News Roundup for March 2, 2023

March 2, 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

Biden Administration Should Condemn, Take Steps in Response to Smotrich’s Incitement, J Street
“We condemn Israeli Minister of Finance and Minister in the Ministry of Defense Bezalel Smotrich’s disgraceful comments that the Palestinian village of Huwara “should be wiped out.” We agree with Israeli Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid that Smotrich’s comments constitute “incitement to a war crime.” Especially as the Israeli official who just assumed primary authority over the occupied West Bank, Smotrich’s comments are an unconscionable threat of further violence against a Palestinian community that just suffered a deadly pogrom at the hands of Israeli settlers. Smotrich’s half-hearted attempt to walk back his remarks does not undo the damage of this incitement.”

Top News and Analysis

U.S. Says Israeli Minister’s Call To Wipe Out Palestinian Town Is “Disgusting”, Axios
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s call for the Palestinian village of Hawara to be wiped out by the Israeli government is “irresponsible, repugnant and disgusting,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday. Smotrich, a far-right Israeli settler known for his Jewish supremacist rhetoric, is also the minister in the Ministry of Defense in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank. Many, including opposition leader Yair Lapid, have accused Smotrich of inciting “war crimes” over his comments and actions related to the violence in Hawara.

Israeli Protesters Clash With Police, Confront PM’s Wife, The Washington Post
Israeli police on Wednesday fired stun grenades and water cannons at demonstrators who blocked a Tel Aviv highway and protesters scuffled with police near the Israeli leader’s home as weeks of anti-government protests turned violent for the first time. In a late-night incident, dozens of police were called in to extract Netanyahu’s wife from a salon besieged by protesters. Thousands across the country staged a “national disruption day,” the latest in a string of mass protests against Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary and weaken the country’s Supreme Court.


Judge Orders 2 Protesters Freed, Rejecting Police Demand They Be Barred From Rallies, The Times of Israel
Nearly all of the dozens of protesters arrested during yesterday’s demonstrations have been released. The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court has now ordered the release of two of the four remaining people under arrest. According to Ynet, the judge criticized police for demanding that the two men stay away from protests for 15 days, calling it an “extreme” demand that causes “disproportionate harm to the basic right to protest.”

Trump’s Former Ambassador to Israel Slams Bibi’s Judicial Overhaul Plan, Axios
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman used a recent conservative conference in Tel Aviv to express concern and push back against the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul plan, according to two people with direct knowledge of the issue. Friedman was one of former President Trump’s close confidants and remains close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His support is incredibly important to the Israeli right.

Netanyahu Rejects AG’s Opinion Linking His Corruption Trial, Legal Overhaul as ‘Speculation’, Haaretz
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued on Thursday that his government’s judicial overhaul package has no bearing on his ongoing corruption trial, dismissing the attorney general’s official opinion that any involvement on his part would represent a conflict of interest as “theoretical, speculation.”

Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin To Visit Middle East As Iran Threat Builds, Al-Monitor
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to the Middle East this weekend to meet with regional leaders and American troops, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. Austin’s trip will provide an opportunity to meet with “the leaders of several key partner nations to reaffirm the enduring US commitment to the Middle East region,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a press briefing.

Opinion and Analysis

Unconditional U.S. Support of Israel Fuels Jewish Extremist Violence, Foreign Policy
Tariq Kenney-Shawa argues, “Instead of preserving the status quo of a stable Israeli occupation with minimal resistance from Palestinians and the international community, the Biden administration’s obstinate refusal to hold Israel accountable is in fact enabling its violent implosion.”

How Did Israeli Democracy Come Under Threat? Follow the Money, The Forward
Rabbi Jill Jacobs writes, “[I]t’s also time to be honest about the vacuum centrist and liberal Jews have created by either avoiding investment in Israel altogether, or by giving to projects perceived as apolitical. This vacuum has allowed these right-wing funders to drive Israel further and further toward fascism. Rather than walk away from Israel now, donors concerned about the future of Israel must respond by investing in human rights and civil society groups that have been fighting for democracy for years.”