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138 American Jewish groups oppose Israeli minister visit to US

March 7, 2023 at 1:10 pm

Bezalel Smotrich [GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images]

One hundred and thirty-eight American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel lobbyists have issued a joint statement opposing the upcoming visit of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, stating that he should not be given a platform within the US Jewish community.

“As American Jews committed to Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state; to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship; and to Jewish peoplehood that fully encompasses Israeli and Diaspora Jewish communities,” reads the statement, “we are opposed to Bezalel Smotrich visiting the United States later this month in his capacity as Israel’s finance minister, and we call on all pro-Israel Americans to understand that welcoming Smotrich here will harm, rather than help, support for Israel.”

Among the signatories of the joint statement facilitated by Israel Policy Forum were several previous executives of some of America’s hawkish pro-Israel lobby groups including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

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The statement follows comments made by the Israeli minister calling for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be “wiped out”. Though Smotrich’s remarks were universally condemned, the US administration has taken no action against the occupation state which it funds to the tune of $3 billion annually.

American Jewish leaders have, however, called on the administration of President Joe Biden to send a strong message to the current Israeli government. Proposals suggested by pro-Israel lobbyist, Eric Yoffie, include a pause in discussions on Israel’s entry into the visa waver programme until Israeli policies change. Another is to announce that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be invited to the White House. A third is to indicate that, if authorising illegal outposts continues, the US will be willing to present its own resolution to the UN Security Council on the subject.

Yoffie, who is a Reform rabbi and President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a half-century of Zionist activism he had never once lobbied against an Israeli government in Washington until now because “Jewish supremacists” are attempting “to destroy the Jewish state from within.”

Sceptical over the success of Jewish communities’ ability to apply pressure on the US administration, Yoffie said: “Lobbying the American government against an Israeli government — even when the American one is pro-Israel and the Israeli one is anti-democratic — is rightly problematic for American Jews.” He explained that interventions that apply pressure on Israel, “once begun, can set a dangerous precedent with uncertain outcomes.”

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