Pod People: Analyzing Headlines in Israel: From Minister Blinken's Visit to Terrorist Attacks, Protests and More (2023)

February 2, 2023

El Jerusalem gas station Lahav Harkov joins us this week to help us make sense of all the big news out of Israel, from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit, the rocket attacks from Gaza, the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the ultimatums from Russia , mass protests and proposed changes to the Israeli law of return. Harkov is senior editor and diplomatic correspondent for Die Jerusalempost.

*The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of AJC.

Episode List:

  • (0:40) Lahav Jarkov


See notes:



consequences pod people on your favorite podcast app and learn more at AJC.org/PersonasdelPod

You can contact us at: peopleofthepod@ajc.org

If you enjoyed this episode, tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and head over to Apple Podcasts to rate and comment so more listeners can find us.



Pashman Manya Brachear:

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Jerusalem this week as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed renewed terror rocket attacks in Gaza, an ultimatum from Moscow and protests to propose judicial reforms and changes to Israel's law of return. . Lahav Harkov, senior contributing editor and diplomatic correspondent, shares what he sees and hears on the ground Die Jerusalempost. lahav, welcome backpod people.

Lahav Jarkov:


Pashman Manya Brachear:

So let's start with Blinken's visit. His trip to Jerusalem had been on the calendar for some time. But has Blinken's agenda changed due to the escalation of violence in recent days and Cabinet support to legalize more settlements?

Lahav Jarkov:

Yeah, I mean, I'm sure you know it's updated depending on what's going on at the time, you know, having your finger on the pulse. And so the issue of terrorism arose. And he made some really important comments about how horrible and utterly unacceptable it is to attack a place of worship like a Palestinian terrorist did on Friday night. But of course another terrorist attack took place the next morning, killing two people.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

Thus, its original agenda included a strategy for dealing with the nuclear situation in Iran. Can you update us on Israel's position in this situation and how it is handling the hostilities from Iran?

Lahav Jarkov:

Yeah, you know, it's not much different from the previous administration, right? There are some nuances that are different, but overall Netanyahu is against the Iran deal. But that deal is no longer on the table anyway. Netanyahu is open that Israel has done things to stop Iran from developing certain weapons, which seems to point to an attack in Isfahan, a city in Iran, on an alleged drone manufacturing facility. But of course Netanyahu wouldn't go into that much detail. But there were reports, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, that it was Israel that did this more or less in coordination with the US.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

In other words, take the matter into Israel's hands and deal with the situation in Iran.

Lahav Jarkov:

All reports generally say it is in coordination with the US. So you know Israel is doing this. But I suppose you could say that Israel is taking matters into its own hands, but it's not going against the intentions of the United States.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

So have the negotiations between Netanyahu and Blinken progressed? I mean, are the US and Israel still on the same page when it comes to Iran, or were there any sticking points?

Lahav Jarkov:

In general, I think Netanyahu would like a more aggressive approach to Iran. You know, more sanctions, more strike action, but I think they're still in a good place. In general, they, in turn, work towards similar goals and work in the same direction. It's not a point, you know, when Netanyahu was prime minister, I don't know, a year ago, and the Biden administration was actually actively pursuing the Iran deal, which Netanyahu sees as a huge threat to Israel and the world. We're not there, are we?

The Biden administration all but walked out of the deal. And with the mass protests and violent crackdown by the regime, you know, the Biden administration is not in a place where they're trying to give Tehran carte blanche. So I think the differences may not be small, but they're not as big as they could have been six months ago.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

Another topic Blinken wanted to discuss this week was diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. I don't know what ended up on the agenda as high as intended, but how likely is that to happen? And if likely, what is the timeline and what are the caveats?

Lahav Jarkov:

I think it's too early to talk about a schedule. The Saudis themselves say in all public statements when top officials are questioned on the subject that there must be some sort of movement on the Palestinian record before there can be peace with the Saudis. That said, this has been the case across the Arab world for the past 23 years, and yet, as of 2020, Israel has established relations with four different Arab countries.

And so it is possible that Netanyahu will once again make the seemingly impossible possible. And certainly I think we may have seen a small step in that direction after the terrorist attack on Friday night. One of the countries that condemned this attack was Saudi Arabia, which is unusual. And that was really interesting. But I still think it's too early to talk about schedules. I don't know when that will happen. But Netanyahu is really determined to try.

Manya Brachear Pashman:

Thus, Minister Blinken also hinted that the proposed judicial reforms could undermine Israel's democracy and that this common bond with the United States, this democratic bond, is correct. Let's talk about these reforms, which many legal scholars have said could weaken Israel's Supreme Court. Can you explain the proposed changes and why there is so much concern? And frankly, if that concern is overblown.

Lahav Jarkov:

Yeah, I mean, first of all, I have a bit of an issue with the premise because there have certainly been plenty of headlines where blinking said what you said. But if you look at what he actually said, anyone can find it on the State Department website. He said that Israel and the United States share democratic values.

