14 Days: Presidential summit

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Israeli President Isaac Herzog is seen meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Israeli President Isaac Herzog is seen meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)


“America’s commitment to Israel is firm, and it is ironclad,” US President Joe Biden told President Isaac Herzog in the Oval Office on July 18, adding that he had said the same thing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call a day earlier, in which he invited Netanyahu to Washington for a meeting. However, Biden later told The New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman that Israel’s leaders should not rush the judiciary overhaul but rather seek the broadest possible consensus, warning that the issue could harm “the special relationship” between the two countries. For his part, Herzog told Biden that he was seeking to find common ground between the parties, a sentiment he echoed in an address to a joint session of the US Congress the next day. “I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA,” Herzog declared in a speech that elicited 29 standing ovations.


Tens of thousands marched from Tel Aviv to the Knesset in Jerusalem in a bid to prevent the passage of a bill to curtail judicial oversight set for a vote on July 24. Some 10,000  IDF reservists announced at a news conference on July 22 that they would suspend reserve duty, joining over 1,000 Israeli Air Force reservists who made a similar declaration in a letter issued the previous day. On July 22, dozens of former top security officials sent a letter to the prime minister  in support of the reservists, urging the government to halt its judicial reforms and resume negotiations to reach a national consensus.


Prime Minister Netanyahu was fitted with a pacemaker at Sheba Medical Center on July 23, a week after he was hospitalized for dehydration and had a heart monitor implanted. The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu, 73, was “doing great” after a successful procedure. On the eve of the Knesset vote on the “reasonableness”  billl, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the architect of the reforms, filled in as acting premier. 


El-Roi Kapach, 36, was shot and seriously wounded, and his two daughters sustained light wounds, in a terrorist drive-by shooting on a highway near Tekoa in the West Bank on July 16. The IDF later announced the arrest of the terrorist, who was hiding in a Bethlehem mosque. The victim wask taken to Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem, where he was listed in serious but stable condition. His parents-in-law were killed in a similar terrorist shooting in Gush Katif in 2005.


Palestinian Americans living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip may now enter Israel as part of a policy change Jerusalem announced on July 19 in a bid to secure visa-free access for Israelis to the US. Outgoing US Ambassador Tom Nides and Israeli Ambassador to the US  Mike Herzog signed the “reciprocity agreement,” which implemented a pilot program based on the new policy. The State Department said the US would make a decision on whether Israel should be admitted to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by the end of September.

 Dame Helen Mirren is seen at the Jerusalem Film Festival. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Dame Helen Mirren is seen at the Jerusalem Film Festival. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


Maayan Hoffman, senior correspondent for The Jerusalem Report, was presented with two awards on July 11 at the 42nd Annual American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Jewish Journalism Awards banquet for articles published in 2022: Second place for writing about food and wine (“The spirit of Israel: Countering wine-washing with wine”); and second place for writing about sports (“Enes Kanter Freedom’s slam dunk for Mideast peace”). The Rockower family created the prestigious awards in 1979 to honor Simon Rockower and his deep love for the craft of Jewish journalism.


British actress Dame Helen Mirren received an achievement award “for her illustrious career” at the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival on July 6, ahead of the Israeli premiere of Golda, in which she plays the title role of the former Israeli prime minister in the period of the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago. At a press conference earlier in the day, Mirren said she had been moved by the huge demonstrations across the country, suggesting it may be “a pivotal moment in Israeli history.” Also receiving achievement awards from the festival were American director Oliver Stone and French filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.