Hours before Knesset vote, Biden reiterates call for Israel to slow judicial reform process

Hours before the vote on amending the reasonableness clause, the U.S. president said that finding consensus is more important than passing the legislation.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. President Joe Biden took to the media again Sunday night to urge the Israeli government not to “rush” to pass a reform of the reasonableness standard Monday until a national consensus can be reached.

In what some in Israel would call a blatant attempt to interfere in the internal politics of an ally, Biden told reporter Barak Ravid of the Axios and Walla news sites, “From the perspective of Israel’s friends in the United States, it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less.

“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.”

A U.S. official told Axios that the crisis in the military, with thousands of IDF reservists threatening to refuse to serve if the ‘reasonableness’ bill is passed, is causing concern at the Pentagon that it “could have negative implications for Israel’s deterrence strategy.

“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.

The coalition and Opposition sat for several months earlier this year under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog to negotiate a consensus on many issues included in the judicial reform package. The restriction of the use of the reasonableness standard in judicial attempts to overturn government decisions or appointments was one that reportedly had been closest to being resolved before the Opposition walked out of the talks last month.

Both sides have accused the other of negotiating in bad faith. The coalition, meanwhile, has watered down its own proposals, while the Opposition has not budged from its insistence that all reform legislation be frozen, claiming that it is “undemocratic” for a government to limit the authority that an unelected judiciary has arrogated to itself over the last 30 years to interfere with the workings of the executive and legislative branches of government.

Israel’s top court is considered among the most interventionist in the world.

Last week, Biden passed on the same message of “taking the time you need” to gain “consensus on controversial areas of policy” through Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

Friedman is openly pushing for a “reevaluation” of ties between the two countries if Israel continues with its planned reforms, parroting the Opposition’s view that the coalition is acting “undemocratically.”

Hundreds of thousands in support of the reforms demonstrated in Tel Aviv Sunday night to encourage their legislators to “do as you promised” ahead of the November 2022 national election.

In his latest op-ed Monday, Friedman suggested that senior members of the administration and American military  call on their Israeli counterparts to warn them that if the coalition stays on course without a consensus, it “will do serious damage to our own strategic interests in the Middle East.”