Democratic values are the “hallmark” of the American-Israel relationship, US President Joe Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call, in which he urged the prime minister to seek broad popular support for his government’s judicial overhaul plan.
“The president underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship,” according to the White House transcript of Sunday’s conversation.
Biden gave a nod to efforts by President Isaac Herzog to forge a compromise between coalition and opposition members of Knesset on the proposed judicial overhaul. Netanyahu has rejected the compromise as insufficient.
Biden “offered support for efforts underway to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles,” the White House said as it described the first conversation between the leaders about the judicial overhaul plan.
He told Netanyahu that “democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.”
Biden, however, had previously issued a comment on the importance of urging Netanyahu to take a consensus approach on judicial reform. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of the importance of consensus when he visited Jerusalem last month, and issued a statement on the matter again this week during an interview with Agence France-Presse.
Netanyahu assured Biden that Israel would remain a “strong and vibrant” democracy, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Discussing regional affairs
The two leaders also discussed the “Quintet” meeting that took place at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh between delegations from the United States, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Biden welcomed the Sharm el-Sheikh summit stating that it “reinforced the need for all sides to take urgent, collaborative steps to enhance security coordination, condemn all acts of terrorism, and maintain the viability of a two-state solution.”
Netanyahu provided Biden with information on the Palestinian shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara in which an Israeli-American couple was injured.
Israel will “continue to take action everywhere against terrorists and the architects of terrorism,” Netanyahu told Biden.
The conversation also focused “on the Iranian threat and expanding the circle of peace,” the PMO said.
Biden “reiterated his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and the ongoing cooperation between our national security teams, including to counter all threats posed by Iran,” the statement said.
Neither of the statements from the White House or the Prime Minister’s Office discussed what is believed to be an upcoming visit by Netanyahu to Washington. It had been expected that Netanyahu would travel to the US capital to meet with Biden within the first months of his premiership, but no such trip has been forthcoming and a date for such a trip has not been set.
US officials have rebuffed concerns that the absence of such a trip was the result of tensions between Washington and Jerusalem over the judicial reform plan. Those officials have cited scheduling concerns and pointed to the long-standing strong relationship between the two men, which goes back to the 1980s.