin (L) and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein at the opening of the Knesset winter sitting, October 15, 2018. (Knesset)

1. Yuli in the crosshairs: Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is facing a bruising backlash from his comrades after saying he’ll allow the Knesset to meet next week to discuss pushing ahead with a decision on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s immunity request.

  • News pages and broadcasts are filled with Likud members threatening Edelstein with everything they can possibly hold over his head.
  • “Yuli is done in Likud,” reads a headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, quoting a Likud source.
  • “If he dreamed of being president — he’s lost our support,” another party source is quoted saying in the paper.
  • “He’s joined the left to bring down Netanyahu. He won’t be Knesset speaker, certainly won’t be president,” Channel 12 news quotes a Likud source saying. “Likudniks don’t like to see this; he’ll tumble down the list in the next primary.”
  • Interestingly, Israel Hayom, normally seen as the august outlet for these types of statements, does not go after Edelstein much. On Sunday, it made it seem like waiting until next week to convene the Knesset was actually sort of a win.
  • “It’s sad to see how Edelstein fell into the trap laid by the left. With his own hands he is allowing the Knesset to became a political circus during elections by lending a hand to the tricks of the left, which is trying to use the Knesset to neutralize Netanyahu,” the paper quotes from a nonthreatening statement sent out by “associates” of Netanyahu.
  • Also interesting is the fact that nobody is really willing to put their name behind their angry statements, indicating a lack of full commitment to them. Well, nobody except Netanyahu’s son Yair, who tweets and later deletes, “His wife’s father is Leonid Nevzlin, an oligarch who is wanted for murder in Russia, and the owner of Haaretz newspaper.”
  • As noted by ToI’s Jacob Magid, “Nevzlin was found guilty, in absentia, on several counts of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life behind bars. In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Nevzlin, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing Moscow of carrying out a “a ruthless campaign to destroy [him] and to expropriate [his] assets.”

2. Speakering truth to power: That makes it sound like Edelstein is getting the Ted Cruz treatment, but Yedioth’s Yuval Karni writes that he’s actually getting the President Reuven Rivlin special.

  • “Both went through a political and media hazing just because they dared to act in accordance with the dignity of their office and refused to accept every caprice or demand by Netanyahu and his friends.”
  • The difference is that Rivlin did so once he was already president and above the Knesset’s grip, whereas Edelstein is still deep in the suck. In Walla news, Amir Oren writes that the fact that Edelstein is nonetheless acting the way he is shows that Netanyahu’s power to bully and threaten his way to get what he wants has attenuated significantly.
  • “When Edelstein opts to act according to what’s good for him rather that what’s good for Netanyahu; when Naftali Bennett does not cower from the threat of the Defense Ministry being pulled from him with the same nonchalance that it was given to him; when Otzma Yehudit insists on being the Ben G’virus [like Ben Gvir and virus, get it?] that will put Likud rule to bed, the dots start to connect: Netanyahu has lost his deterrence,” he writes.
  • If Likud can’t cow Edelstein, why not try the Arab MKs from the Joint List? On Army Radio, Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar claims that Likud’s Miki Zohar is trying to convince members of the Joint List to join Likud in blocking the Knesset’s okay of proceedings to hear the immunity request.
  • Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi rejects the frankly outlandish claim outright, telling the station, “Nobody from Likud is coming to us, and if they do, they know what the answer will be — we are at the forefront of the fight to create the Knesset body to hear the immunity request.”

3. Right and righter: As for Otzma’s Ben Gvir, he may not respond to threats or logic, but a carrot may do the trick. A report on Channel 12 news claims that ultra-Orthodox parties are considering trying to get him to drop out of the race by pushing the idea of making him a minister.

  • According to the report, the plan is backed by Likud’s Zohar, but sources close to the prime minister outright reject the idea of making the Kahanist a minister, which is little surprise given the outcry there was when Netanyahu just tried to get him into the Knesset, to say nothing of the cabinet.
  • Ben-Gvir tells Kan on Monday that “sweetheart jobs don’t do it for me, but there are lots of options on the table.”
  • In Haaretz, op-ed columnist Carolina Landsmann questions the unwillingness by her colleagues and others on the left to recognize differences between far-rightists and Kahanists, or moderate rightists and Kahanists, not because it lacks nuance, but because it serves those who are being generalized: “We on the left must see this tendency to dismiss the nuances on the right as the direct result of the political war of attrition that Netanyahu is waging. This is despair that pulls out from under us the political rug we can stand on and use to effect change – because if we continue on this course it will create a dangerous alienation from politics and its importance.”
  • There is something to the idea that the shades of difference between sides can be barely discernible, as noted by another Haaretz writer: Anshel Pfeffer, who is by no means a reactionary demagogue and who writes that Benny Gantz will have to break right if he wants to unseat Netanyahu.
  • “The wavering voters of this election are all on the soft-right. … Five or six for them moving to Kahol Lavan would be enough for a sizable lead over Likud this time, and new coalition-building options after the election,” he writes.

