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US embassy in Jerusalem again snubs Ben-Gvir and Smotrich

U.S. Chargé d'Affaires Stephanie Hallett invited "many" other Israeli officials to the event, according to Israeli media reports.

Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir attend Otzma Yehudit party's election campaign event in Bat Yam on April 06, 2019. Photo: Gili Yaari /Flash90
Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir attend Otzma Yehudit party's election campaign event in Bat Yam on April 06, 2019. Photo: Gili Yaari /Flash90

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich did not receive invites to the U.S. Embassy’s annual Rosh Hashanah reception, continuing the Biden administration’s snub of the two senior cabinet members.

According to a Channel 13 report published on Wednesday, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Hallett invited “many” Israeli officials to the event, but boycotted Ben-Gvir, Smotrich and fellow members of their Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit alliance.

A spokesperson for the embassy told JNS that “the guest list for the embassy’s reception for Rosh Hashana includes people with whom the embassy has a close working relationship,” adding that “security concerns preclude us from publicly sharing the guest list for this event or any logistical details.”

The National Security Ministry offered no comment when asked by JNS whether Ben-Gvir had received an invitation.

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir were also kept off the guest list two months ago when the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem celebrated Independence Day, with the embassy similarly stating that the guest list included “people with whom the embassy has a close working relationship.”

“The minister will use the time of the ceremony to continue advancing Israel’s independence, development, and prosperity across our land,” Smotrich’s office stated in July, while wishing “mazal tov to our biggest ally and friend, the United States.”

The Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit hold a combined total of 13 seats in the Knesset, having received 516,470 votes in the Nov. 1, 2022 election. The two parties control seven government ministries, and have deputy ministers in the finance and defense ministries.

Late last month, Smotrich directed pointed comments at the Biden administration for its criticism of the Israeli government’s policies.

“No country is as ethical as Israel, and no military is as ethical as the IDF. Anyone in the world who criticizes us is a hypocrite,” the Religious Zionism Party head said during an interview with Army Radio.

Smotrich spoke in reference to U.S. criticism of a recent statement made by Ben-Gvir that his family’s right to life trumps the freedom of movement of Arabs in Judea and Samaria. The remarks drew widespread condemnation, with the U.S. State Department calling them “inflammatory” and “racist.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the Otzma Yehudit Party last week visited Abu Dhabi at the invitation of senior Emirati officials. Eliyahu flew to the Emirates to gain a deeper understanding of the “trajectory of the Abraham Accords,” he revealed on Wednesday.

“If you look closely, you understand how great the potential is for creating healthy relationships between nations,” Eliyahu concluded in a Facebook post.

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