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Pro-Israel Democratic senator reportedly asks not to meet with far-right parties during Israel visit

On the U.S. Senate’s first trip to Israel since Benjamin Netanyahu assumed power, Sen. Jacky Rosen’s request comes amid speculation about how members of Congress and the Biden administration would engage with far-right Israeli lawmakers

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

A leading pro-Israel Democratic senator reportedly requested not to meet with any members of two-far right parties that are part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Sen. Jacky Rosen – the co-chair of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus helming a delegation of bipartisan senators to Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Morocco – informed Israeli officials that she does not want members of Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit or Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism parties to attend any of their meetings.

Rosen is currently visiting the region alongside other U.S. senators such as Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Mark Kelly, as well as Republicans James Lankford, Dan Sullivan and Ted Budd.

The Nevada senator’s request, first reported by Walla News, is being made as part of the first Senate visit to Israel since Netanyahu’s government assumed power. There has been much speculation about whether members of Congress and the Biden administration would engage with far-right Israeli lawmakers, particularly given their significant portfolios, though Rosen’s request sets an undeniably strong precedent.

Rosen, who also founded and co-chairs the Senate Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, is the third Jewish woman to serve in the Senate and the first to be elected from a state other than California. One of nine current Jewish U.S. senators, the former Reform synagogue president has among the highest pro-Israel bona fides in Washington.

She has consistently led legislation, letters and campaigns aimed at building upon the U.S.-Israel relationship while defending it against critics, both domestically and abroad. It should be noted that under the normal course of business, Congressional delegations do not typically meet with ministers managing the portfolios currently held by the far-right parties in question.

Rosen’s request to avoid meeting Ben-Gvir, Smotrich or their allies will only set the tone for U.S. lawmakers visiting the country in the future – if someone of her stature draws this line, other lawmakers will assuredly follow suit.

Her request comes months after fellow pro-Israel Democrats Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Brad Sherman raised public alarms about Ben-Gvir’s potential inclusion in Netanyahu’s coalition, with Menendez explicitly warning Netanyahu personally about the consequences. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, notably raised concerns about Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s remarks concerning Israel’s future approach to Russia and Ukraine.

Democratic Reps. Jared Huffman and Joaquin Castro, meanwhile, have retweeted articles about Netanyahu’s attempts at dramatically reforming Israel’s judiciary, though it is believed most Congressional Democrats are taking cues from the Biden administration, which has adopted an undeniably conflict-averse approach toward the new government.

In a Twitter post commenting on the news of Sen. Rosen’s request, Opposition leader Yair Lapid said that “It’s time to face the facts: with a government of racists and extremists, the U.S. is no longer Israel’s closest ally,” in an apparent jab to Netanyahu and his right-wing allies.

In a response to Lapid’s crack, Likud said that Lapid defaulted back to his regular antics, and “after the last time he [Lapid] predicted that we destroyed U.S.-Israel relations, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the U.S. president made four peace agreements with Arab countries helped usher the States out of the Iran nuclear agreement. Yair, nobody buys your scaremongering anymore.”

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