President Joe Biden advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “not rush” the legislation that has so bitterly split Israel, days before he is about to force through the first portion of his plan to undermine Israel’s Supreme Court.
It was a president of the United States making an unusually direct intervention in the affairs of one of the country’s closest friends.
By Wednesday, there was little sign that Biden’s remarks, as reported by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, had altered Netanyahu’s political calculations.
The first section of the legislation could be passed through parliament as early as Sunday, according to Netanyahu, who claims he would do so despite tremendous pressure from his government’s far-right members.
This is true despite widespread street protests that have halted areas of the nation and an increasing number of military reservists announcing they will skip work if the plan proceeds.
By passing the law, the Supreme Court would no longer be able to declare government actions to be “unreasonable.
According to Netanyahu, the ambiguous term gives unelected judges too much power to thwart an elected government’s policy objective.
However, detractors assert that it is one of the few restraints on the authority of the government, which holds a majority in Israel’s unicameral parliament.
The court applied the reasonableness criteria earlier this year to prevent Netanyahu from nominating an associate who had been found guilty of tax fraud to a key Cabinet position.
Israel’s democracy, which must continue to be at the centre of our bilateral relationship, is clearly a subject on which Israelis have strong opinions, as evidenced by the country’s ongoing protest movement.
Reservists in the Israeli military oppose Tel Aviv’s attempts to restructure the justice system.AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg
“Taking the time you need means finding consensus on contentious policy areas,” he concluded. “That’s crucial for substantial improvements.
Therefore, I advise Israeli authorities not to move too quickly. The best result, in my opinion, will come from continuing to look for the broadest agreement possible.
Friedman, a steadfast supporter of Israel who has expressed increasing concern over the country’s course under Netanyahu, claimed Biden asked him to the Oval Office on Tuesday for a one-hour, fifteen-minute discussion so that he could make his message “crystal clear to all Israelis.”
Although the columnist did not precisely mention Netanyahu expressing that concern, Biden was described as “deeply worried for the stability and future of Israel” in the article.
(A request for comment on the Friedman article was not immediately met with a response from the White House.)
Israeli demonstrators are increasingly pleading with the Biden administration to scale up its intervention in the nation’s political crisis. On Tuesday night, large crowds gathered in front of a U.S. embassy building in Tel Aviv, urging the White House to take additional action.
“President Biden, we love you, please save us!” read a post made by a protester who was toting an American flag.
However, several demonstrators also voiced their displeasure about Biden’s decision this week to meet Netanyahu in the United States later this year.
Biden has yet to extend an invitation to Netanyahu to the White House, which was generally seen in Israel as an indication that the United States is opposed to the judicial reform. Netanyahu assumed office in December.
On the other hand, days before the legislative vote, Biden’s decision to extend an invitation to the United States gave Netanyahu a political victory.
“What message is being sent by this? You’re extending an invitation to a dictator who wants to destroy democracy to the Oval Office? This is intolerable, and we call on the U.S. administration to support Israelis who are tenaciously defending Israeli democracy, according to Josh Drill, a protest representative, who talked to NBC News.
Israeli opposition leaders and commentators have frequently warned that the rift over Netanyahu’s judicial proposals was harming relations between the United States and Israel.
According to the Institute for National Security Studies, a renowned Israeli think tank, “for the first time in the history of relations between the two countries, the United States is concerned that Israel will no longer be a democracy.
Although there has always been tension in the unique ties between Jerusalem and Washington, this development is unparalleled. It calls into question such a crucial tenet of those ties.
Concerns over deteriorating ties are made worse by the perception that Biden’s Democratic Party is drifting away from Israel. Democratic lawmakers are particularly unhappy about how Israel treats the Palestinians.
This week, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, declared Israel “a racist state,” though she later took that statement down.
That movement is probably going to continue, according to Joel Rubin, a former State Department employee who also served as president of the American Jewish Congress.
He emphasized how younger politicians are gradually replacing older ones, whose views on Israel were formed after the Oslo Accords of the 1990s and the two Palestinian uprisings, or intifadas, which strengthened U.S. support for Israel. Older politicians like Biden, who spent decades in the Senate fostering close Israeli ties, are gradually being replaced.
Biden might be the final candidate, according to Rubin. The majority of the remaining American political figures will be trained in the post-Oslo, post-Intifada environment and will not have the same emotional ties to Israel as Joe Biden does.
At an Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem, Palestinians are lined up.Through AFP and Getty Images, Hazem Bader
Although there are tensions over Netanyahu’s strategy that are visible to the public, current and former U.S. officials have emphasized that the Biden administration has continued to work to advance Israel’s security and diplomatic interests, maintaining the traditional U.S. role as Israel’s steadfast ally.
Behind the scenes, senior U.S. officials are attempting to negotiate a historic rapprochement agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Dan Shapiro, a former American ambassador to Israel, was chosen by the government to a recently created position with the goal of spreading the Abraham Accords, which saw the United Arab Emirates and other Arab nations recognize Israel.
After President Isaac Herzog’s visit to the White House, in which he referred to Biden as a “huge friend of Israel,” the administration announced a deal on Wednesday to eventually permit visa-free travel to the U.S. if Israel satisfies certain requirements – satisfying a long-standing desire.
In exchange, Israel will alter its immigration policies to ensure that all Americans entering the country are treated equally regardless of their nationality, religion, or race, including Palestinian Americans.
One of the most contentious provisions of the law, which would have empowered the legislature to vote to disregard Supreme Court decisions, was abandoned by Netanyahu in recent months.
After months of talks between the government and the opposition ended without a deal, Netanyahu now seems prepared to force through the first portion of the legislative package on Sunday.