Kounalakis slams Calif. universities over handling of Palestinian protests

California’s Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial candidate did not mince words about the protests on college campuses.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis sharply criticized how California’s universities have handled the pro-Palestinian protests that have taken over campuses. 

Kounalakis spoke out to the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California {JPAC) on Tuesday. 


The big picture: Kounalakis, the first candidate to jump into the governor’s race to succeed Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2026, attended JPAC, which held its summit this week in Sacramento to advocate for Jewish issues to the legislature. 

  • With over 50 legislators in attendance at its reception Tuesday evening, Kounalakis criticized Sonoma State for agreeing to the demands made by the pro-Palestinian protesters who were camped out on campus for weeks. 
  • Kounalakis sits on the governing boards of the University of California, California State University and California community college systems in her role as lieutenant governor. 

What they’re saying: “The campuses were woefully unprepared,” Kounalakis told JPAC, per reporting from GV Wire, adding that the campuses were not equipped to quickly handle the encampments even though there were Jewish students who felt unsafe. 

  • She also called for clarification on how protesters could be violating the law. 
  • “The most important thing that we can be doing from the UC standpoint is clarifying where the lines are between freedom to assemble, freedom of speech and crossing over into the territory of violations of state law, federal law, of course, but also violations of codes of conduct,” Kounalakis said. 
  • Kounalakis also spoke against students chanting “from the river to the sea,” which she called outrageous. 
  • “We have to fight back and educate our students [so they] understand the very importance morally and from a national security standpoint of the existence, celebration and empowerment of Israel in the region,” Kounalakis said. 
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