Washington, D.C., 24 July, 2023 (GNP): The White House has expressed its concern over Israel’s recent passage of a bill that aims to curtail the powers of the country’s top court. The administration of US President Joe Biden deems the move “unfortunate” and stresses that major changes in a democracy should ideally be decided by a broad consensus.
In a brief statement issued on Monday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized, “It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority.”
“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,” she added.
The judicial overhaul plan proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has triggered months of widespread protests in Israel and has garnered criticism from progressive legislators in the United States – Israel’s top ally.
President Biden himself expressed reservations about the bill, stating, “From the perspective of Israel’s friends in the United States, it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less.”
Despite concerns raised by the US administration, the Israeli Knesset passed the bill in a 64-0 vote on Monday. Opposition legislators had previously left the chamber in protest ahead of the passage. The bill is the first piece of legislation in a broader effort by Netanyahu’s coalition government to overhaul the Israeli judiciary.
The Biden administration’s concern over the issue has caused friction in the US-Israel relationship. While the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to Israel, President Biden believes that the priority of remaking the judiciary may not align with the current challenges faced by the nation.
Critics of the bill argue that it could lead to a more authoritarian leadership, unbound by the Supreme Court’s checks and balances. The legislation passed on Monday would limit the top court’s powers to void certain government decisions.
In response to the passage of the bill, opposition leader Yair Lapid decried it as a “defeat for Israeli democracy.” The divisions have also extended to the Israeli military, with protest leaders announcing that thousands of volunteer reservists would refuse to report for duty if the overhaul efforts continue.
The Histadrut trade union confederation, representing approximately 800,000 workers in Israel, has threatened a general strike in response to the bill’s passage. It also urged the government to resume negotiations with the opposition.
As per the statement by the White House’s Jean-Pierre, Washington remains committed to supporting the efforts of President Isaac Herzog and other Israeli leaders as they seek to foster a broader consensus through political dialogue.