Biden's ultimatum to Israel: stop judicial reform, or risk U.S. alliance

July 21, 2023
Matthew Boose

President Biden issued a threat to Israel's Bejamin Netanyahu, warning America's relationship with its longtime ally is at risk over controversial reforms to Israel's judiciary.

The ultimatum was given to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who published an unhinged column warning Netanyahu to do what Biden says, or else.

Friedman said he was invited to the Oval Office Tuesday to receive the message from Biden, who said he was heartened by massive protests that have swept Israel, pushing the nation to the brink of crisis.

The protests are evidence of the "vibrancy of Israel's democracy," Biden said, echoing rhetoric he has used to target political opponents at home.

Biden warns Israel

The reforms in Israel would, leftists say, amount to a right-wing coup, but the right in Israel says they would strengthen democracy by reining in an activist Supreme Court.

Biden isn't keeping his own views a secret, telling Friedman that Netanyahu must build a consensus over the reforms before moving ahead. Otherwise, Israel's commitment to "democracy" would come into question, jeopardizing its alliance with America, Biden said.

“This is obviously an area about which Israelis have strong views, including in an enduring protest movement that is demonstrating the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy, which must remain the core of our bilateral relationship,” Biden told Friedman.

Biden is "basically pleading with Netanyahu and the prime minister’s supporters to understand" that it "will be difficult to sustain the special relationship that Israel and America have enjoyed for the last 75 years for another 75 years" if Israel doesn't play ball, Friedman said.

Meddling Biden

Netanyahu has made clear he doesn't appreciate Biden's bullying of Israel, emphasizing that Israel "is an independent country that makes its decisions according to the will of its citizens and not based on external pressures, including our best friends."

During a phone call Monday, Netanyahu told Biden that the opposition in Israel is not serious about negotiating the reform because they fear backlash from protesters.

It's pretty clear that Biden is totally opposed to the reform as well, despite his talk about building "consensus."

While he goes meddling in Israel's affairs, Biden has taken a similar heavy-handed approach toward America's own institutions, freely launching rhetorical bombs at the Supreme Court for issuing decisions he doesn't like.

On second thought, maybe Biden isn't the best spokesman for "democracy."

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