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American Jewish groups pressured to disinvite Netanyahu from speaking at General Assembly next week

Opponents of Israeli government’s judicial reform are pushing to withdraw invitation to the Israeli prime minister, Knesset Member Simcha Rothman

Israeli protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, in Tel Aviv, Feb. 11, 2023. (Photo: Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Opponents to the Israeli government’s judicial reforms asked the Jewish Federations of North America to rescind its invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Member Simcha Rothman to speak at the JFNA General Assembly conference in Tel Aviv next week. 

The conference, which begins on Sunday night, is designed to honor Israel’s 75th anniversary and has been the signature gathering of U.S. Jewish groups over the years. 

A group of Israeli expatriates who identify themselves as UnXeptable, called on the JFNA to rescind the invitations to Netanyahu and Rothman, chairperson for Israel's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, in an act of opposition to the government’s judicial reforms. However, their request was rejected.

“Some have even called for the Jewish Federations of North America to withdraw their invitation. We respectfully disagree,” according to a statement by the JFNA. “First and foremost, the opportunity to hear from Israel’s duly-elected president and prime minister is a symbol of Israel’s achievement as a modern democratic state. We look forward to welcoming these officials on this historic occasion.” 

Netanyahu and Rothman will be joined by Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid and Israeli President Isaac Herzog in addressing the gathering.

Israel’s leaders have been invited guests at previous JFNA conferences. While the JFNA statement testifies to the tense anti-government environment in Israel, it also praised the protestors for caring “deeply and sincerely about the future of Israel.” 

The statement called attention to the JFNA’s own opposition to parts of the coalition’s proposed reforms, specifically the so-called “override clause.” 

Should protestors show up to the conference, the JFNA promised that the organization “will do everything we can to ensure that our attendees and security professionals respect these protesters, and expect that any protestors will respect our participants by demonstrating in a way that does not disrupt their ability to attend the event, participate or listen to the speakers.” 

Israeli protest groups have already announced plans to disrupt Netanyahu’s speech. Other protestors have said they plan to attend the conference in order to speak to the delegates about their concerns for Israel's democracy. 

The JFNA statement emphasized they support dialogue across political lines. 

“Throughout this tumultuous period, we have engaged in close dialogue with both those opposed to the judicial legislation and those supporting it, and welcome all continued conversations,” while commending the protests as an exercise of “democratic rights.” 

“We have also been awed by the powerful statement Israel’s citizens have made exercising their democratic right to protest. Given the immense importance of this debate and its implications for Jews all around the world, we understand that some will choose to exercise that right at the General Assembly.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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