Israel: visiting US Senators avoid extremist ministers

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A delegation of US senators that arrived in Israel on Tuesday managed to avoid any meeting with far-right Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, and any members of their hardline factions, Axios news website has reported.

The senators made their request to avoid such a meeting through the office of Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen, who is co-leading the bipartisan delegation along with Republican Senator James Lankford. According to the Times of Israel, the delegation also includes Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Mark Kelly, along with Republicans Dan Sullivan and Ted Budd.

The delegation met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and other Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset. Israel is the final stop on the delegation’s trip to all four countries which are signatories of the Abraham Accords. They arrived in the region last Thursday.

In response to this snub, Ben-Gvir accused the Axios reporter who broke the story of engaging in a politically motivated “campaign” against him.

READ: Palestine campaign highlights racism at heart of new Israeli government

“In the last few weeks when there were quite a few requests from senators, ambassadors, consuls and international officials to meet with the minister, [the reporter] again chose to campaign against Minister Ben-Gvir,” said Ben-Gvir’s office. “The minister is busy with the affairs of the ministry but nevertheless hopes to make time for these important meetings with diplomats from all over the world in order to continue strengthening Israel’s position in the world.”

Last week, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides denied that there is a US boycott of Israeli ministers, but said that the US administration will deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.



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