Think it’s impossible to screw up two countries at once? You’ve never seen President Joe Biden in action.
On March 27, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his government would pause the progress through the Knesset of a controversial judicial bill until later this spring. Netanyahu’s decision came after weeks of mounting street protests over the reform, which would allow the legislature to rein in the judiciary. Military reservists stopped reporting for duty. Israel’s largest union declared a general strike. U.S. officials were critical.
“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.” Psalm 41:9
So, when Netanyahu suspended the measure, U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides welcomed the move. Asked when Netanyahu might visit President Biden in the White House, Nides said: “I’m sure he’ll be coming relatively soon.”
Nides didn’t check with his boss. He extended an open hand to Israel’s elected leader. Biden slapped it down. On March 28, during a visit to North Carolina, the president spoke to reporters. Calling himself a “strong supporter of Israel,” Biden said he was nonetheless concerned that Israelis “get this straight. They can’t continue down this road”—the road, presumably, of a democratic majority following due process of law. A reporter asked Biden if he’d be welcoming Netanyahu in Washington. “Not in the near term,” Biden replied.
Some friend. No matter your opinion of the judicial reform—and there are plenty of committed Zionists who are leery of it—there is no question that Biden’s rebuke of Netanyahu was a breach in U.S.-Israel relations. Americans and Israelis scrambled to repair the damage. Netanyahu posted a Twitter thread underscoring his commitment to the alliance, while reminding Biden that Israel is a sovereign nation that will determine its own course. Or, as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir put it: “Israel is an independent country, not another star in the American flag.” On March 29, White House national security spokesman John Kirby played down the differences as best he could.
This is why the White House keeps Biden away from the press. When he lacks a script, he goes haywire. Biden spoke his mind—what’s left of it—and caused an international incident. The double standard he applies to Israel is glaring. It is also offensive. Israel accommodated protesters. Iran murders them. Where is Biden’s outrage at the butchers in Tehran?
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