Jewish Dems Defend Israel’s Democracy

March 13, 2023

Yesterday, I delivered remarks at a rally supporting democracy in Israel and protesting Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s visit to Washington, D.C.

As more than 100 Jewish leaders, including many members of JDCA’s Board, conveyed in a statement last week, “we call on all pro-Israel Americans to understand that welcoming Smotrich here will harm, rather than help, support for Israel…His presence in the U.S. to address primarily Jewish audiences would be an affront to American Jewish values, and he should not be given a platform in our community, all the more so in light of his most recent comments about Huwara.”

Motivated by deep support for Israel and the shared values on which the U.S.-Israel relationship is based, I spoke out yesterday at the protest and today in Haaretz.

Here are my remarks:

d to defeat extremists – including the one in the White House – at the ballot box. We did it in 2018, in 2020, and again in the 2022 midterms, when the number one issue for Jewish American voters – according to national polling – was the future of our democracy.

Today, Israel is at a similar inflection point, with its democracy at a precipice. Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich is part of a group of democratically elected Israeli government officials directly threatening the power of Israel’s judiciary and its democratic system of checks and balances. In response, JDCA has stated its concern about Israel’s proposed judicial overhaul, and support for President Herzog’s calls for compromise and consensus.

While American Jews respect the right of Israelis to elect whomever they choose, we have the right to express support for democracy, whether here or in Israel. We also have the right – indeed the obligation – to speak out when Israeli officials express views that are antithetical to the foundation of U.S.-Israel relations.

For ten consecutive weeks, Israelis have taken to the streets, with each week’s protests growing in numbers and strength. This week, half a million Israelis protested across the country, some of whom spoke directly to members of the coalition, including Minister Smotrich.

They chanted “You forgot that the country is not yours alone; it is ours as well and we will fight for it.” There is hope in this refrain – Israelis are fighting for their future as a democracy, and American Jews – including this one – stand with them in this fight.

Thank you for your continued support and partnership.


Halie Soifer
CEO, Jewish Democratic Council of America