US Senate delegation refuses to meet right-wing Israeli lawmakers during upcoming visit

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen and members of her delegation, including Republicans, are not slated to meet with Religious Zionism or Otzma Yehudit MKs, although they represent the third-largest political alliance in the country.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Democratic Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen will refuse to meet with any members of the Religious Zionism or Otzma Yehudit parties during her upcoming visit to Israel as part of a bipartisan delegation aimed at expanding the Abraham Accords.

According to an Axios report, Rosen and her aides “made it clear they do not want members of [Itamar] Ben-Gvir’s [Otzma Yehudit] or [Bezalel] Smotrich’s Religious Zionism parties to attend any of their meetings.”

Responding to the report, the Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed that Rosen and members of her delegation are not currently slated to meet with Religious Zionism or Otzma Yehudit lawmakers.

“It was Sen. Rosen’s request to not meet with members of the two far-right parties,” a source who is affiliated with Rosen told Axios.

As leader of the Abraham Accords Caucus, Rosen’s refusal to meet with members of Israel’s third-largest political alliance marks the first time that an American official has publicly expressed unwillingness to afford basic diplomatic courtesy to Israel’s right-wing lawmakers.

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Behind closed doors, American officials were said to have pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to appoint Religious Zionism chair Smotrich as defense minister and urged him to avoid granting a powerful ministry position to Otzma Yehudit head Ben-Gvir.

While U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides downplayed the American interference in Israeli domestic politics, saying that “they have said some things during the campaign, people say a lot of things during a campaign,” several American lawmakers hinted that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich could negatively impact bilateral relations.

Just before the November 2022 elections that saw Netanyahu return to power, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) warned Netanyahu, then Opposition leader, not to include “right-wing extremists” in a Likud-led coalition.

“I highly doubt that the administration will work with Ben-Gvir, certainly, and likely Smotrich as well,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who served in the role under former president Barack Obama.

The Axios report came on the heels of a visit by AIPAC officials to Israel, where they met with Netanyahu.

In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said that “the main struggle has been – and remains – with Iran.” The statement added that the premier “thanked the senior AIPAC officials for their contribution to strengthening the bond between the U.S. and Israel.”