Israel judicial crisis: Netanyahu dismisses 'pressure' from Biden
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he will not bow to "pressures from abroad" after US President Joe Biden urged him to scrap the judicial overhaul plan in the latest sign of friction between the two allies.
Biden told reporters that he was "very concerned" about Israel amid the crisis caused by the judicial plan that has sparked weeks-long mass protests across Israel.
"Like many strong supporters of Israel, I'm very concerned. I'm concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I've sort of made that clear," Biden said.
"I hope he walks away from it," he added, referring to Netanyahu.
The US president also said that Netanyahu will not be invited to the White House "in the near term," bluntly responding with "no" when pressed on the matter.
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Netanyahu shot back on Twitter saying that “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.”
'Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including best friends'
- Benjamin Netanyahu
In a series of tweets, he said that while he appreciates Biden’s “longstanding commitment to Israel” he was embarking on a process of “strengthening democracy by restoring the proper balance between the three branches of government".
Critics of the proposed judicial overhaul say the plan will weaken the country's Supreme Court and give lawmakers unchecked powers.
Following unprecedented strikes and protests on Monday, Netanyahu was forced to hit the pause button on the plan to allow for dialogue for at least two months before pressing on with the bills in parliament.
The pause comes as many warned Israel was on the brink of civil strife. Earlier on Monday, Israel’s army chief of staff said that a “storm is brewing at home” as thousands of military reservists threatened not to serve in the military if the reform passes.
Tensions with the US
Netanyahu's coalition partners also hit back at Biden's remarks.
Itamar Ben Gvir, the national security minister, said: "Israel is not another star on the American flag. We are a democracy and I expect the US president to understand that."
The culture and sports minister, Miki Zohar, tweeted that he felt "sad that Biden has fallen for all the fake news".
Zohar later deleted the tweet saying that "out of respect for our important relationship with our greatest ally the United States I deleted the tweet".
The remarks exposed the simmering tensions between the two administrations.
When asked whether he had spoken to Netanyahu during the crisis, Biden said “No, I did not. I delivered a message through our ambassador.”
When reporters asked whether the US president’s open comments on Israeli politics could be perceived as interference, Biden added: “We don’t want to interfere… Anyway, we’re not interfering. They know my position. They know America’s position. They know the American Jewish position.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid blamed Netanyahu for straining relations with the US.
"For decades, Israel was the USA's closest ally, and the most extremist government in the country's history has spoiled that in three months," said Lapid in a tweet.
Former Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz called Biden's remarks "an urgent wake-up call for the Israeli government... Damaging relations with the USA, our best friend and most important ally, is a strategic attack.
He added: "The prime minister must guide his negotiating teams regarding the legal legislation, act quickly to correct the situation and preserve the Israeli democracy that is at the base of these values."
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