US confirms Biden warning to Netanyahu

Biden initiated the interview to further ensure that his message of concern over the judicial reform reached the Israeli public as well.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Thursday said that U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent warning that the potential damage the judicial reform could inflict on the U.S.-Israel “special relationship” was communicated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their phone call on Monday.

Friedman shared his views with Army Radio on Thursday, following an interview with Biden two days prior, during which the U.S. president acknowledged the  “enduring protest movement” against the reform that is “demonstrating the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy,” which, he said, “must remain the core of our bilateral relationship.”

The interview with the Times was held a day after Biden’s phone call with Netanyahu and was reportedly initiated by the U.S. president to clarify some aspects of the call with Netanyahu, which he believed had been inaccurately portrayed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to Friedman, Biden initiated the interview to further ensure that his message reached the Israeli public as well.

“The president wanted to be sure, having spoken to the prime minister of Israel, and the president of Israel, that he also found a way to speak to the people of Israel, directly, and that was really the motivation for our interview,” Friedman told Army Radio on Thursday in remarks carried by The Times of Israel.

According to Friedman, Biden warned that if the reform went ahead, “you’d be breaking one of the most important bonds between the United States and Israel, our shared values around democratic decision-making and an independent judiciary.”

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During the interview, Friedman conveyed Biden’s “deep worry” that the proposed judicial restrictions might become irreversible. He cited Biden as questioning the logic behind Israel’s desire to modify its system when it currently has a flourishing economy.

Throughout the interview, Friedman underscored that Biden harbors a sincere affection for Israel, but expressed concerns that Biden “could well be the last pro-Israel Democratic president.” He added that the President was discussing a close new military alliance with Saudi Arabia, potentially leading to normalization with Israel, a long-held ambition of Netanyahu. This deal, however, could only materialize if the base of the Democratic Party agrees to it.