Times of Israel

A senior government official traveling in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s entourage on his weekend trip to Italy claimed on Friday that the massive public protests against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul were being fueled and funded by the Biden administration.

‘This protest is financed and organized with millions of dollars,’ he said.

‘We are following what is happening. This is a very high-level organization. There is an organized center from which all the demonstrators branch out in an orderly manner,’ the senior official said.

‘Who finances the transportation, the flags, the stages? It’s clear to us,’ he said.

Another member of the premier’s entourage confirmed that the senior official was referring to the United States.

A similar claim was made last week by pro-Netanyahu pundit Yakov Bardugo on Channel 14 news, an outlet closely allied with the premier.

And on Saturday evening, Netanyahu’s son Yair shared an article about a report in the far-right Washington Free Beacon revealing that the State Department provides grant money to the Movement for Quality Government, an organization that has been leading the protests against the judicial overhaul.

The legislative plans by the right-religious government, Israel’s most hardline to date, have sparked mass public protests in Israel for over two months, as well as fierce backlash from opposition politicians and dire warnings from economists, business leaders, legal experts and security officials.

The statements by the top official and others close to the premier are a sign of the serious difficulties Netanyahu is facing in his government’s relations with the US, with the official response seemingly being to lash out at Washington.

Over two months since entering office, Netanyahu has yet to receive an invitation to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House for ‘a number of reasons,’ according to a senior Israeli official who briefed reporters during the premier’s visit to Rome.

The official did not elaborate as to what those reasons are.

However, he said that the question as to why Netanyahu hasn’t received an invitation would be better addressed to the White House.

A US official and a senior Middle Eastern diplomat told The Times of Israel last month that plans by the US and the UAE to host Netanyahu have been placed on the back burner, with the two sources explaining that the respective governments are frustrated with the new government’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and waiting to see what unfolds on the ground during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins later in March. The Ramadan period has often added another layer of tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

During Friday’s briefing, the senior Israeli official blamed the deal reached by Saudi Arabia and Iran to reestablish diplomatic relations on the combined weakness of the previous Israeli government and the Biden administration.

‘There was a feeling of American and Israeli weakness, so Saudi Arabia turned to other channels,’ said the senior Israeli official, despite the fact that media reports indicated negotiations between Riyadh and Tehran began in April 2021, when Netanyahu was still prime minister.

The remarks represented another clear shot by the Prime Minister’s Office at Biden, who entered office pledging to reenter the Iran nuclear deal but has gradually moved away from that effort over the past year amid Tehran’s military cooperation with Russia and the ongoing protests in the Islamic Republic against the regime there.

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