News Roundup for March 24, 2023

March 24, 2023

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J Street News Roundup

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Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Digs In on Court Overhaul, in the Face of Mass Protests, The New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel defiantly vowed on Thursday to proceed with a divisive judicial overhaul, in a move that came just hours after his coalition passed a law making it harder to remove him from office. Mr. Netanyahu, addressing Israelis on prime-time television, promised to go ahead next week with plans to give the government greater control over appointments to the Supreme Court — emphatically squashing rumors that had swirled throughout the day that he was about to back down.

Israeli AG Warns Netanyahu Defied Conflict of Interest Rule, The Washington Post
Israel’s attorney general on Friday warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has violated the Supreme Court’s conflict of interest ruling, which barred him from direct involvement in his government’s divisive plans for a judicial overhaul. Netanyahu’s far-right government has barreled ahead with plans to weaken the Supreme Court and grant politicians less judicial oversight in their policymaking despite massive protests from across Israeli society — including an uproar among business leaders, top legal officials and military reservists.


UK Demonstrators Protest Israeli Leader’s Visit to London, AP
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in London on Friday as protesters shouting “Shame!” In Hebrew demonstrated against the Israeli leader’s right-wing policies and his plans to overhaul the country’s judiciary. Netanyahu had to pass by hundreds of protesters waving Israeli flags and waving signs calling for the defense of Israeli democracy as he arrived for talks that are expected to focus on concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Israeli Police Prepare for Tens of Thousands of Worshipers During First Day of Ramadan, Haaretz
Jerusalem police are preparing for noon prayers as Friday marks the first day of Ramadan as tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers are expected at the Al-Aqsa Mosque with several thousand arriving from the West Bank with special permission from Israel.

Israel Sees Opportunity in Iran-Saudi Deal, Israeli Official Says, Axios
The Israeli government sees the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran not as a threat, but as an opportunity for Israel’s efforts to normalize relations with the Saudi kingdom, a senior Israeli diplomatic official directly involved in the efforts told Axios.

Opinion and Analysis

The BB Government and the Relationship With the US, The Times of Israel
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “Precisely because the coalition has laid down the masks that allow the Occupation, it is creating an opportunity that might possibly bring the realization that it must be ended. The awakening of the Biden administration and the American Jewish community to the insight that it is possible to support Israel without supporting its governments, is a positive paradigmatic change. There is an opportunity in the very recognition here and on the other side of the ocean, that they can and must support the Israeli liberals who are protesting here in the streets and help us save our democracy from over there. This is the time to translate empty statements in favor of a two-state solution into an international move to restore the solution of two states to the world of reality. Perhaps that way they can help those among us who are still in denial to understand there can be no democracy without equality for Israeli Arabs and without ending the Occupation.”

Israel Is Wandering in the Desert, a Constitution Is Our Path Home, Time
Nir Bar Dea writes, “Israel, my homeland, was built by people who came together from all over the world to escape ruthless persecution, and for nearly 75 years, it has enjoyed prosperity beyond our ancestors’ wildest dreams. Today, Israel teeters on the edge of the abyss. The current crisis, sparked by proposed changes to the judiciary, hides both the root cause and a fundamental solution. Israel needs a constitution, or its equivalent, now.”

The Secretive Israeli Think Tank Behind Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul, The Washington Post
Shira Rubin reports, “When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power last year, he never mentioned plans to overhaul the country’s judiciary. But a little-known Jerusalem think tank had been preparing for the moment for years. The Kohelet Policy Forum, founded by an American Israeli and funded by a U.S. libertarian billionaire, quietly authored and helped introduce the far-reaching package of judicial changes that has sparked a national crisis and driven hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets.”