News Roundup for February 1, 2023

February 1, 2023

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J Street News Roundup

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

Netanyahu Says Don’t Get ‘Hung Up’ on Peace With Palestinians First, CNN
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said people can get “hung up” on peace negotiations with the Palestinians, saying he has opted for a different approach in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday. “When effectively the Arab-Israeli conflict (comes) to an end, I think we’ll circle back to the Palestinians and get a workable peace with the Palestinians,” he said. Asked by Tapper about the Biden administration’s concerns that settlements in the occupied West Bank could exacerbate tensions, Netanyahu pointed to the success of the Trump-era Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries.

Blinken Reaffirms ‘Vision’ for Two States As Israeli-Palestinian Violence Surges, The Washington Post
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for calm at a time of cascading violence during his visit to Jerusalem on Monday, the most high-profile U.S. engagement with Israel since the inauguration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government last month. In a joint news conference with Netanyahu, after days of escalating bloodshed, Blinken said that maintaining the “vision” of a two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would be created alongside Israel, was “the only way forward.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether Blinken would issue any forceful warnings to Israeli officials over the judicial proposals or the positions of some of Netanyahu’s coalition partners.


Palestinians Face Removal As Far-Right Israel Vows Expansion, AP
The long-running dispute over Khan al-Ahmar has resurfaced as a focus of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a legal deadline looming and Israel’s new far-right ministers pushing the government to fulfill a Supreme Court-sanctioned commitment from 2018 to wipe the village off the map. On Wednesday, the Israeli government is expected to respond to a petition by a pro-settler group, Regavim, asking the Supreme Court why Khan al-Ahmar has not yet been razed. Residents fear the brakes may be off now that Israel has its most right-wing government in history.

Netanyahu Says He Wants To Hear ‘Counter Offers’ to Proposed Judicial Overhaul, The Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he is ready to “hear counter offers” to his contentious plan to radically overhaul Israel’s independent judiciary, while still defending the proposed legal shake-up to counter what he called “extreme judicial activism.” The prime minister said Israel needed “a strong independent judiciary, but an independent judiciary doesn’t mean an unbridled judiciary,” in a wide-ranging interview with CNN that aired Tuesday for over an hour.

The U.S. Right-wing Group Behind a Conservative Legal Revolution in Israel, Haaretz
The Israel Law and Liberty Forum, which Knesset justice committee chairman Simcha Rothman helped establish, aspires to create a new generation of conservative judges. This organization was founded in 2019 by conservative U.S. nonprofit the Tikvah Fund. The Liberty Forum website states that it was “inspired by the Federalist Society” – which is one of the most influential right-wing organizations in Washington today and supported the candidacies of most current U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Blinken Urges Netanyahu To Build Broad Consensus Around Judicial Overhaul Plan, Axios
Secretary of State Tony Blinken urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem on Monday to build a broad consensus around his judicial overhaul plan. Blinken’s comments are the most significant and strongest remarks the Biden administration has made about the Netanyahu government’s plan to weaken Supreme Court and other democratic institutions.

Opinion and Analysis

U.S. Struggles To Face Israeli-Palestinian Reality, The Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor argues, “[T]he fig leaf of the peace process and the two-state solution is drying up. The Trump administration, which took many of its cues from the Jewish settler movement, touted a vision for peace that more or less dispensed with a real Palestinian state. Palestinians themselves have focused their appeals on their lack of rights, not statehood. You won’t hear much about these deeper concerns from Blinken. And Palestinian activists and analysts don’t see the United States as a good faith mediator between both sides.”

The Once ‘Unbreakable’ U.S.-Israel Bond Is Under Strain, Time
Yasmeen Serhan writes, “But whether the U.S. continues to regard Israel as such will depend largely on how much pressure Washington can exert on Netanyahu, whose hold on power relies on the support of his hardline coalition partners…Indeed, Ben-Gvir already made a provocative visit to Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound earlier this month, in violation of the holy site’s delicate status quo. Such an approach risks straining Washington’s support for Tel Aviv by making Israel a point of contention not just when it comes to matters of human rights, but also democracy. Biden has made promoting democracy in the fight against authoritarianism the mainstay of his foreign policy.”

Mr. Blinken, Israel Is Sinking to Its Doom, Haaretz
Former Israeli ambassador to Belgium and Spain Victor Harel writes, “Mr. Secretary, one of your predecessors, Madeleine Albright, knew how to pound the table when necessary. Another U.S. secretary of state, James Baker, gave his phone number to Jerusalem, should the Israeli government come to its senses. Most of us are full of admiration and gratitude for all the U.S. has done and continues to do to support and strengthen Israel. America, and only America, not any European country, has the ability and the means to halt this power-drunk government, which lost all inhibitions and shame the moment it was sworn in.”