It was never about Israel’s judiciary.
How can you tell? First, because the Biden administration — and left-wing Democrats in general — are arguing FOR a position in Israel they are arguing AGAINST in the United States.
Having contemplated stacking the U.S. Supreme Court to dilute the power of Republican appointed justices, they find themselves promoting an Israeli Supreme Court with no constraints. Israel has no constitution against which a court can measure laws passed by the Knesset, and no requirement that cases present a legal concern.
Most recently, the court found the appointment of a particular minister in the government “extremely unreasonable.”
Second, no one in the administration — or on Capitol Hill — found that the violent protests wracking France from end-to-end over the retirement age posed a threat to French democracy.
The wailing and moaning from the Biden administration about Israel’s democracy was just an arrow in its quiver of complaints that boil down to the fact that Israeli voters — in a free, fair and democratic election in which 71% of eligible people voted — elected the “wrong” party to lead the Knesset. Israelis voted out the center-left-to-left and voted in the center-right-to-right.
It happens. In Israel it tends to happen when voters feel physically threatened. The 2021 Hamas rocket war, increased Palestinian terror, more illegal guns finding their way into Israeli Arab neighborhoods, plus some agitators stoking internecine strife among Israelis, produced a not unreasonable turn toward parties with less tolerance for threats.
But for the administration, it was a slap in the face. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a terrible relationship with then-Vice President Biden’s boss, President Barak Obama, based on two policy questions: the possibility/advisability of a Palestinian State; and how to deal with a dictatorship building a conventional and nuclear weapons capability aimed first at Israel.
The Biden administration centers precisely on those two issues. Israel’s center-right-to-right is not an acceptable partner. Not to mention that the return of Netanyahu is the return of Mephistopheles.
This works out oddly in the Israeli context because the unacceptability of a Palestinian state in the current context, and the unremitting threat posed by Iran in its terrorist, conventional and nuclear modes are the two things the current and the prior governments of Israel agree upon.
Regarding Iran, there is simply no daylight. On the Palestinians, focusing on the Abraham Accords was a way to make progress in the region while waiting to see whether the Palestinians could become a partner. And an alliance with Sunni Arab states in the Abraham Accords provided some balance and stability against Iran.
The Biden administration was never more than lukewarm toward the Abraham Accords and spent an inordinate amount of effort undermining Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel.
But seeing thousands of Israelis protesting their government — ostensibly about judicial reform, but with a lot of other “causes” mixed in — provided the administration with a different way to rattle Jerusalem. And so, it did, with pronouncements from the U.S. Ambassador, the secretary of State, the National Security Adviser to the President, Democrats on Capitol Hill and the president himself.
They paid no attention to the 100,000+ demonstrators who marched in Jerusalem FOR judicial reform.
Faced with that domestic picture, the prime minister did what democratic leadership often does. It compromised. Israel’s President Herzog — who does not have nearly the same sort of power as an American president but has a lot more moral sway — is moderating a conversation across the left-center-left-center-center-right-right continuum.
As Israelis settle in to watch their government negotiate the parameters of judicial reform — a purely domestic consideration — and await the Passover holiday, the Biden administration is still poking at the one democratic ally the US has in the Middle East.
The U.S. gratuitously announced that Israel has not met the requirements of the US Visa Waiver Program. And a NASA astrophysicist was forced to pull out of a conference in Israel.
“My travel authorization was revoked ,” Amber Straugh said. According to Haaretz, Straugh told organizers of the Israel Physical Society’s annual meeting that she was instructed by the State Department to cancel her appearance, which included a keynote address.
Judicial reform, clearly, was just an arrow in the quiver of a nasty American administration seeking revenge for the Obama-Netanyahu rift and the restoration of Obama’s failed policies on the Palestinians and on Iran.