As protests in Israel have intensified, President Joe Biden’s administration has steadily scaled up its rhetoric on the situation, including saying Sunday it was watching with “concern” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister who spoke out in opposition to the proposed reforms.
“Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support,” a statement from the US national security council said.
As of Monday morning, Biden himself has yet to speak publicly about the matter, preferring to voice his deep concern about the judicial proposals directly to Netanyahu, including during their phone call last weekend. He declined to answer questions about Israel as he returned to the White House Sunday evening. A US official said Biden is likely to have another call with Netanyahu in the coming days, but cautioned that the timing was fluid.
Some progressive groups have called on the Biden administration to come out more forcefully against Netanyahu’s plans, arguing the weight of the American presidency could help sway events.
More than 90 House Democrats also wrote to Biden earlier this month urging him to strongly condemn the judicial proposals. “With the Knesset on the cusp of stripping the judiciary’s check over the current government, we urge you to make clear that the US will firmly oppose any moves toward annexation that the Israeli government may pursue as a result,” the letter read.
Biden, who has known Netanyahu for decades, has sought a less confrontational approach, at least in public. The phone call between Biden and Netanyahu last Sunday was “candid and constructive,” one official said, with the president encouraging his Israeli counterpart to seek a compromise plan to the judicial reforms.