White House pressed on Democratic tensions with Israel

John Kirby
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby faced a number of questions regarding ongoing tension with Israel, specifically Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent attempts to reform the country’s judicial system. Patrick Semansky/AP

White House pressed on Democratic tensions with Israel

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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby faced a number of questions regarding tension with Israel, specifically Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s recent attempts to reform the country’s judicial system.

Though Netanyahu put a pause on his proposed steps Monday, President Joe Biden pointedly stated Tuesday that he had no plans to invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in the “near term.”

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“Israel’s a democracy and a sovereign state, of course, and sovereign states make sovereign decisions,” Kirby told reporters at Wednesday’s briefing. “Our whole point about this, and our whole concern is, and the president has said this himself, that we’d like to see decisions made there with a good friend like Israel and Israel as a good friend that are in keeping with a consensus of that can be done with the broadest possible base of public support.”

“That’s one of the key components of a democracy, and Israel is a democracy, he continued. “Our two countries share some basic, fundamental, democratic institutions and principles, and one of them is, again, the broadest possible base of public support for major changes like this, changes which affect the system of checks and balances.”

Biden previously had expressed his displeasure to Netanyahu last week about the proposed reforms, and thousands of Israelis protested in the streets Sunday night after former Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant was removed from his post once he spoke out against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu responded to Biden’s Tuesday comments by stating 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.”

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“I have known President Biden for over 40 years, and I appreciate his longstanding commitment to Israel,” he continued before committing to pursuing judicial reform through a “broad consensus.”

You can watch Wednesday’s briefing in full below.

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