Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s harsh tone in accusing the US of intervening with Israel’s internal affairs this Wednesday might be the start of an end to the strategic alliance between Washington and Tel Aviv.
In a rare moment of rising tensions between Israel and the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the US President Joe Biden after he rebuked Netanyahu for his controversial judicial overhaul plan. On this Tuesday, the 80-year-old President of the United States urged Netanyahu to abandon the judicial overhaul proposal.
It was in January and two weeks after Netanyahu was sworn in that he announced plans to overhaul the country’s Supreme Court. The proposal is aimed at weakening Israel’s Judiciary in favor of the Knesset and if passed into law, it would give the Israeli government greater control over appointments to the Supreme Court.
As Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan caused weeks of nationwide protests in Israel, he was finally forced on Monday to succumb to the people’s will and unwillingly delay the proposal.
“I will turn every stone in order to find a solution,” Netanyahu said in a televised address on Monday evening, adding also that. “we are in the height of the crisis that is threatening our basic unity.” Netanyahu, however, maintained that the overhaul was still needed. “A large majority of the public today recognizes the necessity of democratic reform in the judicial system,” he said.
In response to Netanyahu’s statement, the White House initially asserted that the Israeli Prime Minister should seek a compromise on the issue and that delaying the proposal is not the solution. But President Biden didn’t see this as enough and went further in criticizing Netanyahu; “I hope he walks away from it,” Biden said, referring to the judicial proposal.
Netanyahu lashed out at his old friend
Furious at Biden’s too-strict approach in dealing with a foreign policy issue, Netanyahu couldn’t wait to lash out at the US president and within a few hours after Biden’s words, issued a statement in response.
“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 said, adding also that his administration was striving to make reforms “via broad consensus.”
Netanyahu further noted that “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”.
More drawbacks than expected for Bibi over his judicial overhaul plan
Critics argue that the proposals would deal a potentially fatal blow to the country’s system of checks and balances, which are not enshrined because Israel does not have a written constitution.
But it seems that threatening Israel’s democracy is only the tip of the iceberg and the drawbacks of such an unprecedented move for the Israeli government are international. This is true in the case that the controversial plan is indeed blurring ties between Israel and the United States.
In other words, never has a US administration been so straightly critical of Israel’s internal affairs, and at the same time, never has Netanyahu been so harshly criticizing a US president and accused him of intervening with Israel’s domestic policy-making. Is this the beginning of an end to years of strategic relations between Washington and Tel Aviv? Time will tell.