Israel ignores Biden's threats, passes judicial reform

July 24, 2023
Matthew Boose

Israel ignored threats of isolation from President Biden on Monday and passed a controversial judicial reform that Biden has condemned as an attack on "democracy." 

The White House sent out an extraordinary statement Sunday demanding that its longtime, sovereign ally refrain from the "divisive" reform, which has pushed Israel into a political crisis.

Biden published the statement as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at the hospital to have a pacemaker installed.

He was discharged Monday shortly before the Knesset rammed through the reforms over the objections of the opposition, which boycotted the vote as a massive crowd of protesters gathered outside.

Israel passes reform

Left-wing critics in and outside of Israel have blasted Netanyahu's judicial reforms as an attack on "democracy" and checks and balances, but conservative supporters say the opposite is true and that the reforms will rein in a partisan Supreme Court.

The bill that passed Monday was the first step in the judicial overhaul, which has led to massive protests across Israel for months.

"We have taken the first step in a historic process to correct the judicial system," Israel's Justice Minister Yariv Levin said.

Biden has made his displeasure with the reform clear, telling Axios that Netanyahu should not "rush" and find a consensus first. But Israel's government has said the opposition is not serious about negotiating a compromise.

"Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this — the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus," Biden said.

Biden snubbed

In a statement to the New York Times last week, Biden used sharper language to frame the reform as a threat to Israel's "democracy" and the nation's alliance with America, a pillar of U.S. foreign policy for decades.

"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 said.

Biden's lectures are extremely ironic, given the measures - including outright censorship - Biden has deployed to repress and destroy critics at home. Indeed, Biden has not hesitated to condemn America's own Supreme Court as "extreme" and basically illegitimate.

With this reform, Israel has sent a clear message that it isn't going to be bullied by the tyrant in the White House.

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