When asked this week about the recent Israeli protests against judicial reform, President Biden responded, “The [Israeli government] cannot continue down this road. And I’ve sort of made that clear. … Hopefully, the prime minister will act in a way that he is going to try to work out a genuine compromise. But that remains to be seen.”
Biden then declared that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not welcome to visit the White House “in the near term.”
The president was asked if the U.S. was inappropriately “interfering” in domestic Israeli politics. He responded, “We’re not interfering. They know my position. They know America’s position. They know the American Jewish position.”
I am an American Jew and this is all news to me. Apparently, Biden’s polling of the “American Jewish” community failed to include me. His version of the “American Jewish position” is not my position.
Had Biden’s pollsters asked me, here is what I would have told them:
Netanyahu ran on a platform calling for judicial reform. He won a decisive victory in a free and fair election.
Even former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader Yair Lapid said in 2016 that reform is necessary.
“I have opposed, and I still oppose, judicial activism of the sort introduced by [former Supreme Court President] Aharon Barak,” he said. “I don’t think it is right that everything is justiciable. I don’t think it is right for the Supreme Court to change fundamental things in accordance with what it refers to as the judgment of ‘the reasonable person.’”
“That’s an amorphous and completely subjective definition that the Knesset never introduced to the legal code,” Lapid noted. “It’s not right in my mind that the separation of powers, the sacrosanct foundation of the democratic method, should be breached by one branch of government placing itself above the others.”
This American Jew would have pointed out that Netanyahu tried “to work out a genuine compromise,” but the protesters refused to negotiate in good faith. No protesters were arrested, no protests were halted by police, no newspapers or television stations were closed and no opposition leaders were rounded up. Biden was witnessing democracy in action.
I would have reminded the president that he stood silent in March 2020 when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stood in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building and physically threatened the justices: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. … You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” Schumer’s was given a free pass.
This American Jew would have explored whether Biden really thinks democracies work best when both sides work out a compromise. If he really believes that, why did he ram the so-called Inflation Reduction Act and other spending bills down our throats with no Republican support? Why did Biden unilaterally attempt to forgive student loan debt despite unified Republican opposition? Why did he veto the bipartisan congressional action to overrule the ESG regulations on investment advisors?
Why did Biden support Obamacare over Republican objections? We all remember when President Barack Obama told Eric Cantor, “Elections have consequences.” Obama then repeatedly lied to the American people by declaring, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” and “this will bend the cost curve of health care down.”
Is this democracy at its best?
My most important question of all: Why, if compromise and consensus are so critical, does Biden continue to appease and grovel before the Ayatollah in hopes of persuading Iran to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal despite overwhelming bipartisan opposition? Why does he lie about its terms?
The answer is that Biden’s criticism of Netanyahu has nothing to do with “threats to democracy.”
Biden is courting the progressive wing of the Democratic party as he prepares for a reelection campaign. In the eyes of progressives—including Jews like Bernie Sanders and George Soros—Israel is an apartheid, colonial, occupying, white supremacist power that oppresses people of color. Every such nation must be brought to heel or destroyed. That is particularly true when a conservative prime minister like Netanyahu is in charge.
In the eyes of progressives, Jews must be victims. When strong Jews stand up to defend themselves, progressives hate it. To them, it is all about victimhood. Israel represents success and triumph over victimhood. That cannot be tolerated.
Moreover, many Reform and Conservative rabbis promote progressive politics to their congregants, which gives Biden political cover when he criticizes Israel. He can claim that he knows “the American Jewish position.” However, when a Jew says something ahistorical, inane and counterfactual about Israel, it is no less ahistorical, inane or counterfactual.
But revenge may be the most important factor here. Biden remembers that in 2015 Netanyahu was invited to address a joint session of Congress to speak out against the Iran nuclear deal. Of course, everything Netanyahu said about the deal was true. Virtually everything Obama and Biden said about it was false. The Biden administration—filled with Obama retreads like John Kerry, Susan Rice and Robert Malley—are angry that they were exposed as liars. This is their opportunity for vengeance.
I would also tell Biden’s pollster: Please stop defining me (or any other American) with a hyphen. I am an American. Stop trying to put space between me and my fellow citizens. I want my president to do what is in America’s best interests. Undermining America’s closest ally in the region undermines our interests and empowers our enemies. Israel and America share common values, allies and enemies. Stop trying to undermine Israel and its leader out of narrow self-interest.
Mr. President, put America ahead of yourself. That is when democracy works best.
Eric R. Levine is a founding member of the New York City law firm Eiseman, Levine, Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis, P.C. He is an essayist, political commentator and fundraiser for Republican candidates with an emphasis on the United States Senate.
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.