US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, like his boss, President Joe Biden, is a true friend of Israel. We thank him for coming to Jerusalem this week, standing with Israel, condemning terror and speaking out about the US-Israel alliance based on shared values.
Although the government’s proposed legal reform is clearly a domestic issue, Blinken showed that he, as a friend, is concerned about the country’s planned judicial overhaul and the widespread protests – and expressed it by raising it in his talks with Israeli leaders.
“Throughout the relationship between our countries, what we come back to time and again is that it is rooted both in shared interests and in shared values.”Antony Blinken
“Throughout the relationship between our countries, what we come back to time and again is that it is rooted both in shared interests and in shared values,” said Blinken after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. “That includes our support for core democratic principles and institutions, including respect for human rights, the equal administration of justice for all, the equal rights of minority groups, the rule of law, free press, a robust civil society – and the vibrancy of Israel’s civil society has been on full display of late.”
The secretary went a step further, advising the government that it should aspire to a broad consensus, not only for Israel’s sake but to uphold its democratic image in the world.
“The commitment of people in both our countries to make their voices heard to defend their rights is one of the unique strengths of our democracies,” he said. “Another is a recognition that building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they’re embraced and that they endure.”
Blinken’s comments are the strongest the Biden administration has made to date about the government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court. According to the respected American news website Axios, the judicial plan wasn’t initially at the top of the Biden administration’s priorities related to its policy toward Israel. “Many inside the administration didn’t think the US should weigh in on it,” it reported. “But as the internal debate in Israel escalated, the White House realized that there was a need to make clear where it stood on the plan, US officials said.”
A US official told Axios that after White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan raised the issue with Netanyahu in private during his visit to Jerusalem two weeks ago, the administration decided that Blinken would speak about it publicly. In his meeting with President Isaac Herzog, Blinken praised “the clarity of your voice when it comes to working to de-escalate tensions here among communities, and the clarity of your voice when it comes to finding a good way forward that builds consensus on the question of judicial reform.”
For his part, Herzog diplomatically told Blinken that while he is “heavily devoted” to resolving the issue, it is one that ultimately Israel must work out by itself.
“At the end of the day, we have to resolve our issues amicably, internally, as societies and nations should do, and this is my main focus these very days,” Herzog said.
US is concerned with Israeli domestic turmoil
Although Blinken also discussed the recent terror attacks, condemning those who celebrated “acts of terrorism that take innocent lives,” the recent strike on Iran’s missile facility in Isfahan, and the news that Israel had passed a key hurdle for eligibility in the US Visa Waiver Program, it’s clear that the domestic turmoil in on the minds of the American leadership.
Some politicians, like Religious Zionism Party MK Orit Strock, think that Blinken and the US are meddling in the country’s internal affairs and wrote a provocative tweet aimed at the secretary of state.
“Dear Mr. Blinken, I understand that you decided to give our prime minister a lesson in democracy. Well, democracy is first of all the duty of a country to determine its course according to the votes of its citizens, each of which is given equal weight, without foreign involvement. Demonstrations, however legitimate they may be, are not equivalent to a ballot.”Orit Struck
“Dear Mr. Blinken, I understand that you decided to give our prime minister a lesson in democracy,” Strock tweeted. “Well, democracy is first of all the duty of a country to determine its course according to the votes of its citizens, each of which is given equal weight, without foreign involvement. Demonstrations, however legitimate they may be, are not equivalent to a ballot.”
What Strock, and others on the far Right, don’t seem to understand, is that the US indeed does have a right to offer its concern and reservations about a plan with such far-reaching implications as the proposed judicial overhaul.
We would expect nothing less from such a good friend.