News Roundup for January 20, 2023

January 20, 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.

J Street In the News

Israel’s New Right-Wing Government Is Even More Extreme Than Protests Would Have You Think, Vox
“They don’t have a lot of cracks in the coalition that could potentially derail some of the things that they want to do, and they have Netanyahu over a barrel,” says Jeremy Ben Ami, the president of the pro-Israel and pro-peace advocacy group J Street. “They passed a bunch of laws already before they were even sworn in as a government. They rearranged the way in which the occupation is run.”

Top News and Analysis

Harvard Reverses Course on Human Rights Advocate Who Criticized Israel, The New York Times
The Harvard Kennedy School reversed course on Thursday and said it would offer a fellowship to a leading human rights advocate it had previously rejected, after news of the decision touched off a public outcry over academic freedom, donor influence and the boundaries of criticism of Israel. The controversy erupted earlier this month, when The Nation published a lengthy article revealing that last summer, the school’s dean, Douglas Elmendorf, had vetoed a proposal by the school’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to offer a one-year fellowship to Kenneth Roth, the recently retired executive director of Human Rights Watch. At the time, Elmendorf told colleagues that he was concerned about perceptions that Human Rights Watch had a bias against Israel, according to two faculty members.

Sullivan Raises Israeli Judicial Overhaul Plan With Netanyahu, Axios
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan in a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday raised the Israeli government’s plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system. It is the first time that a senior Biden administration official has discussed the issue directly with Netanyahu. The Biden administration is concerned the plan could harm the independence of the Israeli judicial system and other democratic institutions. In his private meeting with Netanyahu, the U.S. officials said Sullivan also raised the Biden administration’s concerns about the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.


Gallant Defies Smotrich, Orders Evacuation of Illegal West Bank Outpost, The Times of Israel
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant defied Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich on Friday and ordered the evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost set up overnight in the West Bank, undermining the stability of the fledgling government. The incident marked the first test of a coalition deal that sought to split the authority of the defense ministry, by appointing Smotrich as a minister in the ministry with responsibility for civil affairs in the West Bank.

Israeli Spy’s Identity Revealed As He Takes On Key Government Post, Axios
The identity of a former Israeli spy who was in charge of Palestinian agents in Gaza and was at one time Benjamin Netanyahu’s point person for secret talks in the Arab world was revealed for the first time this week after he was appointed director general of the country’s Foreign Ministry.

Saudi Arabia Says a Palestinian State Is Key to Ties With Israel, Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said an agreement to create a Palestinian state would be a precondition for the biggest Arab economy to establish formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

Top Court President Will Reportedly Quit if Judicial Overhaul Plan Fully Approved, Haaretz
Israel’s High Court President Esther Hayut reportedly stated in a private meeting that she will resign from her post if the far-right government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary will be approved fully and unaltered by the Knesset, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot reported on Friday.

Opinion and Analysis

Hard-Liners Are Hurting Israel’s Security, The Washington Post
The Editors at Bloomberg Opinion argue, “[T]he antics of Israeli officials such as Ben-Gvir are making tensions worse. They risk sparking violence, if not a third intifada, and distracting from the effort to counter Iran. By weakening already fragile prospects for a two-state solution, they undermine US policy and jeopardize support for Israel within Biden’s Democratic coalition.”

‘There’s a Real Crisis in American Jewry’ — A New Book Warns of Worsening Deadlock in U.S.-Israel Relationship, The Forward
Nora Berman writes, “In ‘We Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight Over Israel’, the historian exposes uncomfortable truths about the two nations’ unique relationship.”