News Roundup for July 18, 2023

July 18, 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.

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J Street In the News

Republicans Try to Jam Democrats on Israel, The Washington Post
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president, said the term “implacable foes” went too far — but he agreed that it was a mistake for Democrats to rebuke Herzog by skipping his speech. J Street supported Democrats who sat out Netanyahu’s address to Congress in 2015, when the Israeli prime minister accepted an invitation from Republican Speaker John Boehner without telling President Barack Obama. But Ben-Ami has been lobbying House Democrats over the past week — some successfully, some unsuccessfully — to show up for Herzog’s address.”

Israeli President Walks Congressional Tightrope as Support Frays, Roll Call
“The Israeli political system has shifted way to the right, and it is following down a path of countries like Hungary and [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan in Turkey and what is starting to happen in Poland: a non-democratic path they are starting to embark down with this judicial reform and with the ongoing behavior in the West Bank,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street. “I think President Herzog’s message will be to say that Israel remains — despite what you may think about this government — Israel remains part of [the] democratic camp and shares those democratic values,” Ben-Ami added.

Top News and Analysis

Biden and Netanyahu Discuss Judicial Overhaul, Agree to Meet Later This Year, Haaretz
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Monday, after months of tensions over the Israeli government’s policies and growing condemnations of Israel in the president’s Democratic Party. The two discussed Netanyahu’s government’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary and agreed to meet in the US later this year. The Prime Minister’s Office described the talk as “warm and lengthy.” It said Netanyahu had told Biden about his intention “to formulate during the summer recess a broad public consensus about the rest of the process” when he discussed the legislation to bar judges from being able to declare government decisions unreasonable.

Israeli President to Meet With Biden Amid US Unease With Netanyahu, The New York Times
President Biden will meet with President Isaac Herzog of Israel on Tuesday at the White House, a diplomatic overture to one of America’s key allies amid tensions between the Biden administration and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. White House officials described the meeting with Mr. Herzog as an opportunity for Mr. Biden to strengthen an already “ironclad” relationship between the two countries.


Israel’s Governing Coalition Presses Ahead with Plan to Overhaul Courts Ahead of Expected Protests, AP
Israel’s governing coalition pushed ahead Monday with its contentious plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary, despite growing opposition from within the country’s military and a wave of mass protests expected this week. A parliamentary committee was preparing a bill that would limit judicial oversight on some government decisions, legislation that has sparked intensifying criticism from military reservists in elite units, including the air force and cyberwarfare.

Netanyahu Faces New Stand Off With Israeli Reservists Over Judicial Overhaul, The Wall Street Journal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set for a second showdown with a cohort of the country’s military reservists as he pushes forward this week with controversial legislation aimed at overhauling the nation’s judicial system. Hundreds of elite reservist air-force pilots are among more than 1,000 reservists considering withholding their service if the government passes legislation that they consider a threat to the country’s democracy and putting them at risk of taking orders from unaccountable leaders.

Doctors Plan Strike this Week in Protest of Judicial Overhaul, The Times of Israel
Staff at public hospitals and clinics plan to go on strike this week in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul, the head of the Israeli Medical Association, Prof. Zion Hagay, said on Monday. Hagay told Channel 12 that the public health union, which represents about 95 percent of physicians in Israel, is prepared to work in “emergency mode” for a few hours this week. The exact date of the strike has not yet been determined and will depend on the schedule of the legislative process in the Knesset.

Bill Would Allow Israel to Transfer Revenue to West Bank Settlements From Within Green Line, Haaretz
The government is seeking to pass a law that would allow revenue from industrial zones within Israel’s pre-1967 borders to be transferred to settlements in the West Bank. Current law forbids such a transfer. The bill by United Torah Judaism lawmaker Yakov Asher would permit the interior minister to issue a directive transferring money from industrial zones in communities adjacent to West Bank settlements to those settlements.

Israel Recognizes Morocco’s Sovereignty Over Western Sahara, Al-Monitor
Israel has recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday, in what constitutes a major victory for Rabat in its pursuit of outside recognition for the contested area. The move follows Morocco and Israel agreeing to establish full diplomatic relations in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords. At the time, the United States agreed to recognize Western Sahara as Moroccan territory as part of the normalization agreement.

Opinion and Analysis

The Hysterical Overreaction to Jayapal’s ‘Racist State’ Gaffe, The New York Times
Michelle Goldberg writes, “Of course, a state’s leaders and policies can be bigoted without the state itself being irredeemable. That’s basically Jayapal’s stance, which is why she’s not an anti-Zionist. But the rush to condemn her offhand remarks is not about encouraging linguistic rigor. It’s about raising the political price of speaking about Israel forthrightly.”

Netanyahu Should Keep Israel’s Priorities Straight, Bloomberg
Members of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board argue, “Tens of thousands of demonstrators have returned to Israel’s streets, braving police batons and water cannons to protest the government’s renewed attempts to advance controversial judicial reforms. Emotions are raw: Demonstrators warn the country stands on the brink of dictatorship; government ministers liken them to terrorists. The unrest has frayed relations with the US and threatens to weaken and distract the security services just as tensions in the West Bank are rising and Iran inches closer to having a bomb. The scenes are familiar, tragic — and entirely unnecessary.”

How Settlers Justify Their Pogroms, +972
Shabtay Bendet notes, “Israeli settler violence against Palestinians has been escalating for several years in the occupied West Bank, a trend that is reflected not only in the rising number of attacks and attackers, but in the growing support they receive among the settler public, either actively or with silent consent. Yet one question often goes unasked: how do the settlers themselves explain — or even justify — this surge in violence? In recent conversations I had with some settlers and experts, the narrative that emerges mainly revolves around what the settlers claim is a lack of security and insufficient activities from the Israeli army, which they say is supposed to protect them.”