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In Israel with fellow Democrats, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries says judicial legislation won’t affect US aid

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government’s effort to weaken the country’s judiciary will not affect American military aid to Israel, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on a visit to Jerusalem on Monday.

Jeffries, the Brooklyn congressman and House minority leader, was leading a delegation to Israel of 24 Democratic members of Congress. He spoke to reporters following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he also seeks broad agreement but has pledged to press ahead with the judicial overhaul, despite ongoing mass street protests.

Jeffries echoed President Joe Biden’s stance that any laws changing Israel’s court system should pass only with broad consensus. The first piece of the legislative package, which was enacted in late July, passed along party lines, with the right-wing governing coalition voting in favor and Israel’s parliamentary opposition boycotting the vote.

“It’s my hope that whatever continued efforts occur related to judicial reform, that there’s a broad consensus across the ideological spectrum before additional changes are undertaken,” Jeffries said in the small press conference at the King David Hotel here. The trip is run by an organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

“It’s not my job to articulate the precise contours of what judicial reform should look like here in Israel,” he added, saying that Netanyahu had also pledged to him that Israel would remain a liberal democracy. “That’s for the Israeli people to decide, through their elected representatives and through their actions to petition the government to perhaps go in a different direction.”

But even if Israel’s government did end up sapping the power of its judiciary, Jeffries said the United States would not reduce its military aid to Israel. That idea, once taboo, has been gaining steam lately, with voices on both sides of the aisle floating it. A number of Democratic members of Congress have called on the United States to establish conditions restricting the use of the nearly $4 billion in annual funding, and last month, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof floated ending aid to Israel entirely.

Jeffries rejected that idea, drawing a distinction between the democratic values Israel shares with the United States and the two countries’ shared strategic interests in the Middle East. Jeffries made clear that an independent and credible judiciary was a component of the United States’ and Israel’s shared values, but said the shared interests would remain in any event.

“At the end of the day, the two things that bind our countries together relate both to our shared democratic values and our shared strategic interests — shared strategic interests related to the very tough neighborhood that Israel lives in,” he said. “The need to make sure that we maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge will still be with us regardless of where Israel lands in terms of the judicial reform.”

In recent months, dozens of Democratic congresspeople have signaled their support for the mass street protests in Israel and abroad against the judicial overhaul. Late last month, a dozen Democratic representatives introduced a resolution in solidarity with the protests and one of them, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, from the Chicago-area, spoke at an anti-overhaul rally in her district. Jeffries indicated support for the protests as well, likening them to the exercise of First Amendment rights in the United States.

“The protesters have a right to express themselves, and their very presence is a sign of strength for Israeli democracy,” he said. “Freedom of assembly and the right to petition your government to demand change — that is exactly what is happening in Israel in a very vociferous way in connection with the demonstrations protesting the judicial overhaul. That’s a sign of a vibrant democracy.”

He denied that Israel’s harshest critics in the Democratic Party had made significant inroads. In July, six Democrats boycotted Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s speech to a joint session of Congress, shortly after Rep. Pramila Jayapal, an influential progressive, called Israel a “racist state” — a remark she walked back. A Gallup poll in March found that Democrats were more likely to sympathize with the Palestinians than with Israel.

Jeffries pointed to a pro-Israel resolution in response to Jayapal’s remarks that passed Congress 412-9.

“The Democratic Party in the House of Representatives will continue to stand with Israel and lift up the special relationship between our two countries and in support of Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and as a Jewish democratic state, period, full stop,” he said.

Jeffries did not comment on some of the hot-button topics surrounding Israel and its relationship with the United States — including when Biden might invite Netanyahu to the White House. He also did not comment on the possibility that Netanyahu might not respect a potential court ruling striking down the judicial reform legislation. Israel’s Supreme Court is due to hear arguments about the law next month, and Netanyahu has thus far dodged the question of whether he would abide by a court decision invalidating the law.

In addition to Netanyahu, Jeffries met with Palestinian leadership and will meet with Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of Israel’s parliamentary opposition.

The Democratic delegation’s visit to Israel also came amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence, and Jeffries said his delegation discussed Palestinian terror attacks with Netanyahu, in addition to discussing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians. Over the weekend, an Israeli settler shot dead a Palestinian in the West Bank, and a Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli security guard in Tel Aviv.

Jeffries advocated for a renewed effort toward Israeli-Palestinian peace and also said Congress would look favorably on a U.S.-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, something the three countries have reportedly been discussing. But he seemed to acknowledge that a deal with the Palestinian leadership was remote.

“At the end of the day, [there’s a] strong interest in our congressional delegation of getting to a place where we can proceed toward a viable path to a two-state solution, recognizing that we are not at that place right now,” he said. “That is a goal that we should not give up on.”


The post In Israel with fellow Democrats, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries says judicial legislation won’t affect US aid appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law pic.twitter.com/d2uE16ZzQ1

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’ pic.twitter.com/DmHjwfHtPV

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

The post IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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