Joe Biden Becomes First US President to Enter Israel’s Internal Debate

President Joe Biden on Saturday issued his first commentary on the controversial judicial reform debate currently underway in Israel, saying The New York Times newspaper a “consensus” was needed before enacting any reforms.

“The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary,” he told the newspaper in a statement. “Building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to make sure people buy into them so they can be sustained.”

Veteran columnist Tom Friedman penned the statement marked “the first time in my memory that a US president has ever weighed in on an internal Israeli debate over the very character of the country’s democracy.”

If Netanyahu “just keeps pushing forward” with reform, he will be effectively snubbing the US president, Friedman said.

“This is no small feat,” he wrote.

According to Friedman, the statement showed that the US-Israel relationship “was never truly based on shared interests” but “was always built out of our shared values.”

“Whatever Israel does, it must not fundamentally depart from these shared values. Otherwise, we are in a whole new world,” wrote Friedman, saying that Israeli actions in the West Bank, like its ongoing anti-terror campaign, “were not consistent with (US) values.”

The statement comes two days before the government is expected to approve the judicial reform proposals for the first of three readings in the Knesset.

Among the proposals, put forward earlier this month by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, is a ban on the so-called “measure of reasonableness” by which the Supreme Court can strike down any law or government action it deems “irrational.”

For example, the court found it “unreasonable” to allow religious Jews to pray on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – because it would anger the Arab world. Other changes would include the appointment of judges, which is currently done by an “independent” committee behind closed doors, something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he wants to change to allow those elected to have more say.

Friedman said that Netanyahu intended to “take away the independence of the Supreme Court of Israel” and “put it under Netanyahu’s control”, and went on to say that the reforms would “seriously harm Israel’s democracy and therefore its close ties with America”. and democracies everywhere. ”

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