News Roundup for March 3, 2023

March 3, 2023

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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.

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J Street In the News

White House Says It Will Not Meet With Israel’s Bezalel Smotrich When He Visits the US, JTA
“Biden administration officials will not meet with Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli finance minister who called for a Palestinian village to be “wiped out” then backtracked, and who is visiting the United States next week to meet with leaders of Israel Bonds, a U.S. organization. At least five liberal Jewish groups want the U.S. government to consider barring Smotrich from coming here. Ned Price, the department’s spokesman, said at Thursday’s daily briefing that questions on Israeli ministers’ travel should be referred to Israel, and that he does not comment on the eligibility of individuals to enter the United States. “The administration should make clear that comments promoting grave violations of human rights, such as those made by Smotrich, are grounds for re-examination of a visa for entry to the United States,” J Street, the liberal Jewish Israel policy group, said in a statement.”

Smotrich Not Expected To Meet US Gov’t Officials During DC Visit, The Jerusalem Post
“US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the Biden administration does not comment on individual visa information. He reiterated that the US “rejects the comments from the minister and we appreciate the condemnations that we have heard from our Israeli partners.” The left-wing US Jewish group J Street called on US government officials not to “legitimize his extremism by meeting with him, either in the United States or elsewhere.””

Jewish Groups: Israel’s Smotrich ‘Not Welcome’ in US After Bigoted Comments, Al-Monitor
“A statement published by J Street called on the Biden administration to condemn Smotrich’s threats and not meet with him. “[The administration] should ensure that no US government officials will legitimize his extremism by meeting with him, either in the United States or elsewhere. They should make clear that Smotrich’s comments and actions are immensely damaging to the US-Israel relationship. Additionally, the administration should make clear that comments promoting grave violations of human rights, such as those made by Smotrich, are grounds for reexamination of a visa for entry to the United States,” J Street said.”

Pereles: Visit to Israel and West Bank, Amid Heightened Tensions, Was an Eye-Opener, St. Louis Dispatch
J Street Leader and Board Member Joe Pereles writes of J Street’s recent Congressional Delegation to Israel and the West Bank, “I was deeply moved by our collective experiences, as I’m sure others in the delegation were. One member of Congress described it as the most impactful delegation trip in that person’s experience. As I returned to St. Louis, I came back eager to participate in the worldwide demonstrations protesting the proposed judicial overhaul in Israel, standing in solidarity with Israeli protesters in defense of democracy. I’m eager to speak further with my community and elected officials here in Missouri about what we can do to push back against destructive actions in the region, and to support the more just, safe and peaceful future that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.”

Top News and Analysis

American Jews: Lobby the Biden Administration to Act Against Israel’s Obscene Government, Haaretz
Former President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie writes, “In my half-century of Zionist activism, I have never once lobbied against an Israeli government in Washington. Interventions of this sort, once begun, can set a dangerous precedent with uncertain outcomes. Nonetheless now is the time when those risks must be taken. Statements alone, as we have seen, have had virtually no impact. American officials and Jewish organizations have spoken out emphatically and repeatedly on the planned judicial measures, but Israel’s government affirms that the overhaul will be passed without delay.”

Army Blocks Israeli Rally Supporting Torched West Bank Town, The Washington Post
Israeli troops fired stun grenades and tear gas on Friday to block busloads of Israeli left-wing activists from staging a solidarity rally in a Palestinian town that was set ablaze by radical Jewish settlers earlier this week, protesters said. The soldiers shoved protesters to the ground in the occupied West Bank town of Hawara, activists said, pressing their knees into their necks and backs before briefly detaining them. According to Sally Abed from the group Standing Together, at least two protesters were briefly arrested. The army threw them to the ground, kicking and handcuffing them, she said.


Israeli Police Shut Down Crime Prevention Unit in Arab Communities as Murder Rate Spikes, Haaretz
Israel’s Police Chief Kobi Shabtai gave an order to dismantle a special department to fight crime in the Arab community that was opened just a year and a half ago to tackle a dramatic increase in the number of Arab murder victims since the start of the year. The number is almost double what it was in the same period of 2022.

In Apparent Gesture to Netanyahu, Orban To Move Hungary’s Embassy to Jerusalem, The Times of Israel
Hungary will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem next month, apparently in a special gesture to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. The two reached an agreement on the matter in recent days, with the details hashed out during intensive talks between Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Hungary’s top diplomat Peter Szijjarto, senior Foreign Ministry officials told Zman Yisrael, the Times of Israel’s Hebrew language sister site, on Friday.

‘Deri Law 2,’ ‘Fortification Law’ Prepared for First Reading, The Jerusalem Post
The “Deri Law 2” and the “Fortification Law” were prepared on Thursday for first readings in the Knesset Special Committee for Amendments to Basic Law: The Government. The Thursday session was the second day that the special committee convened on the amendments to one of the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. The Deri Law 2 would restrict the High Court of Justice’s judicial intervention with appointments of ministers. The bill is named for Shas chairman Arye Deri, who was appointed health and interior minister despite his suspended prison sentences; a Basic Law amendment, the first “Deri Law” was passed to allow him to assume the positions.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu Has Brought Israel to a Dangerous Moment. We, the Jewish Diaspora, Cannot Just Stand By, The Guardian
Parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Margaret Hodge writes, “I have always supported the untrammelled right of Israel to exist and, like many others, have advocated for a two-state solution, ensuring a stable and secure home for Palestinians and Israelis alike. But the two-state solution seems a fantasy at this moment, with little prospect of it developing into a political reality. The tensions are febrile and yet the international community, preoccupied with other crises, is doing little more than expressing concern at the heightened violence. In my humble view, it is simply not pro-Israel, nor pro-Palestinian, to do nothing.”