For a president who often seems befuddled, Joe Biden sure seems to find his footing when it comes to meddling in Israel’s internal affairs.
Both before and after the Knesset voted earlier this week on the first stage of the government’s judicial reform program, Biden took the unusual step of criticizing the domestic legislation as though Israel were akin to America’s 51st state.
Acting more like a political commentator than a president, Biden has repeatedly offered unsolicited public advice to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Subsequently, he bemoaned the passage, earlier this week, of the Law to Cancel the Reasonableness Standard, by Israel’s parliament.
Back in March, Biden caused a stir with remarks he made to journalists regarding the proposed judicial reform when he said, “Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. I’m concerned that they get this straight: They cannot continue down this road. And I sort of made that clear. Hopefully, the prime minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen.”
When a reporter asked him about the comments, Biden insisted that “We’re not interfering.”
Could have fooled me.
When you tell Israel, “They cannot continue down this road,” it sure does bear a striking resemblance to interference, doesn’t it?
Is Biden interfering in Israel?
More recently, on July 18, as the date of the vote on the Knesset bill approached, Biden gave an interview to Thomas Friedman, The New York Times columnist who is always delighted to serve as a platform for publicly bashing Israel.
According to Friedman, Biden urged Israeli leaders “not to rush” by passing the legislation, as though it is only natural for an American president to opine about the timing of a bill under consideration in a sovereign nation several thousand miles away.
A week later, in a brazen attempt to influence the outcome in the Knesset, Biden followed up with a statement to the Axios news website on July 24 in which he called the judicial reform proposal “divisive” and again urged Netanyahu not to “rush this.”
After the Knesset approved the bill this past Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement denouncing the vote, declaring, “As a lifelong friend of Israel, President Biden has publicly and privately expressed his views that major changes in a democracy to be enduring must have as broad a consensus as possible.”
Oddly, the statement concluded by saying, “It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority.” The result was 64-0, which hardly seems to constitute “the slimmest possible majority.”
Simply put, this is no way for the United States to treat a close ally.
How Israel chooses to tinker with its governing institutions and the checks and balances among them is Israel’s business and no one else’s.
Indeed, it appears that we have become so accustomed over the years to American interference in Israel’s internal affairs that it no longer shocks or disturbs us.
To fully grasp just how absurd and unacceptable this situation is, consider how it would look in reverse.
Over the past two years, the Biden administration has suffered a number of blows in the US Supreme Court, which overturned the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion and severely restricted race-based affirmative action in university admissions.
And just how did Biden react to those decisions? By delegitimizing and denouncing the court.
Speaking at the White House on July 8, 2022, regarding the decision on abortion, Biden said, “So, what we’re witnessing wasn’t a constitutional judgment. It was an exercise in raw political power... We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy.”
Then, on October 11, Biden lashed out once again, going so far as to say that “The Supreme Court is more of an advocacy group these days than it is … evenhanded.”
Not surprisingly, this has prompted some Democrats to seek their own brand of “judicial reform” by essentially packing the court.
Two months ago, a group of Democratic US senators and congressmen announced that they would introduce legislation to expand the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13, effectively giving Biden the chance to tilt the majority in favor of liberal justices.
Isn’t this precisely the kind of behavior that Biden has so loudly warned Israel against?
How would he feel if the Israeli government were to chime in on the subject and express its angst over the future course of American democracy? We all know how that would play out.
Israel and the United States truly do have a special bond and close relationship, and for that we should be grateful.
But even in the most intimate of ties between nations, there are some lines that should not be crossed.
Sadly, by patronizing the Jewish state, Mr. Biden has done just that.
The writer served as deputy communications director under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term of office.