Forget the bromides about America’s “unbreakable bond” with Israel and how the United States is Israel’s “greatest friend.” Over the past week, the Biden administration has crossed two ominous red lines.
For the first time in six years, the U.S. enabled a vote against Israel at the United Nations, supporting a U.N. Security Council statement condemning Israeli “settlements.”
Eight days previously, Israel had legitimized nine Israeli settlements that were erected without government approval. This was Israel’s bullish response to the wave of recent terror attacks by jihadi gangs that the Palestinian Authority has allowed to proliferate in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.
Legitimizing the settlements delivered the message that the more the Palestinian Arabs murder Israelis in order to force the Jews from the entire land, the more Israel will embed itself in the entire land.
The Security Council promptly had a hissy fit. So did the U.S. State Department, which said it was “deeply troubled.”
But the Security Council statement that America supported wasn’t “deeply troubled” by the Palestinian Arab terror attacks in Jerusalem over the previous few weeks, in which 10 Israelis were murdered. It wasn’t “deeply troubled” by the P.A.’s unremitting incitement to murder Israeli Jews and steal their land in an Islamic holy war.
America’s obsessional error of blaming Israeli settlements for the absence of peace rather than the real cause—the Palestinian Arabs’ unceasing attempts to destroy Israel—is nothing new. Nor is the way it pressures Israel to compromise its own security while the U.S. privileges, sanitizes and incentivizes Israel’s attackers.
Four days after the nine outposts were legalized, the Biden administration crossed a new red line when it arrogantly presumed to tell Israel how to run its domestic affairs. Not only did it criticize Israel’s contentious judicial reforms, but it also issued a veiled but unmistakable threat.
In a podcast, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides revealed that President Joe Biden was pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause his reform program.
“We’re telling the prime minister—as I tell my kids—‘pump the brakes,’ slow down, try to build a consensus, bring the parties together,” said Nides.
Israel’s judicial reforms have absolutely nothing to do with America. They have no bearing on the Middle East conflict. They are an internal Israeli issue.
The reforms simply get up the Bidenites’ collective nose because curbing judicial activism is to curb the power of the left to impose its agenda. And the left-wing Bidenites think Israel must behave as the Bidenites want it to behave because they assume that the military and financial support the United States gives Israel entitles them to tell Israel what to do.
According to Nides, what binds America and Israel together is “a sense of democracy and a sense of [the importance of] democratic institutions.”
That’s not actually true, since America needs Israel as its principal strategic asset in the Middle East and depends on its military intelligence and other such benefits.
In any event, this pious statement about democracy actually constituted a none-too-subtle threat that if Netanyahu continues with the judicial reforms, the U.S.-Israel relationship will suffer.
“That is how we defend Israel at the U.N.,” said Nides. “When we believe that those democratic institutions are under stress and strain, we’re articulating [our concern]. That’s what we’re doing now.”
Four days later, America abandoned Israel at the United Nations.
Israel’s judicial reforms are intended to reverse a three-decades-old power grab by the courts that has undermined democracy and the ability of elected governments to govern in accordance with what they decide are Israel’s interests.
The mass hysteria this has induced is largely down to the rage of the Israeli left that has lost political power for the foreseeable future but relied on their ideological soulmates on the Supreme Court to impose their agenda. But beyond the left, others are also concerned that in curbing unbridled judicial power the reforms may hand too much power to the politicians.
While compromises are therefore essential, much of this uproar is the result of overwrought and misleading reporting and commentary. Yet parroting the hysterics in both Israel and the Diaspora, Nides implied that the judicial reforms would destroy Israeli democracy.
This was echoed by President Biden, who said that both American and Israeli democracy are “built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary.”
This was particularly ludicrous, considering that the judiciary in America is politically appointed—one of the very aspects of Israel’s judicial reform that is being identified by its opponents as a mortal threat to liberty.
There is indeed a threat to democracy in Israel right now, but it’s not coming from the government. It’s coming from the thousands of opponents of the judicial reforms who, oblivious to their own absurdity, are screaming that the newly elected Israeli government must be brought down in order to save democracy.
It’s coming from the calls for violence and even for Netanyahu’s assassination.
It’s coming from people like Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who said, “This is the history of the world. Countries become dictatorships through the use of democratic tools. … Countries do not become democratic again, except with bloodshed.”
It’s coming from Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who declared, “What is needed is to move to the next stage, the stage of war, and war is not waged with speeches. War is waged in a face-to-face battle, head-to-head and hand-to-hand, and that is what will happen here.”
Israel’s judicial reforms have nothing to do with America. They have no bearing on the Middle East conflict. They are an internal Israeli issue.
Yet none of this appears to have troubled Nides at all. And there’s a common denominator between the Bidenites’ attitude towards Israel’s judicial reform and their attitude towards the Palestinian Arabs.
In both cases, the Bidenites blame the victim and excuse the aggressor. They issue no criticism of those threatening violence over the judicial reforms and trying to bring down the government.
Instead, they implicitly blame Israel’s government for the threats of violence, on the basis that if it hadn’t proposed these reforms, no one would have gotten upset.
In exactly the same way, the Bidenites deny the fact that the Palestinian Arabs aim to destroy Israel. Instead, they accuse Israel of provoking the Palestinian Arabs by settling the land to which Israel alone has a legal, moral and historical claim.
The Bidenites’ purported belief in being even-handed inevitably means they end up punishing the victim and empowering the aggressor.
Yet suddenly a fresh double standard has arisen over America’s newly tough policy of supporting Ukraine. Speaking in Warsaw, Biden said, “Autocrats only understand one word: no, no, no. No, you will not take my country. No, you will not take my freedom. No, you will not take my future. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never.”
Yet Biden doesn’t say no to the Palestinian Arab autocrats; he doesn’t tell them they will never take the Jews’ country; he doesn’t tell them that they will never have victory over Israel. Instead, he appeases them and subsidizes their murderous incitement.
Biden went on: “If Russia stopped invading Ukraine, it would end the war. If Ukraine stopped defending itself against Russia, it would be the end of Ukraine.”
But this merely appropriated the well-known saying: “If the Palestinians stopped attacking Israel, it would end the war; but if Israel stopped defending itself against the Palestinians, it would be the end of Israel.”
Yet while America believes this about Ukraine, it clearly doesn’t believe it about Israel.
Israel unfortunately needs America, not least to deal with Iran, which is now dangerously close to a nuclear breakout thanks to America’s lethal appeasement of Tehran.
Nides talks about America’s “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.” After the betrayals and threats of the past few weeks, this can only elicit fury—and hollow laughter.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir Guardian Angel has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy. Go to melaniephillips.substack.com to access her work.