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Delegation of Visiting U.S. Senators Asks Not to Meet with Smotrich and Ben Gvir

Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich with Otzma Yehudit party head MK Itamar Ben Gvir in the Knesset, on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich with Otzma Yehudit party head MK Itamar Ben Gvir in the Knesset, on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A delegation of US senators that arrived in Israel on Tuesday asked not to meet with far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir or any members of their hardline factions, according to an Israeli official.

The request was made by the office of Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen, who is co-leading the bipartisan delegation along with Republican Senator James Lankford, the Israeli official told The Times of Israel, confirming a report on the Axios news site.

The Biden administration has thus far restrained from publicly announcing such boycotts, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken explaining that the US will be gauging the new hardline Israeli government by its policies rather than its personalities. Other Biden officials, such as Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, have said their main interlocutor in Jerusalem will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and they will be holding him directly responsible for the moves of his far-right partners.

But others in the Democratic party appear less comfortable with the makeup of Netanyahu’s coalition, which has been deemed the most right-wing in Israel’s history. The fact that the request not to meet with Smotrich and Ben Gvir came from Rosen, who is seen as one of the Democratic caucus’s most pro-Israel members, also demonstrates how widespread the unease in Washington is, particularly within Biden’s party.

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