He said that there was a very strong debate about the legal issue, but he actually didn't mention the legal issue, but in response to questions about it. And sometimes it isn't, but he said a robust debate shows a strong democracy. So none of those things sounded to me like Blinken berating Israel, I think he was being very careful.

And I would be surprised if he supports this judicial reform, although he shouldn't take a stand anyway. But I think he was much more cautious and much more neutral in his testimony than is widely reported. Now I understand that he expressed caution behind the scenes.

But I think the way this was reported was a bit biased and inaccurate almost everywhere. But in the future, you see, judicial reform goes very far in the opposite direction of where things are in Israel right now. But the situation in Israel is also extremely unbalanced at the moment. You know, you have to have checks and balances between different parts of government.

And now there are only controls and not accounts, as if the court really could control everything the government and the Knesset do. But the Knesset and the government have nothing to do, virtually no influence over what happens. For example, the process for selecting judges is a joint committee made up of politicians and judges, in addition to the Bar Association. And essentially it's twisted so that judges, for example, have outsized influence.

And all sorts of things. It takes a long time to explain. So I'm not going to spend our entire half hour explaining judicial reform. But I will say two things. First, I often find it deeply ironic that Americans criticize reforms because certain parts of them will simply make them more like the American system. Good? So when people say, oh, it's undemocratic for politicians to have a lot of influence over the justice selection process, I think, well, how do you think Supreme Court justices are chosen in the United States, right? ?

And then there's another thing that happens in the Supreme Court of Israel, that you have an extremely broad concept of going to court, how an NGO can take a case to court, even if it has nothing to do with it. Say, I don't know, an NGO can say that Israel is building on land that actually belongs to the Palestinians, even though the Palestinians aren't suing and haven't spoken to that NGO.

And in the US, the notion of who might be eligible to appear before the Supreme Court is much narrower than that. So to me, it's like people hear what certain figures they like to read say or hear in the media and they just repeat it without really thinking. That said, I think the reform changes are like an announcement where you have an extremely powerful judiciary and you want to fix this unjust injustice of an imbalance.

But this reform, as it stands now, creates a new imbalance, it only goes in the other direction. But I think Israel's system is based on concessions. We have a coalition system, there are many different parties. They are kind of a tug of war and in the end you have to agree on something. Well, it's true that this entire coalition wants to make big changes in the courts.

But I believe that the parliamentary process, which obviously includes the opposition, which is an active part of the commission that will approve this reform, will, in my view, be more moderate than it is now.

And you know, and people can debate the right level, at what level should there be reform? Netanyahu says it won't be exactly as he originally suggested, he says he will listen to the opposition and changes will be made. I know a lot of people just don't believe him. You know, he's a polarizing figure. But he is not the only person involved in this bill saying so. And I hope it turns out that way in the end. And that, as Blinken himself said, hopefully they can reach some sort of consensus, or if not consensus, then just a broad section of the Knesset working together.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

So what is driving the protests? The direction of imbalances is particularly sensitive. Is it just the polarizing nature of a Netanyahu government? What is motivating the protests?

Lahav Jarkov:

In fact, I think there's a little bit of both. I think that, first of all, there is a part of the protesters that is really angry with the reform, and maybe not with the very concept of the reform, maybe they think it goes too far and puts too much power in the hands of the politicians, in contrast with the courts.

You know, there are people like that, there are certainly many figures in the legal world who have joined the protest and spoken at various protests. On the other hand, when Netanyahu was prime minister, there were protests outside the prime minister's residence basically from the beginning of our whole crisis with five elections in four years. So you know, pretty much all the time except for a year and a bit.

And there was a protest movement, and it ebbed and ebbed. There were big protests and smaller protests. But I think it's a consequence of that. And frankly, it's been every week since the government was formed. I'm guessing it's six weeks now. And the first protests didn't focus much on the legal issue, they focused on other types of social issues, which is also something we could discuss in this government. But then they went to court, which I think gave them an intellectual spark, somehow made them seem more serious than just people who are mad at this government. But I think it was certainly built on top of an existing anti-Netanyahu protest movement.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

So what are the social concerns that are causing concern and fueling the protests?

Lahav Jarkov:

There's a lot of homophobic and strongly anti-gay rhetoric coming out of this coalition, especially the religious Zionist party, and some of the things that are being said are very ugly and I think it's harmful for people who are gay to be so concerned about it.

And I would also add that the misogyny comes from the same people, not just towards women in the military, because I think it's fair to have a debate about, you know, whether it's appropriate for women to be in combat roles and soon. . As if there was a debate there. And I wouldn't be too quick to say this is misogyny, but other things like the role of women in society, you know, I wonder what year do you hear these people saying these things.

What's interesting is that it's not the Haredi who mostly say homophobic or misogynistic things because they think we have our community and we do things within our community in a way and more or less, even if you disapprove of what other communities are doing, they are less involved. Let's put it this way.

