We now know that the Biden administration did not have any hesitation about interfering in Israel’s internal affairs. You can see it as either payback for what Democrats believe was Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine former President Barack Obama or just hypocrisy.
In the vein of the old Arabist “America has to save Israel from itself” philosophy, U.S. President Joe Biden has cast himself as standing up for Israeli democracy. Instead, he disrespected it.
Besides weighing in on the side of the critics in the contentious issue of reforming the judiciary, the administration also dissed Israeli democracy for allowing the people’s representatives in the Knesset to pass a law that reversed the prohibition on Jews residing in the area where four settlements were evacuated as part of the disengagement.
Netanyahu released a statement saying the legislation “brings an end to a discriminatory and humiliating law that barred Jews from living in areas in northern Samaria, part of our historic homeland. It is no coincidence that senior figures in the opposition have supported this law over the years.”
“However, the government has no intention of establishing new communities in these areas,” added Netanyahu.
Perhaps. But also a perfectly legitimate exercise of the government’s legislative prerogative.
The U.S. State Department which, given its dominance by Obama retreads, has returned to that era’s habit of publicly chastising Israel. Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel was in high dudgeon over the repeal claiming the law was inconsistent with commitments that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made to President George W. Bush, and urging Israel to refrain from allowing settlers to return to the area. In addition, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog was summoned for a tongue-lashing from the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, retread Wendy Sherman.
This was especially outrageous coming from the former Obama officials who pointedly rejected the contents of the Bush letter to Sharon because they did not like its recognition of the “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers” and its conclusion that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
It was Obama who reneged on the commitments made by his predecessor. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that “in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements.” Now, some of the same people behind the reversal of U.S. policy want to blame Israel for not meeting its obligations after they scuttled the understandings.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of the administration was on full display in its response to the proposed reforms to the Israeli judiciary. The reforms themselves may damage Israel’s democracy as critics contend, but the process by which they are being pursued is purely democratic. The officials who were elected by the majority of the Israeli population are proposing legislation they believe is consistent with the mandate they received. Any reform must be approved by a majority vote in the Knesset. It cannot be done by fiat.
What is more democratic?
Contrast the vitriolic administration critique of the mechanisms of Israeli democracy with its total silence on the undemocratic behavior of the president of France. Just as tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated in opposition to the government’s position on judicial reform, even larger numbers of French citizens have been protesting President Emmanuel Macron’s unilateral decision to raise the retirement age. The State Department has not called on Macron to compromise with the protesters or questioned French democracy (the same goes for the media, which has been pillorying Netanyahu). Instead of pausing to consider the change in the pension system and agreeing to negotiate as Netanyahu has now done, Macron simply imposed his will through an executive order.
This is the model of democracy Israel should follow?
And who else has resorted to executive orders because he cannot get support from the democratically elected representatives of the country?
Joseph R. Biden Jr.
How is Biden’s circumventing Congress more democratic than Israel’s parliament adopting laws?
Imagine the outrage from the administration if Netanyahu had the power to sign an executive order to change the way judges are selected or limit their authority.
Could there be a more blatant double standard?
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, the one used by the State Department, “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” is an example of anti-Semitism.
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, should be calling out her bosses for such anti-Semitic behavior.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”