Barkat said to nix appearance in Boston amid ongoing anti-government protests

Economy minister reportedly accuses consulate of not doing enough to prevent demonstrations, as coalition MKs continue to face resistance during trips abroad

Economy Minister Nir Barkat speaks during a conference in Haifa, March 21, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Economy Minister Nir Barkat speaks during a conference in Haifa, March 21, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Economy Minister Nir Barkat canceled an appearance at Israel’s consulate in Boston scheduled for Thursday, amid relentless anti-government protests against coalition lawmakers as they travel abroad.

Sources close to Barkat accused the consul general in Boston, Meron Reuben, of refusing to commit to preventing protesters from entering the conference, according to the Walla news site.

The conference was organized by the Consulate General of Israel to New England and was scheduled to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary.

The event was set to take place at Temple Beth Elohim, whose own rabbi planned to protest against the conference from outside the building, according to a message from the rabbi shared by protesters.

“Israel’s ministers have come to realize in recent months that wherever they travel, they will encounter determined protesters fighting against the proposed judicial overhaul,” said Josh Drill, the international spokesperson for the protest movement in Israel. “It doesn’t matter if it is Tel Aviv, New York, London or Boston — wherever the destroyers of democracy go, we will be there. This protest is global and united.”

Barkat traveled to the US last week ahead of New York City’s annual Celebrate Israel Parade, a significant event for the area’s Jewish community that this year featured some tension over the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

When Barkat arrived in New York City, protesters were waiting for him at his hotel at 6 a.m., and rallied outside his other public appearances throughout the week. There were also demonstrations against the other coalition lawmakers in the city.

Barkat, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party did not participate in the parade. Netanyahu had reportedly urged some of his party members to not attend the march after public criticism of the high number of lawmakers who were expected to take part.

After the parade, protesters disrupted Barkat at a conference in New York, ambushing him from the crowd with shouts of “shame.”

Coalition lawmakers have faced complications during visits abroad throughout the week.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich flew to Paris on Tuesday for an international gathering, but faced protests and difficulty securing meetings with French officials and Jewish community leaders apparently opposed to his hardline ideology.

Smotrich’s office reached out to multiple French counterparts for meetings and was turned down, a French official told The Times of Israel.

However, Smotrich tweeted a picture of a meeting that he said included representatives from the CRIF umbrella group, the Central Consistory representing Orthodox communities, the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency, and rabbinical leaders, among others. The minister said they met to discuss ties between Israel and French Jewish communities, challenges facing French Jews and the role of the state, and “strengthening aliyah [immigration] from France to Israel.”

The leaders of the Jewish groups sat out the meeting and had their deputies, or other members, attend the talk with Smotrich, Haaretz reported. Senior Israeli government officials usually meet with members of the local Jewish community when traveling abroad in order to maintain and build ties with the Jewish State.

Religious Zionism lawmaker Simcha Rothman, one of the architects of the judicial revamp, also sparked tensions during an event with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington on Tuesday.

Harris stressed the importance of an independent judiciary at the event. Rothman stood out for not applauding the speech.

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