Israel and Palestinian Territories in March 2023
8 March 2023
- Alleged Huwara Terrorist among Six Palestinians Killed as IDF Raids Jenin (Times of Israel). The alleged terrorist behind a deadly shooting attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara was one of six Palestinians killed as Israeli troops raided Jenin and exchanged fire with gunmen Tuesday. Palestinian officials said Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousha, 49, was killed in the operation. The Shin Bet security agency said Kharousha, a Hamas member from the Askar refugee camp near Nablus, was the terrorist who opened fire on an Israeli car driving through Huwara on February 26, killing Israeli brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv.
- Dermer, Hanegbi Meet with Senior US officials in DC amid West Bank Tensions (Times of Israel). A pair of senior Israeli officials held meetings with US counterparts in Washington on Monday, as the sides worked to present a business-as-usual front, even as the Biden administration was considering barring entry to an Israeli minister who called to “wipe out” an entire Palestinian town last week. Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to discuss Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power and its threat to the region, but the conversation also included focus on the ongoing violence in the West Bank, according to US readouts…Blinken, Dermer, and Hanegbi discussed US-Israel ties, the commitment to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and the joint work to advance “mutual cooperation on threats posed by Iran,” as well as the recent violence in Israel and the West Bank and “the need for all parties to take steps to restore calm and de-escalate tensions.”
9 March 2023
- Protesters Gear Up for ‘Day of Resistance’ Throughout the Country Thursday (Times of Israel). Demonstrators aim to disrupt PM’s route to airport for trip to Italy, as police warn of fines; plans for nationwide marches, strikes, and disruptions to traffic and train services. The protest movement against the government’s judicial overhaul plans was set to conduct a second major campaign to disrupt daily life in Israel on Thursday, in what activists are calling a “day of resistance.” The day notably includes plans to block roads around Ben Gurion Airport in an attempt to make it difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get there for his flight on an official visit to Italy. This in addition to marches, temporary workplace strikes, the blocking of main thoroughfares, disruption of train services and rallies outside the homes of top government officials.
- Smotrich Apologizes to IDF for Saying Israel Should ‘Wipe Out’ Huwara (Jerusalem Post). Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich took to Facebook to issue a formal apology for his March 1st comments on the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara – in which he said Israel should “wipe out” the town. Smotrich, who drew considerable ire for his comments, explained in his apology that a friend of his in the Israeli Air Force shared his anxiety about Smotrich’s violent rhetoric – an anxiety he said is shared by many in the Israeli Air Force who fear having to carry out such a task. Two days ago, the Air Force protested actions by Israel’s newest coalition government by refusing to attend training.
10 March 2023
- Terror Attack in Tel Aviv Wounds Three (Jerusalem Post). At least three Israeli civilians were injured by gunshots in a shooting terror attack near a cafe on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening…According to the Tel Aviv district police commander, one terrorist was killed, while the search for other possible terrorists is still on…The terrorist’s identity was reported as Mo’taz Khawaja, a 23-year-old resident of the Palestinian village of Ni’lin near Ramallah in the West Bank. He was a Hamas operative who was in Israeli prison twice for holding illegal weapons, according to Palestinian media reports.
- Herzog Tells Coalition to Abandon ‘Oppressive’ Overhaul Package, Seek Consensus (Times of Israel). President Isaac Herzog on Thursday night denounced the government’s judicial overhaul legislation as “oppressive” and harmful to democracy, and called for it to be abandoned immediately and replaced by a framework for consensual reform. In a special address to the nation delivered in stark and grave tones, the president said the national crisis over the coalition’s effort to weaken the judiciary was “a disaster” and “a nightmare.” He insisted it was the responsibility of “the leaders of the state” in the government to put aside the breakneck legislative charge lest the country descends into a societal and constitutional abyss…During his speech, the president announced that in his discussions with representatives on both sides of the political divide he has managed to create a formula for agreement on the majority of the major disputes at the heart of the crisis…But Herzog added that the opposition as well as the coalition needed to put the country above politics in order to prevent Israel from “falling off the edge of a cliff.”
- Israelis Protest Nationwide in Second ‘Day of Disruption’ against Judicial Reform (Jerusalem Post). Throngs of people demonstrated against judicial reform throughout all of Israel on Thursday. Protestors blocked traffic into the departures area at Ben-Gurion Airport as part of the nationwide judicial reform protests taking place throughout the country. The aim was to hamper Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned flight to Italy…National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport several hours ahead of the prime minister, saying he was there to prevent anarchy. Several hours later, he, alongside Israel Police, announced the dismissal of Tel Aviv district chief Amichai Eshed…Altogether, at least 24 protesters were arrested throughout the so-called “Day of Disruption.”
