News Roundup for July 19, 2023

July 19, 2023
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J Street In the News

Biden’s Hidden Birthday Message for Israel, Time
“Even some of Netanyahu’s most prominent critics think it’s a mistake to spurn Herzog. “We are urging members to attend,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Zionist advocacy group J Street, tells TIME. “It goes back to the symbolism of Herzog as President of Israel and really a symbol of the state more than the policies of this government.”

Biden Hosts Israeli President As Two-State Solution Slips Further Away, Newsweek
“But the fanfare surrounding the appearance by Herzog—who serves in a largely symbolic role—will be clouded by the recent strife in Israel, as well as concern among democracy advocates that the nation’s sharp rightward shift since Netanyahu returned to power last year has shut the door for now on a two-state solution that would grant Palestinians a homeland. “It’s a really pivotal moment in Israel’s history,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J-Street, a liberal advocacy group. “The proposals that [Netanyahu’s] government are pursuing would move Israel away from the liberal democratic camp. That’s why there’s protesters in the streets.”

Top News and Analysis

Herzog: Israel Should Take Biden’s Concerns About Judicial Overhaul into Consideration, JTA
President Joe Biden’s concerns about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of Israel’s courts system should be taken into account by the Israeli parties seeking a compromise, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said after meeting Biden. Herzog’s advice, effectively aimed at Netanyahu and appearing only in his comments in Hebrew to Israeli media after his White House meeting on Tuesday, was unusual in a foreign leader insisting that the United States had a role to play in a matter of internal debate.


Hoping to Head Off ‘Reasonableness’ Bill, Protesters Begin 4-day March to Jerusalem, The Times of Israel
Hundreds of anti-government protesters were making their way on foot from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem early Wednesday as they sought to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers ahead of an expected vote on legislation that will void a central element of court oversight on the government. Activists, including some leaders of the largely grassroots protest movement, announced the march late Tuesday as police cleared out tens of thousands of demonstrators who had rallied in Tel Aviv and elsewhere against the government’s plans at the end of a day of widespread demonstrations.

Inside Biden’s Call with Israel’s Netanyahu, Axios
When President Biden urged Benjamin Netanyahu in their call Monday to try and get broad consensus for his judicial overhaul legislation, the Israeli prime minister claimed the opposition was unwilling to negotiate, three US and Israeli officials briefed on the call told Axios. It doesn’t appear that Netanyahu’s answer convinced Biden. The White House stressed after the call that the president doesn’t have fewer concerns about the legislation Netanyahu is pushing to weaken the Supreme Court and other democratic institutions.

Israeli President Says His Speech to Congress Highlights an ‘Unbreakable Bond’ Despite US Unease, AP
Israel’s president speaks to Congress on Wednesday in an appearance aimed at demonstrating what he calls the “unbreakable bond” between Israel and the United States, despite US concerns over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul and settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Isaac Herzog becomes the second Israeli president, after his father, Chaim Herzog, to address Congress. His speech will mark modern Israel’s celebration of its 75th year.

Israeli Reservists Block Military Base Amid Protests Against Planned Judicial Overhaul, NBC
Israeli military reservists blocked the entrance to the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Tuesday as protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of the judicial system again swept the country. Almost every Israeli does military service and the political views of reservists carries significant weight. Elsewhere in Tel Aviv, demonstrators blocked roads and gathered outside the stock exchange, many waving Israeli flags, in what campaigners called a “day of disruption.”

Netanyahu Tells Biden Israel Will Limit Settlement Construction, Denies It to Media, Haaretz
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Joe Biden on Monday that he would limit construction in West Bank settlements until the end of the year as part of his efforts to repair relations with Washington and help reach a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. After word of the commitment was reported in the media, Netanyahu’s office issued a denial to various religious-right media outlets.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden to Netanyahu: Please Stop Trying to Rush Through Your Judicial Overhaul. Build a Consensus First, The New York Times
Thomas Friedman writes, “Indeed, every Israeli leader should ponder this line from Biden: “The protest movement demonstrates “the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy, which must remain the core of our bilateral relationship.” When Biden said that to me, I can tell you he was speaking from his head and his heart. He is basically pleading with Netanyahu and his supporters to understand: If we are not seen to share that democratic value, it will be difficult to sustain the special relationship that Israel and America have enjoyed for the last 75 years for another 75 years.”

Israeli Politics Are on Fire. Here’s How to Cool Them Down, The Washington Post
The Washington Post Editorial Board argues, “The country needs to set down a formula for the separation of powers in a permanent document. Israel’s founders promised one 75 years ago but never quite delivered. The proposed assembly, however, could fill that long-delayed need. It would consist of 100 members, one-third chosen by the existing Knesset, the rest elected in a national election under rules allowing for a wide cross-section of parties to win seats. The body would have two years to write a constitution. Ratification would be by national referendum.”

Why Biden’s Invitation to Netanyahu is Not an Israeli Achievement, Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit notes, “After openly criticizing the Netanyahu government and refusing to invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House, the Biden administration is now seemingly trying to calm down bilateral tensions. Barely 24 hours before the expected Tuesday White House meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, President Joe Biden made a call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Slow-moving contacts regarding the planned phone call had been underway for a while.”