News Roundup for March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023

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Top News and Analysis

Israel Is on ‘Rampage’ Against Human Rights, New HRW Chief Says, Reuters
Israel’s government is “on a rampage” against human rights, the new head of Human Rights Watch said on Thursday and urged the United States and other allies to do more to hold it accountable for alleged abuses and persuade it to change course. A planned overhaul of the judiciary by Israel’s religious-nationalist government would be “a disaster” for human rights, HRW Executive Director Tirana Hassan told Reuters. She called on Washington to follow through after it issued a rare reproach over the move.

Netanyahu Supporters Block Highway To Support Judicial Plan, AP
Thousands of right-wing Israelis on Thursday blocked a main highway in Tel Aviv as they demonstrated in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system. The crowd was much smaller than the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets in recent months to demonstrate against the plan. But the gathering had the same effect. Protesters honked their car horns and hoisted blue and white Israeli flags — crippling traffic along the Ayalon highway, the main north-south thoroughfare running through the coastal city.


Israeli Gun Ownership Rising As Violence Surges, BBC
There is rising gun violence in Israel, correlated with a rising number of licences, and the victims of which are principally Palestinian citizens, and a high proportion of women – both Jewish and Palestinian.

Israeli Strikes Near Syrian Capital Kill Iranian Adviser, The Washington Post
Israeli airstrikes hit the suburbs of Syria’s capital city early Friday for the second day in a row, killing an Iranian adviser, the state media of Syria and Iran reported. Loud explosions were heard over Damascus shortly after midnight Thursday, according to residents in the capital and the state news agency SANA. The airstrikes came after similar attacks early Thursday.

Israeli FM Tells Blinken: Protests Prove Strength of Democracy in Israel, Haaretz
Days after an extraordinary intervention by U.S. President Joe Biden , Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke on Thursday evening with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In a statement issued after the conversation, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said that the two leaders discussed talks being held over the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

After Being Fired, Israel’s Defense Minister Caught in Limbo, AP
Netanyahu never sent Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a formal termination letter, a spokesperson for Netanyahu said. As of Friday, Gallant — whose criticism of Netanyahu’s planned judicial changes led to his dismissal — was still on the job. Gallant’s aides said it was business-as-usual at the Defense Ministry.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Hasn’t Been a Democracy for a Long Time. Now, Israelis Need To Face This Fact, The Guardian
Joshua Leifer writes, “The protest movement will either transform into a call for genuine democracy – for Palestinians and Israelis alike – or it will remain locked in the current impasse, in the chaotic push-and-pull between the forces of the status quo and the forces of the extreme right that the status quo has produced.”

As Israel’s Crises Pile Up, a Far-Right Minister Is a Common Thread, The New York Times
Patrick Kingsley reports, “As protests and unrest swept across Israel this week, many Israelis issued impassioned calls for moderation and dialogue to resolve one of the most serious domestic crises in the country’s history. But one government leader seemed determined to raise the stakes even higher: Bezalel Smotrich, the settler activist who serves as finance minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. Mr. Smotrich is a leading proponent of the government plan to assert greater control over the Supreme Court, the issue that has fueled weeks of mass protests.”