Ever since Bibi Netanyahu assumed his accustomed role as Prime Minister once again at the end of December 2022, he has been very visibly eager to get the usual meeting a new (or even rather used) Israeli PM receives as a matter of course. Joe Biden has kept Bibi waiting almost nine months this time and, instead of greeting him in the dignified splendor of the White House, pointedly brushed him off to the “sidelines” of the UN General Assembly Opening in New York, a level usually reserved for leaders of nations not all that important to the US. Israel is not usually seen as a member of that crowd.
At least as significant, though, was what was happening on the street below – and that has been happening in every place Bibi has set foot in the US. Pro-Israel/anti-Bibi protesters have dogged his footsteps – and leaders of the Israeli protest movement against the ongoing attempted judicial coup flew to the US to raise money and build support off Bibi’s presence.
Bibi attempted to hit back at the demonstrators, calling them “allies of Iran and the PLO.” Given the prominence of Brothers and Sisters in Arms, composed of military reservists who risk their lives for Israel on a regular basis, this is a slur that didn’t fly.
According to the White House readout after the meeting, “The President also reiterated his concern about any fundamental changes to Israel’s democratic system, absent the broadest possible consensus.” Thus, in more diplomatic language, Biden echoed the slogan of the protesters below, “Don’t whitewash the coup.”
Needless to say, Partners strongly supports the demonstrations in the US supporting the massive protests in Israel. We urge everyone who can to come out to the biggest one of the week, in front of the UN at 8:30 Friday morning, when Bibi is scheduled to address the General Assembly. This demo has been organized by a wide coalition of groups working, as are we, to redouble US support on every level toward rolling back the rightwing government’s policies and turn Israel towards the values of peace, equality, and social justice.
Partners particularly supports those, in Israel and in the US, who are part of the “anti-occupation bloc,” which draws attention to the crucial role of the ongoing occupation in roiling and disturbing Israeli society. However, like our Israeli counterparts, we join forces with all those who oppose the judicial coup, whether or not they share our views on the occupation.
We hope you will contribute to Partners TODAY as we work to build support against the current government’s attempts to sideline Israeli democracy. This has been a successful week in the US. We look towards more successes on this front, with your help, in the coming weeks and months.
Paul Scham is president of Partners for Progressive Israel and a Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, where he teaches courses this semester on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the Israeli Right.