News Roundup for July 25, 2023

July 25, 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

‘A Dark Day for Israeli Democracy’: US Jewish Groups Denounce Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul, The Guardian
“Jewish groups in the US have condemned the Israeli parliament’s vote to limit the power of the judiciary as a threat to democracy and warned that it could damage relations with American Jews. […] The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street pressed for the White House and Congress to go further. “While the Netanyahu government fundamentally alters Israel’s democratic character and plows ahead toward a more authoritarian and ethno-nationalist future, ‘business as usual’ from Congress and the White House is a recipe for terrible failure,” it said. Debra Shushan, the group’s director of policy, said Biden made “important personal interventions” in pressing Netanyahu to delay the vote but needs to take a firmer stand.”

J Street Calls For US Action To Defend Israeli Democracy – No Time for ‘Business and Usual’, J Street
Today’s vote by the Netanyahu government to curtail the Israeli Supreme Court’s authority to overturn the government’s administrative decisions through its “reasonableness standard” is a terrible blow to Israeli democracy and to the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. The decision to unilaterally ram through this key piece of the judicial overhaul, in the face of historic opposition and unprecedented protest from so many corners of Israeli society, now plunges Israel into an alarming new phase of its civic turmoil and constitutional crisis.

Top News and Analysis

Israel Passed A Bill to Limit the Supreme Court’s Power. Here’s What Comes Next, CNN
Israel’s parliament on Monday passed the controversial “reasonableness” bill, the first major legislation in the government’s plan to weaken the judiciary, despite six months of protests and American pressure against the most significant shakeup to the court system since the country’s founding. The bill passed by a vote of 64-0, with all members of the governing coalition voting for it. All members of the opposition left the chamber while the roll call vote was taking place.

Protests Rocked Israel for 29 Consecutive Weeks. There’s More to Come, The Washington Post
For the past seven months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest the far-right government’s effort to weaken the country’s Supreme Court and grant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political allies more power. They’ve closed highways. They’ve shut down the country’s largest airport. And they’ve vowed to keep demonstrating for as long as it takes for the government to abandon its plans. It’s a mass movement that has brought together people from across Israeli society.


White House Calls Israeli Knesset’s Passage of Judicial Overhaul Bill “Unfortunate”, Axios
The White House on Monday said it was “unfortunate” that Israel’s Knesset passed “with the slimmest possible majority” a bill that limits the ability of the country’s Supreme Court to review government decisions. The Biden administration, including the US president, has for months publicly and privately urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to unilaterally move forward with the legislation, and instead try to reach a broad consensus with the opposition.

Driver Plows Into Crowd of Israeli Pro-democracy Protesters, Injuring Three; Police Arrest Suspect, Haaretz
A driver ran into a crowd of protesters near Kfar Sava on Monday, as Israelis demonstrated en masse after lawmakers passed a pivotal law in the government’s judicial overhaul. Three people were lightly wounded. Police said they had arrested a suspect, a man in his 20s. “The car just zoomed toward us,” said a witness. “I saw several people on the ground and him running away,” said another. “He didn’t stop for a moment.”

Israel’s Main Union to Discuss Declaring General Strike, Reuters
The head of Israel’s main public sector union said on Monday he would meet with other union officials to discuss the possibility of declaring a general strike after parliament ratified a key element in a controversial judicial overhaul plan. Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut labour federation, has been trying to mediate a compromise between the government and opposition.

Israeli Military Kills 3 Alleged Palestinian Gunmen in Volatile West Bank, AP
The Israeli military said it shot and killed three alleged Palestinian gunmen in the northern occupied West Bank on Tuesday, the latest bloodshed in one of the most violent stretches of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years. Israeli security forces said they opened fire at Palestinian militants who had shot at them from a car in the West Bank city of Nablus, the territory’s commercial capital and a major focus of the Israeli military’s recently stepped-up raids.

High Court Justices Hear Petitions Against ‘Reasonableness’, The Times of Israel
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and other senior justices cut short an official trip to Germany in order to return home and hold a hearing on petitions against the first piece of legislation from the government’s wide-reaching judicial overhaul. The petitions could set up a major showdown between the branches of government in the coming months. The High Court is likely to deliberate the bill in the near future, and justices could potentially issue an interim order freezing the legislation.

Opinion and Analysis

In the Looming Civil War, the Israeli Right Has the Upper Hand, +972
Menachem Klein writes, “This civil strife is still only in its infant stages. The rival camps are still forming. The revolutionaries on the right rely on their Knesset majority only when it comes to votes on legislation; in an actual civil war, they will need a broad and mobilized public. Their backbone is religious populations of all kinds, from the Hardalim to the Haredim to the mainstream national-religious. This religious public is deeply communitarian. It is organized around synagogues, settlements, distinct neighborhoods, youth movements, and an education system controlled by religiously and nationalistically hardline ideologues.”

This Is the End of the US-Israel ‘Special Relationship’, The Daily Beast
David Rothkopf notes, “America’s special relationship with Israel has, for the foreseeable future, come to an end. Many will deny this. Many will hope it is not so. But the damage that has been done cannot be easily undone. A relationship built on shared values cannot be easily restored once it is clear those values are no longer shared. For years, Israel made the case that it was America’s essential ally in the Middle East because it was the only state in the region that was a democracy—not a theocracy or an autocracy like all its neighbors. That is no longer the case.”

In Israel, a Glimpse of a Trumpian Future, The New Yorker
David Remnick argues, “See if this sounds familiar: A cynical and self-admiring politician finds himself confronting the legal consequences of his low deeds and corruption. He faces criminal investigation, multiple indictments, trials, even prison. To defend himself from the potential consequences of his acts, he does not merely hire lawyers; he tries to stay in power. And, to obtain power, he is willing to deepen and inflame the worst tribal conflicts in his country. […] The eagerness to put self before country, of course, is the common thread between two profoundly unprincipled politicians, Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump.”