News Roundup for July 20, 2023

July 20, 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

As Congress Hosts Israeli Leader, Republicans Block Food Aid For Poorest Palestinians, HuffPost
“Amid the political furor, supporters of aid to Palestinians say it is a moral imperative. Allowing aid to be affected by partisan differences over America’s approach to the Palestinians, they argue, would both create needless misery and worsen the overall situation on the ground by fueling dissatisfaction. “This is essentially politics that plays with Israeli and Palestinian lives,” said Hannah Morris, the director of government affairs at the liberal Jewish American advocacy group J Street. “The Israeli government understands that this funding is crucial for their own security.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli President Promises to ‘Protect and Defend’ Democracy in Face of Judicial Crisis, The Hill
Israeli President Isaac Herzog promised Wednesday to “protect and defend” Israel’s democracy as it faces a crisis over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pursuit of a judicial overhaul that has drawn unprecedented criticism from the US. In a speech to a joint meeting of Congress marking Israel’s 75th anniversary, Herzog called Israeli protests against Netanyahu and his government “painful, and deeply unnerving, because it highlights the cracks within the whole.”

Gantz Warns of ‘Destruction,’ Calls on Netanyahu to Enter Urgent Dialogue, Haaretz
Israeli opposition lawmaker Benny Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return to the judicial overhaul negotiation table at the president’s residence and find an agreed upon outline for the government’s proposed law to cancel the reasonableness standard “as early as this evening.” In his speech, Gantz warned that Israel faces “destruction,” adding that “the security situation is the most challenging we have faced since the Yom Kippur war.”


Smotrich Said Pushing for Demolishing Palestinian Construction in West Bank Areas A, B, The Times of Israel
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in his capacity as a minister in the Defense Ministry, is reportedly developing a plan to allow Israel to demolish buildings in the West Bank’s areas A and B, a violation of the Oslo Accords. While Israel currently enforces construction regulations only in Area C of the West Bank, where it has full civilian and military control, the discussion centered around the subject of Palestinian construction in areas A and B, where Israel does not hold civilian jurisdiction.

Hundreds of Israeli Reservists Vow to Refuse Service if Judicial Overhaul Passes, Reuters
Hundreds of Israeli reservists marched in Tel Aviv on Wednesday threatening to refuse their volunteer service if the government presses ahead with its controversial plan to curb the power of the Supreme Court. The drive by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition to strip the court of some of its review powers has triggered mass protests across Israel and stirred deep concern among allies, including the United States.

Israeli Doctors Hold ‘Warning Strike,’ Caution that Judicial Overhaul Threatens Healthcare System, AP
Doctors in Israel held a two-hour strike Wednesday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary. The doctors say the plan will endanger public health by granting Netanyahu and his allies greater control over the country’s health care system. Medical leaders warned they will take more severe measures if Netanyahu’s government moves forward with a bill to limit the judiciary’s oversight powers.

Hundreds Protest Israel’s Judicial Coup Outside US Capitol Ahead of Herzog’s Address, Haaretz
Hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators have begun gathering at the Taft Memorial and Carillon, down the street from the US Capitol, shortly before Israeli President Isaac Herzog is set to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Speakers from the US-Jewish establishment and the Israeli protest movement are anticipated to not only decry the judicial overhaul, but to urge Herzog to not understate the threat to Israeli democracy in his speech.

West Bank Medics Given Bulletproof Vests After Rise in Attacks by Israeli Forces, The Guardian
Medics working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are being supplied with helmets and bulletproof vests after attacks on healthcare workers and ambulances by Israeli forces and settlers. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, there were 193 incidents targeting staff and vehicles in 2023 – a 310% increase compared with the same period last year.

US and Israel Agree on Conditions that Could See Israelis Join Visa Waiver Program, Axios
The US and Israel on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) setting the conditions for Israel’s entry into the US Visa Waiver Program. This is a big step forward for Israel’s bid to eventually become a part of the waiver program, which allows a country’s citizens to travel to the US for 90 days without obtaining a visa. Israel has for years wanted to join the program but the US has expressed concerns over Israeli entry restrictions that Palestinian-Americans from the occupied West Bank faced.

Opinion and Analysis

It’s the Republicans, Not the Democrats, Who Are Radical on Israel, The Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor explains, “But Republican lawmakers in Washington have seemingly yoked their agenda to the far-right Israeli settler movement and influential right-wing pro-Israel groups in the United States. They may be explicit in their unconditional and full-throated support for Israel, but what’s implicit in their rhetoric is far more telling. Even as mass protests against Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary once again rocked the streets of Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, no prominent Republican politician has expressed concrete support for Israeli civil society or even concern about Netanyahu’s attempts to use his razor-thin margin in power to erode a major element of Israeli democracy.”

How Do Americans Feel About Zionism, Antisemitism, and Israel?, Brookings
Shibley Telhami notes, “One key takeaway pertains to how Americans see the choice between Israel’s Jewishness and its democracy if a two-state solution were no longer on the table. Not only does a large majority, 73%, choose democracy even if it meant that Israel would no longer be a Jewish state, but this included most Republicans, 64%, who tend to be very supportive of Israel. Further analysis also shows that a majority of Evangelical Christians, 58%, who tend to be most supportive of Israel, would choose democracy over Jewishness in Israel.”