Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90
MK Yoav Kisch (Liked) endorsing sovereignty bill, seated next to MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List). Jan. 2, 2016.

Five weeks ago, the Likud Central Committee approved a resolution compelling the Likud representatives in the Knesset and the government to promote applying Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.

The Prime Minister’s office last week worked hard to persuade MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) to remove from the agenda his consequent bill calling to impose Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.

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The response from the pro-Greater Israel majority in the Likud Knesset faction, as well as from Habayit Hayehudi and other rightwing coalition partners, was that, by hook or by crook, on Sunday the bill would be approved by the ministerial legislative committee—chaired by Habayit Hayehudi Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

On Sunday morning, the cabinet voted unanimously to postpone the debate on the bill. A statement from the Prime Minister’s office explained that “following the security events and in order to enable the continuation of diplomatic contacts on this matter, it was unanimously decided at a meeting of the coalition leaders to postpone debate on the sovereignty law.”

The security events, we all know, means the clashes between Israel and its Syrian and Iranian foes in the north. Since Israel is in the midst of trying to convince the Kremlin that it must act to remove Iran and its proxy militias from Syria (an effort which doesn’t appear to be going anywhere so far), the last think PM Netanyahu needs on his plate is a controversial government bill that would suck the air out of any meeting room in Moscow.

Except that Netanyahu was trying to block the bill before the Saturday clash with the Syrians – what was his excuse then? It was the Trump administration: so far it’s the Palestinian Authority that’s been acting unilaterally and enraging the Americans – Israel can’t afford to come across as trying the same.

There was also the Moshe Kahlon card – the finance minister, who is a staunch opponent of any bill that would cost him his center-left votes come next elections, is visiting abroad, and it won’t be fair to pass the bill without allowing him to have his say on the matter.

So, consider this to be a time-out for the sovereignty bill, as the vast majority of the coalition partners say they are still very much behind it.

Meanwhile, the Netanyahu circle will have to come up with fresh excuses ahead of the next debate.

MK Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) responded to the postponement of the vote on the Sovereignty bill saying, “The events in the north were supposed to be a catalyst for the passing of the sovereignty law and not an excuse for its rejection – unless any of the coalition leaders thinks that anything good will come out for Israel from the establishment of an Iranian satellite one yard from Ben-Gurion Airport.”

“In such a situation, the Iranians will not need spy drones, they could do it with regular binoculars,” Smotrich added, describing things in Judea and Samaria should Israel fail to annex. “The Middle East smells weakness and exploits it, and they also know identify and appreciate power. The application of sovereignty is the most appropriate step, from a moral, Zionist, and security point of view. We will continue to promote it with all our might in order to succeed and pass the legislation on this matter.”

“I am convinced that my friends in the Likud will not surrender, and together we will make history,” Smotrich concluded.

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