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Netanyahu Rejects Biden Advice to Abandon Judicial Reform

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

JERUSALEM, Israel – President Joe Biden weighed in on the judicial reform debate within Israel and asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the legislation, putting a strain on U.S.-Israel relations.

At an airport press event Tuesday, reporters asked President Biden about the health of democracy in Israel.

Biden replied, "Like many strong supporters of Israel, I'm very concerned and I'm concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. And I've sort of made that clear. I hope for, hopefully, the Prime Minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise. But that remains to be seen.”

The president added he had no intention of inviting Netanyahu to the White House anytime soon. Later, he told a Reuters reporter he hopes Netanyahu walks away from judicial reform.

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In response, the prime minister acknowledged his 40-year friendship with Biden, but tweeted:

“Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends.”

Netanyahu added, "My administration is committed to strengthening democracy by restoring the proper balance between the three branches of government, which we are striving to achieve via a broad consensus.”

Biden's comments gave fuel to Netanyahu's political foes.

Benny Gantz, leader of Israel's National Unity Party and former defense minister, sided with the White House, tweeting in Hebrew, "President Biden sent an urgent wake-up call to the Israeli government tonight. Damaging relations with the US, our best friend and our most important ally, is a strategic attack. The Prime Minister must guide his negotiating teams regarding the legal legislation to act quickly to correct the situation and preserve the Israeli democracy that is at the basis of these values.”

Still, many coalitiion supporters and other observers within Israel believe judicial reform will strenthen israel's democracy.

Dan Diker, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, observed, “The Supreme Court has (been) virtually unchecked, making it almost a separate state within a state. It's the rebalancing that Israel democracy is calling upon itself to rebalance the relationship between the judicial, legislative, legislative and executive branches.”

There is also concern that divisions over Iran also are behind the open opposition of the White House toward Netanyahu. 

Alex Traiman, Jerusalem Bureau Chief for JNS News, told CBN News, “I believe that Israel wants to take concrete military action and by removing support publicly from judicial reforms and from other policy issues, the US is making clear that they’re not on the same page with Netanyahu’s agenda.”

In the meantime, negotiations continue at the President's Residence in Jerusalem between those who oppose and support judicial reform. 

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