But it is the Zionist religious party that has been a kind of bridge between these two sectors of society for many years. But I would argue that in recent years at least political-religious Zionism, if not actual communities, is moving in the Haredi direction. Either way, it's coming from them. Netanyahu said there will be no anti-gay laws and nothing will change. I think that's what he wants. I would say between the cool stuff and also, you know, this stuff about LGBT people, Netanyahu can't say no to everything his partners want, because then he won't have a coalition anymore, they'll resign. , and we will go to another choice.

So I don't know where the breaking point will be. But for Netanyahu to keep his coalition going, there will be a breaking point somewhere. At some point you will have to say yes even if you really want to say no.

Manya Brachear Pashman:

Another change, the proposed change, which has caused enormous concern among Jews, at least here in the diaspora, is the possibility that people who are not recognized as Jews by Jewish law will be restricted. Currently, the Law of Return allows all Jews to immigrate and live in Israel as long as they have at least one Jewish grandparent. The definition of a Jew was based on the Nuremberg Laws, the original Law of Return. Now, since there have been changes that have extended aliyah from spouses to children, regardless of whether they are Jewish, how likely is this law to be changed?

Lahav Jarkov:

So I think it's really a very low priority for this coalition. And if it's a low priority, there's always a chance that other things will happen over time. And it won't. First of all, there's something like: I just don't think this is going to change that quickly. That said, I think it's something people want in this coalition. And again it's another thing Netanyahy doesn't want.

And Likud doesn't want either. I mean, Likud doesn't want homosexuals to be deprived of their rights either. Don't get me wrong, but Likud doesn't want that, it goes against their constituency, many Russian-speaking Israelis vote for Likud. And I think they rightly see it as a way to stop immigration from the former Soviet Union.

Because now, as the war goes on, a lot of people are coming here who, let's say, probably never saw themselves living in Israel and don't really see themselves as Jews, but because of the sanctions against Russia, life is becoming more and more difficult. there it is easier for them to come to Israel.

It's one of those things where the law of unintended consequences, where politicians think about one thing, but there are a lot of Jews in the western world and, you know, most American Jews are married to non-Jews, you know, the numbers are going up all the time, and I think it affects more people than they thought. So going forward they need to have that discussion and think about it, you know, if they want to do that, but I think politically they just don't have the numbers to do that. . I don't think Likud wants that. And Likud has half of the seats in that coalition. Then you need Likud to make this possible.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

So I want to change the subject a bit and go back to Minister Blinken, who doubled down on US support for a two-state solution, Israel and the Palestinian state. But there are signs that public support for a two-state solution is waning there. Is there really a lack of public support for this solution?

Lahav Jarkov:

Polls have shown that support is falling, both among Israelis and most dramatically among Palestinians. I don't think it's exaggerated. Netanyahu sounds like someone who doesn't want a two-state solution, but Trump, by the parameters of Trump's plan, was basically what Netanyahu would have wanted is exactly what you're saying: he'd go with any plan, that's it. Israel can maintain all the churches in Judea and Samaria and give them sovereignty. And the Palestinian state would be in parts of the West Bank where, as you know, no Israelis live. And it would be a demilitarized state, essentially surrounded on all sides by Israelis.

Well, this is not a two-state solution that Palestinians will ever accept. But that's a two-state solution that I think most Israelis would accept if faced with it, right? So it really depends on how you ask the question. But if you're talking about a two-state solution in the pre-1967 sense, I don't think the vast majority of Israelis would want that.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

Okay, Lahav, last time you came to this podcast, we were talking about the really difficult situation that Israel is in, they've been providing security to Ukrainian refugees, they've been providing humanitarian aid in Ukraine, with Russia, right at the border with Israel with Syria. A lot has happened since then, including a new government in Israel. So has Israel's position changed?

Lahav Jarkov:

Israel's position has obviously not changed. Currently, Israel is not sending weapons to Ukraine. That said, the drone factory attack in Iran that Israel allegedly carried out is something that is helping Ukraine a lot. So Netanyahu admitted that in the CNN interview with Jake Tapper, he also said something, you know how we respond to this, you know, the development of various weapons by Iran, and these are weapons that are also used against Ukraine.

And I believe it was the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian official. I forget exactly who he is now, but after that attack I tweeted something saying: We warned Iran, which suggests that maybe Ukraine also knew something about what was going on. So it seems to me that there are things going on behind the scenes. But Israel doesn't say so initially, so as not to anger Russia, which is actually on Israel's northern border.

Pashman Manya Brachear:

Well Lahav, thanks again for dropping by and sharing your real-world perspective. I think that's really important because a lot of people interpret and report things without actually being there and there are always loopholes when trying to do that, so thank you very much.

Lahav Jarkov:

In order. Thank you very much.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Moshe Kshlerin

Last Updated: 03/22/2023

Views: 6283

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Moshe Kshlerin

Birthday: 1994-01-25

Address: Suite 609 315 Lupita Unions, Ronnieburgh, MI 62697

Phone: +2424755286529

Job: District Education Designer

Hobby: Yoga, Gunsmithing, Singing, 3D printing, Nordic skating, Soapmaking, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Moshe Kshlerin, I am a gleaming, attractive, outstanding, pleasant, delightful, outstanding, famous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.