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Netanyahu to face a divided and aggrieved American Jewish community when he meets with its leaders

(JTA) — The first time Benjamin Netanyahu meets with American Jewish leaders in the United States this year, he will be sitting in a room with at least two people who have demonstrated outside his hotel. 

One of those rallies is being staged to welcome the Israeli prime minister. The other will be protesting him.

The meeting on Friday in New York City, following Netanyahu’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, will reflect the internal tensions of an American Jewish community riven by his efforts to weaken the Israeli judiciary and by other policies of his government, which includes far-right partners in senior roles. 

The differences between American Jewish groups burst into the open this week, as two Orthodox Jewish groups rebuked those who have joined anti-Netanyahu protests.

“Criticism of the prime minister and his ruling coalition must be addressed in the right time and place,” the Orthodox Union said in a statement it posted to social media. Am Echad, an arm of Aguadath Israel that promotes Israel-Diaspora relations, expressed in a statement its “dismay at the reckless and inciteful rhetoric adopted by the Israeli protest movement during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States.”

That sentiment runs counter to the positions of a wide range of centrist and left-leaning Jewish organizations and rabbis who have, to one extent or another, voiced criticism of the judicial overhaul legislation since it was introduced in January. Major Jewish groups such as the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League have urged compromise and lamented the passage of the first piece of the overhaul in July.

Some of those American Jewish critics have spoken at anti-overhaul rallies in the United States and Israel, including those taking place in New York City this week. At least one of the Jewish leaders, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has been invited to attend the Friday meeting with Netanyahu. One day earlier, he is slated to speak at a major rally protesting the prime minister. 

“We demonstrate our love and support for Israel, including celebrating its 75th anniversary, while also expressing our criticism of policies that we believe are contrary to Israel’s stated democratic and pluralistic values expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and affirmed throughout the decades since,” Jacobs’ office said in a statement announcing his plans to speak at the protest.

The judicial overhaul, as initially proposed, would have sapped the Israeli Supreme Court of its power and independence as a way, its advocates say, to curb an elitist, activist judiciary. Following months of mass protests that have decried the legislation as a mortal danger to Israel’s democratic system, much of the legislation was temporarily shelved, though some of it may return to the table when Israel’s lawmakers come back from their summer recess. The legislation that passed in July restricted the court’s ability to strike down government decisions. 

The debate surrounding the overhaul and the protests against it has sparked apprehension among those attending the Jewish leaders’ meeting — and those left off of the invitation list — about how the meeting will go. Participants were hesitant to confirm their attendance on the record.

A couple of the Jewish organizational executives said they had made last-minute changes so they could go to the meeting.

One of those invited noted that the consulate’s invitation called the event a “briefing,” leaving the recipient wondering whether Netanyahu will even brook questions or argument.

Despite the differences over Netanyahu’s policies and record, a who’s who of large Jewish organizations will be represented at the meeting. JTA has confirmed that, in addition to the URJ, the O.U. and Agudath Israel, the meeting will include representatives from the Zionist Organization of America, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conservative movement.

Off the invite list are left-leaning groups that have been more vociferously critical of Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians, including J Street, Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum and the Reconstructionist movement. (JTA has learned that other groups advocated for inclusion of the Reconstructionist movement.)

It is unclear whether the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella community relations group that has recently taken a more explicitly progressive turn, will be invited to the meeting. The group’s new CEO, Amy Spitalnick, criticized Netanyahu for meeting earlier this week with Elon Musk, the tech mogul who has been slammed by Jewish groups for engaging with antisemites on X, the social media platform he owns and renamed from Twitter, and for attacking the ADL in a series of posts. 

The prime minister’s office referred questions about the meeting to the Israeli consulate, which did not respond to a request for comment.

A majority of the groups that are attending have spoken out against the changes to the court system, or at least the speed with which Netanyahu and his deputies are advancing them. 

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, the CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said that if he is able to pose a question to the prime minister, he will tell Netanyahu not to “demonize Jewish protesters” and ask about the impact of the judicial overhaul on threats to Israel’s security. 

“My question will be, ‘In the face of all the dangers Israel currently faces from Iran and Iran-supported terrorism, why is he choosing this moment to divide Israeli society through his judicial reforms?’” Blumenthal wrote in an email to JTA. “Both the government and opposition leaders I have spoken with have agreed that Israeli democracy is not perfect. Why not bring the country together around a process to examine the issues and propose reforms that are acceptable to a broad part of Israeli society?’”

Protests against the overhaul have been occurring regularly across the United States this year, and have been staged throughout the week in New York City on the occasion of Netanyahu’s visit. The expatriate arm of the Israeli protest movement, UnXeptable, has organized rallies at his hotel and, on the evening before his arrival in New York, projected onto the U.N. headquarters a plea not to welcome the “Crime Minister” — a reference to Netanyahu’s ongoing trial on corruption charges. Before his trip, the prime minister accused the demonstrators of partnering with Iran’s regime and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The dueling messages from American Jews, supporting and opposing him, complicate the image Netanyahu has sought for decades to project in his appearances at the United Nations, speaking not just for Israel but as the leader of a unified Jewish community. 

Now, he is facing sustained public criticism both from leading American Jews and from close allies. President Joe Biden has publicly opposed the judicial legislation, and raised the topic in his meeting this week with Netanyahu on the U.N. sidelines. Biden has said he believes he has the backing of the U.S. Jewish community in making his case. 

“The President also reiterated his concern about any fundamental changes to Israel’s democratic system, absent the broadest possible consensus,” said the White House readout of the Netanyahu-Biden meeting.

Netanyahu is not expected to focus on the judicial overhaul in his speech to the General Assembly on Friday. Instead, he is expected to emphasize threats to Israel from Iran, and to celebrate the progress his government has made toward mutual recognition with Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, another meeting on the U.N. sidelines between a Middle Eastern leader and Jewish community leaders seems to have gone smoothly. Jewish leaders sounded optimistic notes after meeting Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in recent months has sought to repair ties with Israel that had frayed significantly.

“We had a warm and engaging meeting with President Erdogan,” William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents, wrote in a text message. “The president reaffirmed his commitment to a stable and fruitful relationship with the State of Israel, as well as his resolve to combat antisemitism, which he referred to as a ‘crime against humanity.’”

Netanyahu has not heard such a positive message thus far from many U.S. Jewish groups. But he might be able to make it out Thursday evening when he exits his hotel, as some American Jews plan to rally in the street on his behalf. 

Morton Klein, the president of the right-leaning Zionist Organization of America, told JTA by email that he hopes to attend a “Stand with Israel” gathering in support of Netanyahu on Thursday evening outside the hotel, as a counterpoint to the major demonstration planned by Netanyahu’s critics. Klein, an outspoken supporter of the judicial overhaul, will also be at the meeting with Jewish leaders.

“It is important to show our support for Israel and its democratically-elected government and prime minister,” said an action alert from ZOA calling on people to attend. The ZOA appeal said the anti-Netanyahu protests were the work of “billionaire-funded far-left groups that seek to undermine the results of Israel’s democratic elections (while falsely claiming to be for democracy).”  Like Netanyahu, the action alert lumped Israeli protesters in with “Palestine/Arab hate groups that seek Israel’s annihilation.”

Klein added in a text message that he would also take Netanyahu to task — for not going far enough in the judicial overhaul.


The post Netanyahu to face a divided and aggrieved American Jewish community when he meets with its leaders appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

The post US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

The post Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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