President Joe Biden on Saturday issued his first comment on the controversial judicial overhaul debate currently raging in Israel, telling The New York Times a “consensus” was needed before enacting any reforms.
“The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary,” he told the newspaper in a statement. “Building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained.”
Veteran columnist Tom Friedman wrote the statement marked “the first time I can recall a U.S. president has ever weighed in on an internal Israeli debate about the very character of the country’s democracy.”
If Netanyahu “just keeps plowing ahead” with the reform, he will effectively be snubbing the U.S. president, Friedman asserted.
“That’s no small deal,” he wrote.
The Biden administration declined to defend Israel at a United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday called to rebuke Israel for allowing a Jewish minister to visit the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. https://t.co/OAe6td3C0x
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According to Friedman, the statement showed that the U.S.-Israeli relationship “has never truly rested on shared interests,” but has “always been built up from our shared values.”
“[W]hatever Israel does, it must not fundamentally depart from those shared values. Otherwise, we are in a totally new world,” Friedman wrote, saying that Israeli actions in the West Bank, such as its ongoing anti-terror campaign, was “not consistent with [U.S.] values.”
The statement comes two days before the government is set to pass the proposals for judicial reform for the first of three readings in the Knesset.
Among the proposals, presented early last month by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, is nixing the so-called “reasonableness measure” by which the Supreme Court can strike down any law or government action it deems “unreasonable.”
Joe Biden has appointed former anti-Israel activist Maher Bitar to the role of senior director for intelligence programs at the NSC. https://t.co/nuzop7xGxG
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For example, the court ruled it “unreasonable” to allow religious Jews to pray on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – because doing so would anger the Arab world. Other changes would include the appointment of justices, which is currently done by an “independent” committee and behind closed doors, something that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he wants to change to allow elected officials to have more say in.
Friedman said Netanyahu aimed “to strip the Israeli Supreme Court of its independence” and “put it instead under Netanyahu’s thumb,” and went on to say that the reforms would “seriously damage Israel’s democracy and therefore its close ties to America and democracies everywhere.”
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