White House officials are continuing their war on Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich – and it would seem on the State of Israel as well by extension – with a new tactic: diplomatic boycott, according to a report Wednesday by The Forward.
Senior Biden Administration officials who were said to be Jewish declined an invitation to speak at the upcoming Israel Bonds conference that begins this Sunday, where Smotrich is slated to appear, according to the report.
But a spokesperson for Israel Bonds told The Forward under condition of anonymity that the White House officials had declined the invitation way before the address by Smotrich was announced – and in fact, way before the tragic murder on February 26 of two Israeli brothers as they stood in traffic on a main artery in the Palestinian Authority town of Huwara and the riot through the town by local Israeli residents that followed.
According to the source who spoke with the news outlet, “Israel Bonds sent invitations to the conference to three administration officials. One official let them know they could not attend more than a month ago, and the other two never replied.”
A number of leftist Jewish American groups such as Americans for Peace Now and Progressive Israel Network have said they plan on demonstrating against the conference venue, the Grand Hyatt in Washington DC.
Moreover, approximately 140 Jewish leaders led by the Israel Policy Forum signed a letter a week ago urging US groups to boycott Israel’s finance minister during his visit to the US.
The Israel Bonds organization which works with the finance ministry of the State of Israel, invites the country’s finance minister each year to address its annual conference, however, and this year was no exception.
Some media are playing the snub by the White House as a boycott against Smotrich in response to an emotional statement he made following the Feb. 26 slaughter of two Israeli brothers by a Palestinian Authority terrorist as they stood in traffic on Route 60 in the town of Huwara. Israelis are forced to travel through the town because there is no bypass road.
Smotrich had said in a statement following the murders and a rampage by outraged local Israeli residents through the town hours later that Huwara should be “wiped out” by the Israeli government, and “not by Israeli civilians taking the law into their own hands.”
But like most leaders who say unconscionable things before actually thinking it through, Smotrich subsequently issued a “clarification” saying that he never meant those words — which he explained as “a slip of the tongue amid a storm of emotions” — to be taken literally.
White House officials have repeatedly slammed Israel’s policies under its new right-wing government and in particular have sought ways to politically neutralize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On March 6, the Washington Free Beacon reported that the State Department is funneling money to organizers behind anti-government protesters in Israel.
Since 2020, the Biden Administration has sent more than $38,000 to the “Movement for Quality Government” for so-called “democracy education” according to documents reviewed by the news outlet.
“The money was meant to be used for democracy training programs in the Israeli school system,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon.
Movement for Quality Government is a leftist activist group that is one of the organizers behind the tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators regularly clogging the country’s streets in a deliberate move to slow traffic and disrupt Israeli life over the government’s proposed judicial reforms. Last week, hundreds of protesters trapped the prime minister’s wife Sarah, forcing her to remain at a Tel Aviv hair salon for hours until police arrived to escort her to safety.
“The State Department should never fund foreign partisan organizations in allied democracies,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the news outlet. “If the shoe was on the other foot, the Biden administration would accuse Israel of interfering in our elections. Congress should absolutely review the State Department’s potential funding of partisan politics in Israel.”
Israel Bonds, to its credit, has not canceled its invitation to Smotrich. “Development Corporation for Israel, known as Israel Bonds, is an independent financial organization that does not endorse, nor is it associated with any political administration, any individual politician, or any ideology,” the Israel Bonds spokesperson said in an email to The Forward.
“In pursuit of the meaningful work we do, we appreciate investors, supporters, and all others continuing to keep our efforts separate from any aspect of internal Israeli politics.”
The White House, however, is continuing its efforts to topple the Netanyahu government. The US has yet to issue a visa to Israel’s finance minister for his visit to address the Israel Bonds conference, which starts Sunday, despite the fact that Smotrich holds a diplomatic passport.
All this, as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to arrive in Israel on Thursday for talks with his counterpart, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and the prime minister. The three men are slated to issue statements to media following the meeting, during which undoubtedly Austin will reiterate the closeness of US-Israel ties and reprise the refrain about the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and the Jewish State.