Israel’s Proposed Sex-Segregation Law Would Expand, Not Restrict, Freedom of Association

Dec. 19 2022

Among the pieces of legislation Orthodox parties wish to advance in the new Knesset is one that, according to its critics, threatens to impose on Israeli women a situation akin to that found in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Ruthie Blum explains that it will do nothing of the sort:

The Religious Zionism and United Torah Judaism parties are demanding that legislation be enacted to enable the separation of men and women at publicly sponsored events without its being deemed discriminatory. The purpose of the move is to prevent a repeat of a ridiculous 2019 court-ordered cancellation of a sold-out concert by the renowned ḥasidic singer Motty Steinmetz at the Afula Municipal Park.

The ruling was spurred by a “Women’s Lobby” petition challenging the separate seating that had been arranged ahead of the much-anticipated musical happening. That this was at the behest of a mainly-ḥaredi audience made no difference to its detractors. Ditto for the many other similar anti-Orthodox appeals over the years.

Contrary to the claims of disingenuous fear-mongers, the religious parties do not intend to impose gender segregation on the general public. They simply aim to allow for it among those whose interpretation and observance of certain talmudic decrees requires it. [Meanwhile, their opponents are] mum about gender segregation in the secular sector. The latest case in point is a “women only” cruise along the Yarkon River, which took place on Friday under the auspices of and advertised by the Tel Aviv municipality.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli politics, Judaism in Israel, Ultra-Orthodox

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship