Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rebuffed U.S. President Joe Biden’s call earlier in the day to “walk away” from his government’s judicial reform push.
“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,” said Netanyahu.
Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina, Biden said that “like many strong supporters of Israel, I am very concerned [by the judicial reform plan]. I am concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I have sort of made that clear,” adding, “I hope he walks away from it.”
Biden denied meddling in domestic Israeli affairs, telling reporters, “They know my position. They know America’s position. They know the American Jewish position.”
The U.S. president also shot down reports that Netanyahu would soon be invited to the White House.
On Monday, following Netanyahu’s announcement of a temporary halt to the judicial reform legislation, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides hinted that the Israeli premier would soon receive his first White House invitation since retaking office for the sixth time in late December.
However, in response to a reporter’s question about whether such an invitation would be extended, Biden replied, “No. Not in the near term.”
Olivia Dalton, White House principal deputy press secretary, told reporters earlier en route to North Carolina that there was no plan for Netanyahu to visit the White House.
“Israeli leaders have a long history, tradition of visiting Washington, and Prime Minister Netanyahu will likely take a visit at some point. But there’s nothing currently planned,” said Dalton, according to the White House.
In response to another question, the White House spokeswoman said, “We welcomed the decision to delay the implementation of the judicial reform plan. We thought that gives important space and time for compromise and dialogue. And as we’ve said all along, we believe that’s incredibly important.”
In a series of Twitter posts in response to Biden’s comments, Netanyahu emphasized the historically strong relations between the two countries that are continuing with the current administration.
“I have known President Biden for over 40 years, and I appreciate his longstanding commitment to Israel. The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and always overcomes the occasional disagreements between us,” said Netanyahu.
“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.”
On Tuesday evening, Israeli coalition and opposition representatives met for the first time to discuss the judicial reform plan, at the Jerusalem residence of Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
A statement from Herzog’s office indicated that there was a “positive atmosphere” for the talks, that were scheduled to continue on Wednesday.