13 March 2023
- In the US, Smotrich Walks Back Huwara Remark, Touts Unity as Hundreds Protest Visit (Times of Israel). Visiting the less-than-welcoming United States, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich appeared to embark on a charm offensive Sunday, telling American investors he was sorry for calling to “wipe out” the Palestinian town of Huwara and committing to “protect every innocent life, Jew or Arab,” as several hundred American Jews and Israeli ex-pats protested his appearance outside.
- Editorial: Where Was the US When Iran and Saudi Arabia Restored Ties? (Jerusalem Post). It is no secret that the Biden and the Obama administrations before it viewed their role as moving away from the Middle East. Obama did this by setting redlines in Syria that were never enforced, allowing Russia to enter the country. The Biden administration has done the same by signaling to the Saudis and Emiratis that they are on their own when fighting the Houthis in Yemen. It is no secret that the Biden and the Obama administrations before it viewed their role as moving away from the Middle East. Obama did this by setting redlines in Syria that were never enforced, allowing Russia to enter the country. The Biden administration has done the same by signaling to the Saudis and Emiratis that they are on their own when fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
14 March 2023
- US Investors Warn Netanyahu Overhaul May Dampen Cash Infusions from Abroad (Times of Israel). Over 250 US-based financial investors warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government’s planned judicial overhaul could chill new infusions of cash into Israel, the latest signal of potentially devastating economic fallout should the controversial legislation go through. “Many leaders in the business community will feel compelled to reevaluate their reliance on Israel as a strategic destination for investment, sourcing talent, building engineering centers, and maintaining intellectual property,” read a letter signed by 255 investors, according to Channel 12 news, which first reported on the missive Sunday.
- Israel, US Launch Drills to Practice Long-Range Aerial Scenarios (Israel Defense). The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is participating in “Red Flag.” an advanced aerial combat exercise led by the US Air Force, which started on Sunday.
The exercise, which is held at the Nellis U.S. Air Force Base in Nevada, will take place over the course of two weeks and include a wide range of training drills, such as long-range aerial scenarios; achieving aerial superiority in the region; joint aerial strikes; area defense; interception of enemy aircraft; low-altitude flights ;and flights in areas abundant with anti-aircraft equipment.
- Israel Releases Oldest Palestinian Prisoner (Al Arabiya English).
The oldest Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail was released on Monday after serving a 17-year sentence for arms smuggling, an advocacy group and his son said. Fuad Shubaki, 83, was released from Ashkelon prison and is “on his way to Ramallah” in the occupied West Bank, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said, which was confirmed by Shubaki’s son Hazem. As Shubaki arrived in Ramallah at the tomb of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, to whom he was a close ally, Palestinian officials jostled to get close to the octogenarian draped in a Palestinian keffiyeh.
15 March 2023
- Netanyahu Weighs Defensive Military Aid to Ukraine (Jerusalem Post). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exploring the possibility of providing defensive military equipment to Ukraine, which is expected to anger the Russians. He held a discussion Tuesday with top government officials to review the country’s policy on Ukraine in advance of his trip Wednesday to Berlin, where European fears regarding Russia are expected to be on the agenda.
- Right-Wing Think Tank that Inspired Judicial Overhaul Calls for Compromise (Times of Israel). The Kohelet Policy Forum, which formulated the ideological foundations for the government’s radical judicial overhaul program, called for compromise Tuesday over the far-reaching proposals as the government continued its legislative drive despite trenchant and widespread public opposition. In a statement published on social media channels, the conservative organization believed that deep legal and judicial system reform was necessary. In addition, achieving broad consensus over “the necessary changes” was essential for longer-term constitutional change.
16 March 2023
- Israel Blocks EU’s Foreign Chief from Visiting over Critical Comments (Ynet News). Due to his recent critical comments about Israel, the Foreign Ministry reportedly blocked the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell from visiting the country. On Tuesday, Borrell recently expressed interest in visiting Israel and the West Bank and voiced concerns over the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform.
- IDF Says Hizballah Terrorist Crossed Border from Lebanon with Suicide Belt, Planted Explosive (Jerusalem Post). The Megiddo bombing was likely carried out by a Hezbollah terrorist who crossed the Israeli-Lebanese border undetected earlier this week and planted a bomb at the junction, the IDF revealed on Wednesday, saying that it is still investigating the incident alongside the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Security forces later killed the terrorist while he was wrapped in an explosive belt.
