News Roundup for July 28, 2023

July 28, 2023
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J Street In the News

“J Stream” Emergency Briefing: Israeli Democracy in Crisis, J Street
Tune into a recording of this week’s webinar, which covered the latest updates to Israel’s democracy crisis. J Street Chief of Staff Adina Vogel Ayalon discusses the dangerous impact of Netanyahu’s judicial coup with Haaretz Deputy Editor-in-Chief Noa Landau and Prof. Tamar Hostovsky Brandes, Ono Academic College and a member of the Law Professors’ Forum for Democracy.

Top News and Analysis

Worried About Growing US Criticism, Netanyahu Goes on American Media Blitz, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is worried by the growing criticism in the United States of his government’s policies and is planning a series of interviews with major US media outlets in an attempt to soften the negative coverage in the American media. On Thursday, he was interviewed by ABC’s morning news show, and he has interviews lined up with CNN, National Public Radio and other stations. In the ABC interview, he termed the law ending the courts’ ability to overturn government decisions they deem unreasonable a “minor” change and claimed that US President Joe Biden had invited him to the White House in September – a statement that has yet to be confirmed by the Biden administration.


Bid to Reassign Netanyahu Prosecution Hints at Next Steps in Israel, The New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has long denied seeking to use his power to undermine his long-running corruption trial, and rejected the notion that his government’s judicial overhaul was partly an attempt to get his case dismissed. But on Wednesday night, some of Netanyahu’s closest allies provided a glimpse of how they could intervene in his prosecution. Eleven lawmakers from Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, introduced a bill that would strip the attorney general of the right to oversee the prosecution of government ministers. Although Likud leadership disowned the bill and its lead proponent pulled it back, its introduction raised questions about the party’s intent.

Education Ministry Director-general Quits, Citing Societal ‘Rift’ Opened by Overhaul, The Times of Israel
The director-general of the Education Ministry resigned from his role on Friday, citing the societal divisions triggered by the government’s contentious judicial overhaul plan. “The rift that we have arrived at does not enable me to continue to carry out my responsibilities properly,” Asaf Tzalel said in a statement that did not specifically mention the coalition’s controversial program.

Divisive Israeli Minister Visits Key Jerusalem Holy Site, Drawing Condemnation, CNN
Israel’s minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, on Thursday joined a group of Jewish Israelis in visiting what is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, drawing condemnation from Palestinian authorities and Israel’s neighbors. It is the third time that Ben-Gvir, a far right-wing minister, has visited the site, which houses the al-Aqsa mosque, since becoming a minister at the end of last year.

Biden Sends Sullivan to Saudi Arabia in Possible Push for Major Israel Deal, Axios
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, two US sources told Axios and the White House confirmed. Driving the news: Sullivan’s trip is aimed at continuing the talks over a possible deal on upgrading US-Saudi relations that would also include a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the two sources said.

US Hails PA Decision to Boost Judiciary’s Independence Days After Israeli Overhaul, The Times of Israel
The US Office of Palestinian Affairs hails Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to scrap a 2022 decree that created a supreme body under his control with the ability to review legal cases. The new Supreme Council for Judicial Bodies and Authorities was never fully established, but it would’ve led to a significant curbing of the Palestinian judiciary’s power and independence.

Opinion and Analysis

What It Will Take to Stop Israel From Sliding Further Into Tyranny, Haaretz
Maria J. Stephan notes, “While Monday’s Knesset vote to weaken the judiciary comes as no surprise to those familiar with the authoritarian playbook, which includes the aggrandizement of executive power and the gutting of institutional checks and balances by democratically elected leaders, it raises key questions for Israel’s pro-democracy movement: What will it take to stop a further slide into authoritarianism? And can the pro-democracy movement make meaningful change without seriously grappling with the concerns held by the anti-occupation movement?”

Biden Is Weighing a Big Middle East Deal, The New York Times
Thomas Friedman argues, “If the US forges a security alliance with Saudi Arabia — on the conditions that it normalize relations with Israel and that Israel make meaningful concessions to the Palestinians — Netanyahu’s ruling coalition of Jewish supremacists and religious extremists would have to answer this question: You can annex the West Bank, or you can have peace with Saudi Arabia and the whole Muslim world, but you can’t have both, so which will it be? Now wouldn’t that make an interesting discussion around Netanyahu’s cabinet table?”