U.S. President Joe Biden has once again called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to forge ahead with his government’s judicial reform effort and to seek a broad consensus.
In a statement to Axios published on Sunday, the president said that “it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less.”
He added: “Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this—the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus.”
Netanyahu was expected to participate in the final votes in the Knesset on Monday to pass into law an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary limiting the Supreme Court’s use of the so-called reasonableness standard. The prime minister was released from hospital on Monday morning following the implantation of a cardiac pacemaker.
The proposed legislation has drawn thousands of anti-reform demonstrators to Jerusalem, while on Sunday night tens of thousands of supporters of judicial reform gathered in Tel Aviv for a major rally.
Thousands of reservists are threatening not to report for duty if the amendment passes. A U.S. official told Axios that the crisis in the military is causing concern at the Pentagon that it “could have negative implications for Israel’s deterrence strategy and encourage Iran or Hezbollah to conduct military provocations that could escalate the situation in the region.”
“The crisis, especially within the Israeli Air Force, could also have negative operational implications for U.S. forces that closely cooperate with Israel in the region,” the Axios report stated.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Netanyahu in the hospital on Sunday in an effort to reach a last-minute compromise, immediately after returning from the United States, where he met with President Joe Biden and other senior officials.
“This is a time of emergency,” Herzog’s office quoted him as saying. “We must reach an agreement.”
Biden met with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman last Tuesday at the White House after receiving Herzog at the Oval Office. In an article written following the discussion, Friedman quoted Biden as saying that “finding consensus on controversial areas of policy means taking the time you need. For significant changes, that’s essential. So my recommendation to Israeli leaders is not to rush. I believe the best outcome is to continue to seek the broadest possible consensus here.”
The Biden administration has previously made its opposition to judicial reform known, including in March when the president called on Netanyahu 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,” Netanyahu said following the remarks.