- Herzog: ‘Israel is at Edge of Abyss,’ Civil War is a Real Threat (Jerusalem Post). “Those who think a real civil war, with lives lost, is a line we will not cross have no idea. Precisely now, 75 years into Israel’s existence, the abyss is at our fingertips,” President Isaac Herzog said in an introduction speech to what he called the “People’s Directive,” a comprehensive document intended to end the current conflict in Israel over the government’s proposed reforms of Israel’s judicial system.
20 March 2023
- Israel, PA Meet in Egypt for Emergency Security Summit (Ynet News). A conference [was] held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday with the participation of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and the United States as part of the attempts to ease tensions in the region. These efforts also aim at stabilizing the Palestinian Authority, primarily with economic aid. Ramallah had to comply with the request of Jordan, Egypt and the United States to attend the conference.
- Biden and Netanyahu Discuss Judicial Reform in a Phone Call (Jerusalem Post). US President Joe Biden spoke on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship,” according to the White House readout of the call. It was the first conversation between the leaders about the [Netanyahu government’s] proposed judicial reform.
21 March 2023
- Jordan Says Smotrich Violated Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty with Expanded Israel Map (Jerusalem Post). Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has violated the peace treaty between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom and made “racist” remarks about the Palestinian people, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry charged on Monday. As Smotrich spoke, he stood at a podium adorned with a cloth that looked like an Israeli flag. Instead of the Star of David, there was a graphic that looked to the Jordanians like a map of the State of Israel but with expanded borders that included the West Bank, Gaza, and portions of Jordan.
- Likud Approves ‘Softened’ Judicial Reform Outline, but Opposition is Unimpressed (Ynet News). The ruling Likud Party on Monday approved by an overwhelming majority a revised version of its proposal to overhaul Israel’s judicial system that scales back some of the plan’s more controversial clauses, but opposition parties were unfazed by the gesture.
22 March 2023
- Protesting Reservists Threaten Mass Refusal to Serve over Judiciary Shakeup (Times of Israel). Leaders of a protest group representing reserve soldiers and officers said on Tuesday that they would be escalating their actions against the government’s plans to radically curtail the power of the judiciary. The group, known as Brothers in Arms, said they would begin to sign reservists on to a declaration of refusal to serve, which would be implemented should the government move ahead with the judicial overhaul.
23 March 2023
- Saudi Arabia Condemns Israeli Decision to Allow Resettlement in West Bank (Sky News). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conveyed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strong condemnation of the Israeli authorities’ decision to permit resettlement in the northern West Bank areas within the State of Palestine. As reported by the Saudi Press Agency, the ministry denounced the decision, calling it a blatant breach of international laws and stating that it undermines regional peace efforts.
- UAE Foreign Minister Visits Israel Amid Reports Abu Dhabi May Reduce Its Diplomatic Representation (Al Khaleej Online). The recent controversial remarks made by the Israeli Finance Minister, who claimed there is no Palestinian people, continue to have repercussions. A Hebrew newspaper reported that an Emirati delegation, led by Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, visited Israel to condemn the statement. This comes amid reports of Abu Dhabi’s intention to reduce its diplomatic representation…”Until we are sure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a government he can control, we will not be able to work together,” UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan reportedly told Israeli officials.
- After Strong US Rebuke, PM Netanyahu Says No Plan for ‘New’ Settlements in Northern West Bank (Times of Israel). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to issue a clarification on Wednesday that his far-right government would not build any new settlements in the northern West Bank after the US heavily criticized legislation by the Knesset this week that allows resettlement of evacuated areas.
- Knesset Set to Shield Netanyahu Against Forced Removal from Office (Times of Israel). The Knesset was expected to pass Wednesday or Thursday a law that would protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from any potential court order to recuse himself. Sponsored by a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and backed by the government, the bill blocks the High Court of Justice or attorney general from ordering a prime minister to take a leave of absence. Once passed into law, there will only be two ways for a prime minister to take a leave of absence: the premier can decide to recuse himself, or a three-quarters majority vote of government ministers can push a premier to take a temporary leave, but only for mental or physical health reasons.
24 March 2023
- Thousands of Israelis Participate in ‘Day of Paralysis’ (Jerusalem Post). Israelis of all ages and from various sectors took to the streets on Thursday to protest against the judicial reform in a Day of Paralysis. The morning began with a reservists’ demonstration outside the homes of Shas leader Arye Deri and Education Minister Yoav Kisch on Thursday morning as the “Day of Paralysis” began.
