News Roundup for March 21, 2023

March 21, 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.

Top News and Analysis

Eleven Days After Tel Aviv Terror Attack, 32-year-old Or Eshkar Dies From Wounds, Haaretz
Or Eshkar, a 32-year-old Israeli man who was seriously wounded in a terror attack earlier this month, died on Monday at a Tel Aviv hospital. “Today, a rare light went out,” Nathalie, Or’s mother said following his death, “A light which provided only good, love and giving to all who crossed its path.” The Eshkar family also thanked the hospital staff: “They worked day and night to the best of their ability, with professionalism, dedication and sensitivity.”

Israel Repeals 2005 Act on West Bank Settlement Pullout, AP
Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday repealed a 2005 act that saw four Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank dismantled at the same time as Israeli forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The development could pave the way for an official return to the abandoned West Bank areas in another setback to Palestinian hopes for statehood. It was the latest move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, which is dominated by settler leaders and allies, to promote settlement activity in the territory.

Israeli Leaders Advance Key Part of Judicial Overhaul but Delay Rest, The New York Times
Israel’s government announced on Monday that it would attempt to enact by early April the most contentious part of its effort to overhaul the country’s judiciary — a change to the way that judges are appointed — while postponing the implementation of other parts of the plan by at least a month. The planned change to judicial appointments would allow government appointees to form a majority on a powerful committee that selects judges. That would clear the way for the government to have greater control over appointments to the Supreme Court.


Likud’s Bitan Says ‘At Least Five’ Lawmakers in Party Back Freezing Overhaul Bills, The Times of Israel
Likud MK David Bitan said on Sunday that there were “at least five” Likud lawmakers who wanted to halt the government’s controversial judicial overhaul to allow a compromise with the opposition to be reached. The coalition commands 64 votes in the 120-member Knesset, and five votes against the bills would block them. Bitan also claimed that lawmakers in the ruling party were in complete agreement on softening and delaying part of the legislation. “In my opinion, it’s possible to stop the reform for a simple reason — we waited long enough; nothing will happen if we wait another two months,” he said in an interview with Channel 12.

Biden Tells Bibi He’s Never Seen Such Anxiety Over Israel’s Political Situation, Axios
President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their call on Sunday that he was concerned about the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul plan because in all the years he has followed Israel, he has never seen such a high level of domestic anxiety over the political situation in the country.

U.S. State Department Report Calls Out Israel’s Human Rights Abuses, Haaretz
The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human rights records across the globe took aim at Israel’s respect for civil liberties, restrictions on Palestinians and investigations of security forces for abuses – noting “several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.”

Opinion and Analysis

Who’s Behind the Judicial Overhaul Now Dividing Israel? Two New Yorkers., The New York Times
David Segal and Isabel Kershner report, “For years, Kohelet quietly churned out position papers, trying to nudge government policy in a more libertarian direction. Then, starting in January, it became more widely known as one of the principal architects of the judicial overhaul proposal that has plunged Israel into a crisis over the future of its democracy. If the plan succeeds, it would be a stunning victory not only for the think tank, but also for the people behind it: two guys from Queens.”

Alarmed by Their Country’s Political Direction, More Israelis Are Seeking To Move Abroad, JTA
Deborah Danan writes, “While Israelis have always moved abroad for various reasons, including business opportunities or to gain experience in particular fields, the pace of planned departures appears to be picking up. No longer considered a form of social betrayal, emigration — known in Hebrew as yerida, meaning descent — is on the table for a wide swath of Israelis right now. Many of the people weighing emigration were already thinking about it but were catalyzed by the new government, according to accounts from dozens of people in various stages of emigration and of organizations that seek to aid them.”