US senator tells Israel she opposes meeting with far-right parties

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  January 17, 2023

Jacky Rosen says she won’t meet any members of Itamar Ben-Gvir or Bezalel Smotrich’s right-wing parties.

A leading pro-Israel Democrat senator told the Israeli government that she does not want to meet with any members of two-far right parties that are part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, according to a report from Axios.

Senator Jacky Rosen, who co-chairs the Senate’s Abraham Accords Caucus, is currently leading a bipartisan delegation of senators to Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Morocco.

Rosen stated that during their visit, she does not want members of the two far-right parties, Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit or Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism, to attend any of their meetings, two Israeli officials and a source close to the senator told Axios.

“It was Sen. Rosen’s request to not meet with members of the two far-right parties,” a source close to Rosen told Axios.

The Israeli foreign ministry told the news site that the delegation is not scheduled to meet any members of either party.

The new Israeli government is the most right-wing administration in its history, with Netanyahu’s Likud party in coalition with far-right religious Zionist factions and ultra-Orthodox parties.

The US senator’s request is being made as part of the first senate visit to Israel since Netanyahu’s government assumed power.

The Biden administration has not stated whether it would engage with the far-right members of the new government, saying instead that it would judge the new government based on its policies.

Rosen’s request sets a strong precedent for both the administration as well as other future delegations by American lawmakers. Still, congressional delegations to Israel do not usually meet with lawmakers holding the minister positions of the two far-right parties, according to Haaretz

Rosen, a major pro-Israel Democrat in the Senate, has led legislation supporting the US-Israel relationship and founded and co-chairs the Senate Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Antisemitism. She is also the third Jewish woman to serve in the Senate and the first to be elected from a state other than California.

Last July, the lawmaker spearheaded a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to oppose an Iraqi law that criminalizes the normalization of relations with Israel. She also sponsored a bill in 2021 that would have provided $30m over five years for the creation of joint cybersecurity partnership programs between Washington and Israel.

Yair Lapid, an Israeli opposition leader and previous prime minister, said in response to the report of Rosen’s request: “It’s time to face the facts: with a government of racists and extremists, the US is no longer Israel’s closest ally.”