‘Israel shooting itself in the foot,’ Jewish leaders warn Barkat in Boston

Heads of Jewish organizations tell economy minister that government’s extremist members and judicial overhaul are making defending Israel a tall task

Economy Minister Nir Barkat arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Economy Minister Nir Barkat arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Leaders of the Jewish community in Boston warned Economy Minister Nir Barkat last week that his government’s judicial overhaul plan is hurting Israel’s standing in the US and causing a rise in antisemitism, Walla News reported Friday.

The meeting took place on June 7 and included representatives of the Jewish Federation in Boston, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

According to the report, participants at the meeting told the former Jerusalem mayor that his Likud party has “put extremists in the government, and now we need to explain their stances.”

Barkat was told that his government’s extremist elements are amplifying criticism of Israel, thus potentially hurting Congress’s ability to defend Israeli interests.

“Israel is shooting itself in the foot,” they said.

During Barkat’s trip to Boston, his security detail grappled with anti-government protesters inside a hotel.

In a video of the incident, Barkat was seen walking through a hotel corridor surrounded by security guards as several demonstrators yelled “shame” at the Likud lawmaker while filming him on their phones.

Security was seen shoving the demonstrators away; when one protester slipped past the guards and ran towards Barkat with his phone’s camera, one of the guards grabbed him and threw him backward and onto the ground, and another guard then briefly grabbed and manhandled him.

Protestors against the judicial overhaul have consistently confronted members of the Israeli government during their trips abroad.

Otzma Yehudit lawmaker Simcha Rothman, an architect of the judicial overhaul scheme, had his own memorable encounter with the protesters while in New York for the parade, forcefully seizing a protester’s megaphone in a tense moment caught on video. The incident last Friday sparked outrage in Israel and the US.

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, center, at the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City, June 4, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Protesters and activists also accused Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, who was in town for the parade, of mocking them at the event. In a widely circulated photo, Chikli was seen looking into the camera and holding up a middle finger near his mouth. The activists said Chikli was giving them the finger; he has said he was telling them to smile.

Originally introduced in January by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the proposed judicial overhaul would eliminate much of the Israeli legal establishment’s ability to serve as a check on the government’s power. Critics say it would destroy Israel’s democracy, while proponents say it’s essential to tackle an overly active judiciary.

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