Protesters demand AIPAC oppose judicial push, as delegation set to meet Netanyahu

‘Don’t support a dictator’: Demonstrators call on pro-Israel lobby group to speak out against government’s effort to weaken the judiciary

Israelis protest outside a Jerusalem hotel where an AIPAC delegation is meeting Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu on March 13, 2023 (Nadav Galon)
Israelis protest outside a Jerusalem hotel where an AIPAC delegation is meeting Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu on March 13, 2023 (Nadav Galon)

Hundreds of people protested outside a Jerusalem hotel Monday night where a delegation from the US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is staying ahead of a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Waving Israeli flags, blowing horns and chanting “democracy,” activists gathered outside the Orient Hotel to call on the powerful group to speak out against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul.

The demonstrators brandished signs that read, “AIPAC: Don’t support a dictator,” “Mobster rule,” and “Israeli dictator.”

The AIPAC delegation is in Israel for an annual visit, during which it is set to meet with Netanyahu. (An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the meeting was taking place Monday night.) The organization declined to say when the meeting was taking place, and the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for details.

“There is a vigorous debate underway in Israel on this issue, which is reflective of the Jewish state’s robust democracy,” AIPAC said in response to the protest. “Our focus will continue to be ensuring that the US-Israel relationship remains strong and that our ally has the necessary resources to defend itself against growing threats, as Iran accelerates its nuclear program and expands its military alliance with Russia.”

AIPAC, which bills itself as bipartisan, generally shies away from weighing in on matters of internal Israeli policy. Some US Jewish groups and a number of Democrats in Congress have spoken out against the government’s legislative push.

The Times of Israel learned that the AIPAC management team met with leaders of the tech sector’s protest against the government, amid growing fears of potentially devastating economic fallout should the controversial legislation go through.

In the latest warning, over 250 US-based financial investors warned Netanyahu on Monday that the judicial overhaul could chill new infusions of cash into Israel.

The AIPAC delegation also met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for a security briefing on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s government has pushed ahead with its plans to pass legislation that will sharply curtail the judiciary’s ability to act as a check on government power. The proposed changes have sparked massive protests, and as dire warnings from business leaders, legal experts, academics and security officials.

Critics of the government’s plan say it will weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters have called it a much-needed reform to rein in an “activist” court.

A number of polls have indicated the legislation is broadly unpopular with the public.

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