4. Waiting for Naama, quietly: Netanyahu may be a lame duck, but he is seen as having more luck convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin to free backpacker Naama Issachar, or at least that’s the narrative the media is pushing.

  • With Putin set to visit Israel this week, expectations are sky-high for Issachar’s imminent freedom.
  • Further raising hopes is a Kremlin announcement that the issue will be discussed in talks between Putin and Netanyahu this week, which gets wide play in the Israeli press.
  • “This is the moment of truth, this week I’ll know when Naama will be freed,” Issachar’s mom Yaffa told the Israeli media after she left Russia and returned to Israel, expressing hopes for coming back soon to pick up her daughter.
  • But she refused to take questions, and in a message to activists asked them to not make any public protests while Putin is in town.
  • Israeli officials are even more cautious. Israel Hayom reports that Israeli officials believe “the chatter about the case has caused a lot of damage,” including promises made by Netanyahu.
  • Minister Gila Gamliel, who recently went to Russia to push Issachar’s case, among other things, is also critical of the way the family, the media and pundits have made her into a cause celebre: “Had the conversation not been so boisterous, Naama would be home by now,” she tells Ynet.
  • A senior Israeli official tells Yedioth that there’s not really a swap deal at play, but it all depends on Putin, “if he wants to make this gesture, and if so, when.”

5. Fight over remembrance: At the same time, Yedioth also reports that Russia may want in exchange her for an official pronouncement from an Israeli leader — Netanyahu or Rivlin — taking Moscow’s side in a spat with Poland over culpability for World War II.

  • Who started the war? Why the Jews of course. At least that’s what Hitler believed, according to preeminent Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer, who tells ToI’s Raphael Ahren that in the mid 1930s Adolf Hitler was pushing the idea that the global Jew was going to start a war to take power.
  • Despite the spat between Poland and Moscow, Bauer also advises Jerusalem against mixing in or pushing against Polish revisionism, at least at Thursday’s commemoration of 75 years since Auschwitz was liberated.
  • “I am no supporter of Netanyahu’s take on the Holocaust. I don’t know who’s going to write his speech for him. But it’s quite clear that [we should focus on the fact that this event] commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The remnant was rescued. The remnant was liberated. And we remember the Holocaust — that’s the crucial thing,” he says.
  • JNS editor Jonathan Tobin writes on the other side that Israeli already made a mistake by refusing to let Poland’s president speak at the ceremony: “The snub of Andrzej Duda ought to worry even those who don’t care much about Polish sensibilities, let alone the minutiae of Holocaust remembrance.
  • “There’s more at stake here than a natural desire on the part of many Jews to express anger about revisionist history. As is true of other Eastern European governments, Poland does not share the antipathy towards Israel that is so common in Western Europe. Promoting warm relations between Israel and Poland isn’t so much a matter of Netanyahu practising realpolitik but a policy based in the realization that the conflicts of the past should not doom Jews and Poles to conflict in the present and future,” he adds.

6. No room for survivors: One Russian-speaker who will not be at the event is Minister Zeev Elkin, who tells Army Radio that he gave his seat to a Holocaust survivor and calls on other ministers to do so as well.

  • This is after the station reports that only 30 survivors will be among the 800 people at the ceremony.
  • “Holocaust survivors are the biggest symbol of the victory of the Jewish people, and they were not invited,” fumes Haifa politician Yaron Hanan, whose mother survived the camps, to Army Radio.
  • His mom Rachel Hanan, in typical Jewish mom fashion, is less angry and more just upset with your behavior, Israel: “My son is very mad, but I just think it’s not so nice,” she tells Makor Rishon. “They could have made us room. They don’t have nay bigger spaces? They have enough excuses and they got those ready ahead of time — they were good enough to prepare the excuses.”

7. Let it snow? No: Among those expected in Jerusalem are gads of world leaders, who will be greeted by dreary weather to match the likely somber tone of the event.

  • With the mercury dropping, the four-letter “s” word starts dropping into the conversation: snow.
  • Unfortunately, for those in the capital, though, few think there will be any of the white stuff on Tuesday.
  • “There is a chance in the center of the country, on mountains above 1,000 meters, but even if snow does fall, it seems it won’t reach Jerusalem, but rather Hebron and the Etzion bloc, and even the flakes that do fall won’t stick,” Channel 12 news reports.
  • However, chief meteo-tech meteorologist Nahum Malek tells Army Radio that snow could fall on Gilo, a high mountain on Jerusalem’s southern end.
  • A notice from Jerusalem City Hall to residents advises of the possibility of light snow in the city.
  • Asked on his website by a user whether there will be snow, Jerusalem metereologist Boaz Nechemia says yes, in Safed.
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