Israel’s President to Meet Biden as Concerns Over Settlements, Judicial Overhaul Continue 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with US President Joe Biden (not pictured) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, October 26, 2022. (Reuters)
Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with US President Joe Biden (not pictured) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, October 26, 2022. (Reuters)
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Israel’s President to Meet Biden as Concerns Over Settlements, Judicial Overhaul Continue 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with US President Joe Biden (not pictured) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, October 26, 2022. (Reuters)
Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with US President Joe Biden (not pictured) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, October 26, 2022. (Reuters)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is hosting Israel's figurehead president Isaac Herzog at the White House, as they seek to sustain ties despite US concerns over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial plans to overhaul his country’s judicial system and ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank.

Herzog's visit comes a day after Biden spoke with Netanyahu by phone and invited him to meet in the US this fall, although the president expressed reservations about several of Netanyahu's hard-right coalition's policies.

Netanyahu’s government is pushing forward with judicial changes that have sparked widespread protest in Israel and he also has authorized the construction of thousands of new housing units in the West Bank.

Netanyahu and his allies, a collection of ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist parties, say the plan is needed to rein in the powers of unelected judges. Opponents say the plan will destroy Israel’s fragile system of checks and balances and move the country toward authoritarian rule.

Herzog has appealed for a compromise that has thus far proven elusive. Many American Jewish groups and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns about the plan.

During his visit, Herzog is set to meet with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and congressional leaders. On Wednesday he will become the second Israeli president, after his father Chaim Herzog, to address Congress. His speech will mark Israel’s celebration of its 75th year of independence.

Herzog’s visit comes weeks after Israeli forces carried out one of their most intensive operations in the West Bank in two decades, with a two-day air and ground offensive in Jenin, a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank. Senior members of Netanyahu’s government have been pushing for increased construction and other measures to cement Israel’s control over the West Bank in response to a more than year-long wave of violence with the Palestinians.

US officials have broadly supported Israel’s right to defend itself from militant attacks, but have also urged restraint to minimize harm to civilians, and have lobbied against additional settlements that would further diminish the chances of securing a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians.

The Biden administration declined to say whether Biden would host Netanyahu at the White House — as the Israeli leader has hoped — or in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

White House visits are typically standard protocol for Israeli prime ministers, and the delay in Netanyahu receiving one has become an issue in Israel, with opponents citing it as a reflection of deteriorating relations with the US.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden again on Monday expressed concern to Netanyahu over the judicial plan — as he did when they last spoke earlier this year — and urged the “broadest possible consensus” over the legislation that has been pushed by Netanyahu and his hard-line coalition.

Kirby said during the call Biden also expressed his “ironclad, unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security and that the two leaders discussed Iran’s nuclear program and regional security issues. Biden also “expressed concern” over Israel’s continued settlement growth in the West Bank and urged Israel to take steps to preserve the viability of a two-state solution with Palestinians.

Biden, Kirby said, also welcomed steps by the Palestinian Authority to reassert security control in Jenin and other areas of the West Bank and moves by Israel and Palestinians to move toward another round of direct talks.

Progressive lawmakers, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar have pledged to boycott Herzog's address in protest of Israel's policies.

Herzog's visit comes days after Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the influential 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, sparked outrage for calling Israel a “racist state,” including criticism from House Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Jayapal later said she was criticizing Israel's government, not its existence as a country.

Kirby said Biden was glad she apologized. “We think an apology was the right thing to do,” he told reporters Monday.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim all three territories for a future independent state.

Israel has annexed east Jerusalem and claims it as part of its capital — a claim that is not internationally recognized. It says the West Bank is disputed territory whose fate should be determined through negotiations, while Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Two years later, the Hamas movement overran the territory.



Israeli Tanks at Edge of Rafah's Mawasi Refuge Zone

A man walks across  fallen tents the day after a strike on the al-Mawasi area, northwest of the Palestinian city of Rafah on June 22, 2024.  (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
A man walks across fallen tents the day after a strike on the al-Mawasi area, northwest of the Palestinian city of Rafah on June 22, 2024. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
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Israeli Tanks at Edge of Rafah's Mawasi Refuge Zone

A man walks across  fallen tents the day after a strike on the al-Mawasi area, northwest of the Palestinian city of Rafah on June 22, 2024.  (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
A man walks across fallen tents the day after a strike on the al-Mawasi area, northwest of the Palestinian city of Rafah on June 22, 2024. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Israeli tanks advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons' camp in the northwest of the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Sunday in fierce fighting with Hamas-led fighters, residents said.
Images of two Israeli tanks stationed on a hilltop overlooking the coastal area went viral on social media, but Reuters could not independently verify them.

"The fighting with the resistance has been intense. The occupation forces are overlooking the Mawasi area now, which forced families there to head for Khan Younis," said one resident, who asked not to be named, on a chat app.

More than eight months into Israel's war in the Hamas-administered Palestinian enclave, its advance is focused on the two areas its forces have yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza's southern tip and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the center.

Residents said Israeli tanks had pushed deeper into western and northern Rafah in recent days, blowing up dozens of houses.

The Israeli military said it was continuing "intelligence-based, targeted operations" in the Rafah area and had located weapons stores and tunnel shafts, and killed Palestinian gunmen.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement said their fighters had attacked Israeli forces in Rafah with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs and pre-planted explosive devices.

Elsewhere, an Israeli airstrike killed eight Palestinians in Sabra, a suburb of Gaza City in the north, and another strike killed two people in Nuseirat in central Gaza.

The military said it had struck dozens of targets throughout the Strip.

On Saturday, Palestinian health officials said at least 40 Palestinians had been killed in separate Israeli strikes in some northern Gaza districts, where the Israeli army said it had attacked Hamas's military infrastructure. Hamas said the targets were the civilian population.

In Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, health officials at Kamal Adwan Hospital said a baby had died of malnutrition, taking the number of children dead of malnutrition or dehydration since Oct. 7 to at least 30, a number that health officials say reflects under-recording.