President Biden arranged a private interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, in which the president pleaded with Prime Minister Netanyahu to “please stop now [judicial reforms].
In order to avoid damaging Israel’s democracy and your connection with American democracy, don’t pass anything this significant without a broad agreement. If you do, you might never be able to repair the damage.
The “enduring” protests over the past seven months have demonstrated the “vibrancy of Israel’s democracy,” and Biden expressed respect for them while also expressing his “deep concern for the stability and future of Israel.”
“This is obviously an area about which Israelis have strong views, including in an enduring protest movement that is demonstrating the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy, which must remain the core of our bilateral relationship,” Biden told Friedman.
“Finding consensus on controversial areas of policy means taking the time you need. For significant changes, that’s essential. So my recommendation to Israeli leaders is not to rush. I believe the best outcome is to continue to seek the broadest possible consensus here.”
Even Friedman acknowledged that the president is “walking a tightrope” between showing respect to Israel—including finally inviting Netanyahu to Washington after seven months of the administration giving him the cold shoulder—and expressing his concern for Israel’s internal cohesion and future relations with the US. Friedman added that “every Israeli leader should reflect on this quote from Biden: The protest movement shows ‘the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy, which must remain at the core of our bilateral relationship.'”
According to Friedman’s interpretation of this, if Netanyahu implements the judicial reforms in the face of widespread public opposition, “it will inevitably compromise the domestic and international stature of Israel’s Supreme Court and, by extension, of Israel’s democracy.
He also cautioned that Joe Biden “may be the last pro-Israel Democratic president.” At your peril, you must disregard his honest worries.