US trying to save Israel from ‘going off the rails’ – outgoing ambassador

Tom Nides says Washington concerned by speed of judicial reform, claims most Israelis welcome American interference regarding overhaul and domestic policy.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Biden administration is actively trying to save Israel from “going off the rails” and is highly concerned about the impact of potential reforms to its judicial system, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.

Despite backlash over comments from Washington regarding judicial reform, Nides claimed that the majority of Israeli citizens welcome American interference regarding Israeli law and other domestic policies.

“I think most Israelis want the United States to be in their business,” Nides told the Journal. “With that sometimes comes a modicum of a price, which is articulating when we think things are going off the rails.”

Nides, who said in a February podcast interview that he devotes “60 percent of his time to helping Palestinians,” has long expressed his reservations around the judicial overhaul and the inclusion of Religious Zionism lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir as ministers in the coalition.

“One of the messages I sent to the prime minister was to tap the brakes, slow down” regarding the judicial overhaul, Nides said. “Try to get consensus.”

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The ambassador could not specifically name which aspects of the reforms Washington finds troubling, but he added that the Biden administration is concerned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “rushing things through that ultimately could have huge implications, at least perception-wise, about what makes Israel great.”

Speaking about his accomplishments for the Palestinians, Nides said that “I do think I can look back and say that I’ve done things that have made life just a little bit easier and better for the average Palestinian.”

During his tenure as ambassador, the U.S. successfully pressured Israel to expand the operation hours of the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and PA-controlled enclaves in Judea and Samaria, as well as pushing a pilot program that will see Palestinians able to fly in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport, as part of a nascent visa-waiver agreement between the U.S. and Israel.