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Friday, February 23, 2024

Netanyahu tells Biden to stay out of Israel’s business

Israel will not tolerate meddling in its internal affairs, even from the “best of friends,” the PM said

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded after President Joe Biden voiced concerns about proposed judicial reforms in Israel, insisting his country would make its own decisions and not succumb to “pressure from abroad.”

In a series of tweets shared on Tuesday night, Netanyahu noted that he has known his US counterpart for “over 40 years” and commended Biden for his “longstanding commitment to Israel.” However, he urged Washington not to meddle in his country’s internal affairs, after Biden said he was “very concerned” about the upcoming legal changes.

Read more: Israeli president calls for halt to judicial overhaul

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,” Netanyahu said, adding “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.”

The controversial judicial reform would allow Israel’s parliament to override decisions by the Supreme Court through a simple majority vote, a move critics say will weaken the judiciary’s traditional check on government power. The reform has prompted major protests across Israel, and drawn criticism from some foreign states, including close allies like the US.

On Monday, however, Netanyahu announced that the government would take a “timeout” on the proposal until the next Knesset session, hoping the additional time would help lawmakers “reach an understanding on the legislation.” Nonetheless, the decision failed to stop criticism of the reform.

Read more: Israel restricts Palestinians’ entry into Al-Aqsa

Speaking to reporters earlier on Tuesday, Biden was asked to comment on the legal change, saying that he hopes Netanyahu “walks away” from the plan before it is enacted into law, adding “They cannot continue down this road.”

“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned, and I’m concerned that they get this straight,” he continued. “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.”

The president also noted that Netanyahu would not be invited to visit the White House “in the near term,” despite his recent re-election as premier – his third stint in the position.

As the White House appears to escalate its criticism of Israeli policies, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is preparing for a trip to Jerusalem next month, where he will give a keynote address at an event hosted by the Jerusalem Post and the Museum of Tolerance. While DeSantis has yet to make a formal announcement for a 2024 presidential bid, he is widely seen as a frontrunner among prospective Republican candidates and has grown popular among conservatives due to his vocal opposition to Covid-19 mandates.

The governor’s office capitalized on the spat between Biden and Netanyahu ahead of his visit, declaring that “Florida serves as a bridge between the American and Israeli people” at a time of “unnecessarily strained relations” between Israel and the United States.