News Roundup for July 21, 2023

July 21, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

Israel’s Netanyahu Doubles Down on Judicial Plan, Rejects Criticism and Moves Ahead Toward Key Vote, AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to press ahead with his contentious judicial overhaul, despite unprecedented mass protests at home, growing defections by military reservists and appeals from the US president to put the plan on hold. Netanyahu’s message, delivered in a prime time address on national television, set the stage for stepped-up street protests in the coming days leading up to a fateful vote expected Monday.

‘Blood Everywhere’: As Israel’s Protests Ramp Up, the Police Crack Down, Haaretz
The protests against the hard-right government’s effort to weaken the judiciary have ratcheted up over the past two weeks – and so has violence by the police. In increasing numbers and with greater aggression, Kobi Shabtai’s force is deploying the mounted police, water cannons and the riot police. Last week the police even used sound cannons twice, endangering the hearing of nearby protesters. On the website Alimut Yisrael (Violence Israel), Israelis have reported 283 cases of violence by the police, 145 of them in the last two weeks. It’s unclear how many cases have gone unreported.


Opposition Figures Castigate Netanyahu Speech as ‘Full of Lies and Incitement’, The Times of Israel
Opposition figures and protest groups on Thursday blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a speech defending his hardline government’s efforts to cancel the judicial “reasonableness” test for governmental decisions, labeling the address as full of lies and incitement. In his speech, Netanyahu said efforts were being made to reach broad agreement on the controversial bill, though it was unclear what measures he was referencing.

Thousands March from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Protest Israeli Government’s Judicial Overhaul Plan, AP
Thousands of Israelis joined a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Friday in the latest protest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to push through a controversial overhaul of the judiciary system. Hundreds of protesters became thousands as Israelis joined the roughly 45-mile march throughout the day in a demonstration against one of Israel’s most far-right governments in history.

For the First Time in Decades, Most Palestinian Americans Will Be Able to Use Tel Aviv Airport, JTA
For the first time in 20 years, most Palestinian Americans will be able to enter and leave Israel through its main airport, part of a major policy change that will significantly ease access to the country for hundreds of thousands of West Bank residents and Palestinians abroad. The change was made as part of Israel’s ongoing effort to join the Visa Waiver Program. For the 700 Americans currently living in the Gaza Strip, cumbersome travel requirements will be only slightly eased.

Morocco Invites Netanyahu to Visit, in a Possible Opening to Deeper Ties, The New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday received an invitation from King Mohammed VI to visit Morocco, Mr. Netanyahu’s office said, laying the ground for the first such high-level visit since the two countries normalized relations in late 2020 and heralding a possible deepening of diplomatic and security ties. No date has yet been set for the visit, but Israel’s national security adviser and Morocco’s foreign minister have agreed to coordinate on a date for the visit “in the near future.”

Saudi Arabia Commits to Allowing Israeli Reps to Attend UNESCO Meeting, Axios
Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with UNESCO in which it committed to allowing free access to delegations from all member states, including Israel, for the World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Riyadh in September, two sources with knowledge of the issue told Axios. If Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, upholds its commitment, it will be the first time representatives of the Israeli government officially and publicly enter the kingdom.

Opinion and Analysis

What’s Reasonable? A Debate Over a High Court’s Reach Divides Israel, The New York Times
Patrick Kingsley explains, “The concept of reasonableness has become so contentious in part because it was never defined in a law passed by Parliament. Instead, its definition and application were developed by judges over several decades since the 1960s. Versions of the concept are used by courts in Australia, Britain and Canada, among others. In Israel, judges generally consider a decision unreasonable if they conclude it was made without considering all relevant issues or without giving relevant weight to each issue, or by applying too much weight to irrelevant factors.”

Passivity of Israeli Unions and Business Leaders Left IDF Reservists No Choice, Haaretz
Sami Peretz argues, “The passivity of the business sector, trade unions and other components of civilian society left the reservists no choice. They understand very well what the neutering of the justice system and the extremism of the Netanyahu government means. They are the ones who will find themselves serving an extremist, messianic, religious government that wants to neuter judicial review and is working to eliminate gatekeepers.”