- Israel Offered PA Full Security Duties over City as Pilot, Ramallah Refused (Times of Israel). According to an unsourced Channel 12 report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II secretly discussed the proposal in their meeting in January. The plan would reportedly see Palestinian security forces responsible for arresting suspected terror operatives in the cities of Tulkarem or Qalqilya…However, the PA was uninterested in the offer, believing it would weaken its already-dire status in the eyes of many Palestinians.
27 March 2023
- Netanyahu Fires Defense Minister Gallant for Calling to Pause Judicial Overhaul (Times of Israel). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday evening, his office said, a day after the Likud member called to pause legislation of the government’s judicial overhaul. In a brief statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu had decided to transfer Gallant from his post. It was unclear what other position he would be given, if any, but he still would remain a member of Knesset. His likely replacement is seen as Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter.
- Israel Sees Night of Fiery Protests and Riots Following Gallant Sacking (Ynet News). Following the dismissal of Yoav Gallant from the position of defense minister by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thousands of people poured into the streets in droves throughout Israel to protest Gallant’s ouster, with some protesters lighting fires across Ayalon Highway, one of Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfares.
- Israeli Army Chief Warns of Curbed Military Ops Amid Absent Reservists (i24 News). Israel’s army Chief of Staff General Herzi Halevi has reportedly warned his government that the military could possibly reduce the scope of operations due to reservists refusing to report for duty in protest of the controversial judicial overhaul. On Friday, 200 reservist pilots and 100 reservist military doctors said they would halt service due to the legislative push, which would give the Israeli government full control over judicial appointments and ban the High Court of Justice from reviewing Basic Laws.
28 March 2023
- Netanyahu Pauses Judicial Overhaul to Allow Dialogue, but Vows Reform Will Happen (Times of Israel). After immense public pressure that has seen 12 weeks of massive demonstrations, and, on Monday, the announcement of general strikes by the country’s top labor federation and local councils, the prime minister said he was allowing for “a delay” to provide “ a real opportunity for real dialogue,” but stressed that “either way,” a reform would be passed to “restore the balance” that he said had been lost between the branches of government in Israel.
- Tens of Thousands Descend on Israeli Supreme Court to Voice Support for Judicial Reform (Ynet News). Tens of thousands of pro-government protesters descended on the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem Monday evening to voice their support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s push to reshape the judiciary.
29 March 2023
- The Netanyahu-Led Coalition and Opposition Hold First Talks on Judicial Overhaul with President Herzog (Times of Israel). Representatives from coalition and opposition parties gathered at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening to begin negotiations over the government’s highly controversial judicial overhaul plans, a first face-to-face meeting between the sides after three turbulent months of a legislative blitz and nationwide mass protests.
- IDF Pilots End Strike Threat but will ‘Keep an Eye out’ (Jerusalem Post). The IDF Air Force reserve pilots will return to the regular training schedule, a representative of the pilot’s protest against the government’s judicial reform plans announced Tuesday after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a legislation freeze on Monday evening.
- Biden: Israel ‘Cannot Continue Down this Road’; No Netanyahu Invite in ‘Near Term’ (Times of Israel). WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden issued his gravest warning yet over the judicial overhaul being advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, saying Tuesday that Israel “cannot continue down this road.”
30 March 2023
- Netanyahu Downplays US-Israel Crisis, Says Ties ‘Unshakable’ (Jerusalem Post). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplayed the US-Israel crisis as he insisted that “nothing could change” the “unshakable” relations between the two counties. “Israel and the United States have had their occasional differences,” he said Wednesday, one day after President Joe Biden explained to reporters that he opposed Israel’s judicial reform program and would not invite Netanyahu to the White House in the near term.
- U.S. Says Israel Has Not Met Requirements to Join Visa Waiver Program (Ynet News). Israel has not met the eligibility requirements to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday …Israel is yet to grant free passage for Palestinian Americans at its airports and into the West Bank, which Washington says is required for Israel to meet the condition of reciprocity to join the program, which would allow Israelis visa-free access to the United States.
31 March 2023
- Right-wing Supporters of Judicial Overhaul March in Tel Aviv (Ynet News). Tens of thousands of supporters of the government and its planned judicial overhaul gathered for what they called “a Freedom March” on Thursday in Tel Aviv after calls from ministers for the right-wing public to take to the streets in response to mass demonstrations held for the past three months by opponents of the plan.
- Israel Conducts Mediterranean Naval Drill with Five Other Countries (Jerusalem Post). The Israel Navy and five other countries completed an international joint drill this week; Naval Squadron 32 Cmdr. Steven Gordon told The Jerusalem Post.“We led this international drill for three weeks, including Greece, Cyprus, Italy, the US, and France,” he said. “This was one of the bigger drills. We went all over the Mediterranean Sea and along the various coast points of Israel.”