News Roundup for August 1, 2023

August 1, 2023
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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

Top News and Analysis

All 15 Israel Supreme Court Judges to Hear Judicial Overhaul Petitions, Reuters
Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday said all 15 judges in a historic first would take part in a hearing on arguments against a law that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition passed as part of an overhaul of the judiciary. The Supreme Court agreed to discuss on Sept. 12 petitions to strike down the bill ratified last week that limits its powers to void some decisions made by government and ministers, setting the scene for a constitutional showdown. A court spokesperson said the hearing would mark the first time in the country’s history an extended bench would preside.

The Brains Behind Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul, The New York Times
Patrick Kingsley writes, “To the world, Mr. Netanyahu — Israel’s longest-serving leader — is the face of his government’s judicial overhaul, a multipart effort that has already limited the Supreme Court’s influence over lawmakers and could yet give the government more control over who sits on the court. In Israel, the law’s main champion has been Mr. Levin, whose solemn demeanor conceals a rigid belief in sweeping judicial change. His influence within Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition has raised questions about the prime minister’s true grip on power and aroused speculation that Mr. Levin could one day succeed him.”


Jewish Democrat Becomes First Member of Congress to Address Pro-Israeli Democracy Protest in US, Haaretz
Rep. Jan Schakowsky on Sunday became the first member of Congress to address a rally of pro-Israeli democracy demonstrators in America, indicating that the protest movement against the Netanyahu government’s judicial coup is gaining further relevance among US lawmakers. Schakowsky, a Jewish Democrat from Illinois, addressed the rally in her hometown of Evanston days after introducing a concurrent House resolution supporting Israeli democracy and opposing any actions that undermine Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.

Knesset Okays Stronger Punishment for Sex Offenses Motivated by Terrorism or Racism, The Times of Israel
The Knesset on Monday passed a right-wing-backed law that makes terrorist, nationalist or racist motivations an aggravating factor in crimes of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The law would double compensation fines for sexual harassment motivated by racism or hostility toward certain groups. Sharp criticism of the law quickly came in from an Arab lawmaker and Israel’s rape crisis center umbrella organization, with both alleging the law improperly creates a ranking of the severity of such crimes.

Clashes Continue Between Factions in Palestinian Camp in Lebanon as Death Toll Climbs to 9, AP
The death toll rose to nine Monday in three days of clashes between Palestinian factions at a refugee camp in Lebanon that have pitted members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party against Islamist groups. A Lebanese lawmaker announced a cease-fire agreement late Monday but some gunfire continued afterward, and earlier efforts to broker a cease-fire had failed to stop the shooting and shelling through the narrow streets of the Ein el-Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon.

US Quietly Inspects Israeli Crossings for its Palestinian Dual-nationals, Reuters
US observers are in Israel this week to discreetly assess conditions at its border crossings for Palestinian-Americans as part of an emerging Israeli-US visa waiver deal, four officials said. The officials, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, said the delegation visited Israel’s immigration office on Sunday, Ben Gurion Airport on Monday and would on Tuesday tour checkpoints on the occupied West Bank’s boundaries.

In Gaza, Pressure Builds on Hamas to Solve Power Crisis Amid Heat Wave, Al-Monitor
A scorching heat wave in the Gaza Strip has worsened the power crisis in the besieged enclave, pushing activists to launch grassroots campaigns condemning Hamas’ failure to resolve the decadeslong crisis and demanding the movement to reveal where the money is going that it has been collecting from electricity bills. Gaza has been struggling with severe power shortages since Israel bombed the power plant in June 2006, bringing it to a complete halt.

Opinion and Analysis

To Counterbalance Netanyahu’s Words: An Open Letter to Congress, The Times of Israel
Former Israeli ambassadors and senior career diplomats write, “It is inconceivable but true: our government is placing the coalition’s survival ahead of the people’s security and well-being. We urge you to look again at the prime minister’s words. We also urge you to look at what our public opinion polls are increasingly saying about ongoing attempts to abruptly and unilaterally force this extreme challenge to Israel’s democratic DNA.”

I Don’t Recognize the Intolerant, Illiberal Country Israel is Becoming, The Washington Post
Max Boot argues, “Yet, while I retain affection for Israel, I often feel as if I do not recognize what it has become. This is a familiar feeling for me, since I am similarly befuddled by modern America: How did we turn into a land of book banners and COVID deniers? Both Israel and the United States have been disfigured by the rise of populist rabble-rousers who have tapped into ugly and unsavory prejudices. While our far-right president was narrowly unseated in 2020 and is now on the comeback trail, Israel’s far-right government remains firmly in control despite its exceedingly narrow winning margin.”

In Netanyahu’s Israel, Even Rapists Have Privileges if They Are Jewish, Haaretz
The Haaretz Editorial Board argues, “All those people who call themselves democrats yet abandoned the plenum at a moment when the Knesset was acting like an incited mob possessed by a Ku Klux Klan dybbuk and thereby lent a hand to this abomination through their silence, cannot claim to have clean hands. They are full partners in this crime. Now, we can only hope that the High Court of Justice will save Israel from its racists and overturn this race law.”