(February 14, 2023 / JNS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “dangerously putting his own narrow political and legal interests…ahead of the long-term interests and needs of Israel’s democracy,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and his party’s whip (assistant majority leader) in the chamber, said on Monday.
Durbin made his comments to Israeli newspaper Haaretz as a political storm swirls regarding the government’s judicial reform plan, the first part of which exited committee on Monday and headed for a vote next week in the Knesset plenum.
The senator voiced approval of U.S. President Joe Biden‘s decision to weigh in on Israel’s legal reform proposals.
“President Biden is correct in highlighting the importance of democratic checks and balances, strong institutions, and an independent judiciary in regards to the serious test currently facing Israel,” he said.
Durbin called Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s call for negotiations between the opposing sides a “patriotic appeal.” In a televised address on Sunday, Herzog presented five principles as a basis for dialogue.
The American lawmaker also criticized Netanyahu’s right-wing allies for seeking “to sabotage any possible two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians.” The U.S. State Department on Monday voiced its disapproval of Israel’s decision to advance construction in Judea and Samaria.
Durbin said the Netanyahu government was heading down a path that would “not only harm key shared values between the United States and Israel, but also further undermine desperately needed lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.”
Netanyahu has rejected criticism of his government’s judicial reform program, saying that the opposition in Israel has crossed a red line with its rhetoric. On Monday, he called on opposition leaders to stop leading Israel towards “anarchy” after a tempestuous Knesset committee meeting and a mass demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.
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