News Roundup for March 14, 2023

March 14, 2023

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J Street News Roundup

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.

J Street In the News

Shushan Street: Bezalel Smotrich’s West Bank Takeover Is What Annexation Looks Like, J Street
J Street Director of Policy Dr. Debra Shushan dives into the agreement that facilitates Smotrich’s West Bank takeover; explain why this change is tantamount to annexation; and fleshes out why this is so significant in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international law, and US policy.

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Allies in Israel Plow Ahead on Legal Overhaul, AP
The Israeli parliament on Monday advanced a bill that would make it harder to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the corruption charges against him, as it plowed ahead with a broader plan to overhaul the country’s legal system in defiance of mass protests. Lawmakers in the Knesset gave preliminary approval during a late-night vote on the bill, which would allow the parliament to declare a prime minister unfit to rule only for physical or mental reasons. The body was expected to vote later on a measure that would allow the Knesset to overrule Supreme Court rulings and enact laws that had been struck down. Both bills require additional votes before being enshrined into law.

Saudis Effectively Block Israeli Minister’s Trip to Kingdom for UN Conference, Axios
Saudi Arabia initially approved a request for Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to enter the country this week for the UN World Tourism Organization conference, but wouldn’t seriously discuss the diplomat’s security details, effectively blocking his trip, three Israeli officials said. In the past, Israeli ministers used UN conferences and international sports competitions as a way to visit Arab countries that Israel didn’t have diplomatic relations with, mainly the United Arab Emirates.


AIPAC Leadership Met in Jerusalem by Hundreds of Israeli Protesters, The Forward
About 400 people Monday evening protested outside the Jerusalem hotel where leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are staying, condemning AIPAC for failing to speak out against the Israeli government’s contentious judicial overhaul plan. That plan, which opponents say will compromise Israel’s democracy, has fueled 11 weeks of nationwide protest. The senior AIPAC officials, on their annual mission to Israel, are expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.

Sharp Increase in Demolition Orders Raises Suspicion and Fear Among Israeli Bedouin, Haaretz
This month, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality published figures on home demolitions, demonstrating that in the past six years about 15,000 structures were demolished, 2,845 of them in the past year alone. Of those buildings, 771 served as shacks and residences. In 2021, 3,004 structures were demolished, 451 of them residences.

Civil Disobedience Needed if Israel Passes Judicial Changes, Former Prime Minister Says, Politico
A former prime minister of Israel on Sunday called for massive civil disobedience in his country if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s package of judicial reforms is enacted. Speaking on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Ehud Barak said, “Once a government, using the tools of democracy, in order to destroy it from within, and ends up acting in a blatantly illegitimate matter, it is not just the right of citizens, it is, in my judgment, the obligation of citizens to turn unfortunately toward civil disobedience.”

Disengagement Repeal Law for Northern West Bank Approved in First Reading, The Times of Israel
A contentious bill repealing sections of the 2005 Disengagement Law that paved the way for the evacuation of four settlements in the northern West Bank was passed in its first reading in the Knesset plenum late Monday night. Forty Knesset members voted in favor of the bill, while 17 lawmakers opposed it.

Opinion and Analysis

The Tech Worker With a 4-Hour Commute From the West Bank to Tel Aviv, The New York Times
Patrick Kingsley reports, “Moha Alshawamreh is among the few Palestinians who work in Israel’s tech industry. His commute shows both the inequities of life in the West Bank and an exception to them.”

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense, Foreign Policy
Steven A. Cook argues, “It is not appropriate for the United States to tell Israelis how to live or organize their society, but let’s no longer pretend that the two countries share democratic values. Perhaps the ongoing mass protests against the government will prove that Israel’s democratic practices are stronger than its demagogues. That would be a good thing for Israelis and strengthen the argument about values, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his partners do not seem to be backing down…In recent years, Israel has become more secure and less democratic. If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.”

AIPAC Is No Longer a pro-Israel Organization, Haaretz
Ben Samuels writes, “As the core of Israel’s American support openly questions whether the bilateral relationship can withstand the stress test posed by Netanyahu and his far-right allies, AIPAC has chosen a side in the fight for Israel’s democracy – the prime minister’s..Choosing to glide down the path of least resistance, however, AIPAC is cementing its evolution from a pro-Israel organization to a pro-Netanyahu organization.”