Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu have what is called a resilient relationship. However, the crisis in Israel triggered by the right-wing government’s planned judicial reform represents a special test for both of them. After all, it’s not about a foreign policy controversy or how to deal with the Palestinians, but about the internal affairs of the State of Israel. The fact that Netanyahu finally bowed to pressure and postponed judicial reform is primarily due to pressure at home. But the American President also played a role.
Biden could not ignore attempts to curtail the powers of Israel’s Supreme Court. American Jewry, which has struggled with Israel’s policies for years, is a significant part of the Democratic electorate. The formation of the right-wing government under Netanyahu increased alienation.
Biden has also made it his task not only to overcome the divisions in his own country after the Trump era, but also to arm liberal democracies against populist and authoritarian dangers. Another virtual “democracy summit” with 121 states is to be held on Wednesday, which Netanyahu wanted to attend. Would it damage the American President’s credibility if the Israeli Prime Minister took the floor? So Biden had to take a stand, even if that meant interfering in Israeli domestic politics.
USA was “very concerned”
On Monday, the American government was initially very tight-lipped. When John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, answered questions from the press that morning, he did not want to confirm the report that Netanyahu had decided to postpone the controversial reform. We have to wait and see how things develop, he said. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre later praised Netanyahu’s announcement. You give more time to search for a compromise.
On Sunday, the White House said it was “very concerned” about events in Israel. The mass protests underscored the “urgent need” to find a compromise. The White House recalled that Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call in mid-March that Americans from both political camps were concerned about parts of the reform. He urged him to find necessary compromises to see his country through this challenge.
“Democratic values” have always characterized American-Israeli relations – this must remain so, the President said. Democratic societies would be strengthened by “checks and balances”, the system of controls and counterweights. Fundamental changes in the democratic system should be made on the widest possible basis of popular support. That was a clear statement. Netanyahu, however, appears unimpressed for the time being.
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