News Roundup for February 21, 2023

February 21, 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.

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J Street In the News

Equating Israeli and Iranian Protests, U.S. Lawmakers Slam Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul, Haaretz
“Rep. Jim McGovern is one of the most respected members of the Democratic caucus, serving as the ranking member of the House Rules Committee and ranking member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. He directly links the judicial overhaul with the governing coalition’s parallel efforts at expanding West Bank settlements and legalizing outposts…McGovern is currently leading a congressional delegation organized by J Street – the largest-ever delegation organized by the liberal, pro-Israel organization. He is joined by 14 Democratic colleagues who are visiting at a particularly fraught time, with simmering tensions between Israel and the Palestinians ahead of the traditional flash point month of Ramadan adding to fears.”

We Have To Save Our Democracy for Our Children, The Times of Israel
J Street’s Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “[T]oday, and every other day – we will take to the streets, we will fight, we will do everything to protect our country so that our children do not need to choose between their freedom and their homeland.”

Israel Needs Tough Love From the US in the UNSC, The Times of Israel
J Street’s Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “It is time that the declarations of support for the two-state solution be translated into action and not remain empty statements. Such a step will support the original Zionist vision, that Israel be a true democratic national home for the Jewish people, a vision that is threatened by the proposed judicial coup, the expanded construction of settlements, and other anti-democratic actions that the new government is promoting.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Government Advances Judicial Overhaul Despite Uproar, The Washington Post
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Tuesday for the first time advanced a plan to overhaul the country’s legal system, defying a mass uproar among Israelis and calls for restraint from the United States. The vote marked only preliminary approval for the plan. But it raised the stakes in a political battle that drew tens of thousands of protesters into the streets, sparked criticism from influential sectors of society and widened the rifts in an already polarized country.

Israel Promises Not To Approve Additional West Bank Outposts, AP
Israel has told the Biden administration it will rein in the approval of new West Bank settlement outposts, the prime minister’s office said Monday, a day after a potential diplomatic crisis was averted at the United Nations over Israeli-Palestinian tensions. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not greenlight any new wildcat settlements in the West Bank beyond nine such outposts built without authorization that it approved retroactively earlier this month. The statement, however, made no mention of the thousands of additional settlement homes in existing settlements officials say are to be soon approved.

Israeli-Palestinian Showdown at UN Averted After U.S. Mediation, Axios
The Palestinian Authority agreed to suspend its efforts to push for a UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank after U.S. pressure and mediation, Israeli and U.S. officials said. It’s a diplomatic achievement for the Biden administration, which was trying to avoid a situation in which it had to decide whether to use its veto to support Israel, which it has repeatedly done in the past. Officials have said the U.S. was also concerned that a showdown at the UN — even if it ended with a veto — would have led to further escalation between the Israelis and Palestinians ahead of the historically sensitive period of Passover and the holy month of Ramadan.


UN Council OKs Watered-Down Statement on Israel Settlements, The Washington Post
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a watered-down statement strongly opposing Israel’s continued construction and expansion of settlements Monday. The vote came after high-stakes negotiations by the Biden administration succeeded in derailing a legally binding resolution that would have demanded a halt to Israeli settlement activity.

Israelis and Palestinians Have Been Holding Secret Talks for Weeks, Axios
Senior aides of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been holding secret talks for almost two months in an effort to de-escalate rising tensions in the occupied West Bank, three sources briefed on the matter told Axios. The weeks of secret talks, which have not been previously reported, are among the first pieces of evidence of direct high-level engagement between the Palestinian Authority and the new right-wing Israeli government.

Sanders: Israeli Democracy Is in Peril, The Hill
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that he thinks that democracy is in peril in Israel and that the U.S. should revisit the conditions under which it offers financial assistance to the country. “I do,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” when asked if he thinks democracy is in peril in Israel. “I am very worried about what [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is doing and some of his allies in government and what may happen to the Palestinian people.”

Israel President Urges Consensus After Judicial Changes Pass, AP
Israel’s president on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition to seek dialogue and compromise after it pushed ahead with controversial judicial overhaul in a turbulent parliamentary session overnight. Isaac Herzog said it was a “difficult morning” following the late night parliamentary vote that saw two contentious pieces of legislation — part of sweeping changes that have prompted vocal criticism in Israel and abroad — pass a preliminary hurdle.

Opinion and Analysis

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s Minister of Chaos, The New Yorker
Ruth Margalit writes, “As unrest roils the country, a controversial figure from the far right helps Benjamin Netanyahu hold on to power.”

You Can’t Save Democracy in a Jewish State, The New York Times
Peter Beinart argues, “Some Jews may worry that by advocating genuine liberal democracy — and thus exposing themselves to accusations of anti-Zionism — Mr. Netanyahu’s critics will marginalize themselves. But if they widen their vision they’ll see that the opposite is true. By including Palestinians as full partners, Israel’s democracy movement will discover a vast reservoir of new allies and develop a far clearer moral voice. Ultimately, a movement premised on ethnocracy cannot successfully defend the rule of law. Only a movement for equality can.”

But, What Can We Do?, Arza
Josh Weinberg reflects, “Right now, we don’t have a choice. Israel as a Jewish and democratic State is being threatened, and the damage being done is potentially irreversible. We must speak up, in the same way that we would mobilize and come together if Israel were facing a formidable external threat. We must support civil society organizations and specifically our Reform Movement that is leading the fight for religious freedom and for democracy at large.”