The Biden Effect Hits U.S.-Israel Relations

A reminder that the president will never pass on the chance to exploit a crisis in Israel in a way that is averse to the Jewish state.

Abir Sultan/pool via AP, file
Prime Minister Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. Abir Sultan/pool via AP, file

All too typical is the way to describe President Biden’s decision to dis-invite Prime Minister Netanyahu from a visit to Washington because of the prime minister’s effort to reform its Supreme Court. It’s a reminder that Mr. Biden will never pass on the chance to exploit a crisis in Israel in a way that is averse to the Jewish state. It’s a reminder, too, that the Republicans have been far more supportive of Israel’s democratic decision-making.

That is what we take from what the AP calls the exchange of “frosty words” late Tuesday and early this morning between Messrs. Biden and Netanyahu. The President suggested that the best thing would be if Mr. Netanyahu “walks away” from his signature reforms of the judicial system in Israel. He also brushed aside the suggestion, by America’s own ambassador, that there might be an early visit to Washington by Mr. Netanyahu.

“No, not in the near term,” Mr. Biden growled.

On the one hand, this is all too typical of Mr. Biden. When he was vice president, he ruined his own visit to Jerusalem by making a hoopla over a minor zoning decision on housing at the Israeli capital. When he was still in the Senate and Menachem Begin paid a visit to the Foreign Relations Committee, he publicly scolded the prime minister, a Nobel laureate in peace (who retorted that he would not be lectured by Mr. Biden’s ilk).

On the other hand, it’s hard to see a benign explanation for Mr. Biden’s entry into this dispute. The reform that Mr. Netanyahu seeks in Israel’s high court, after all, would have the effect of making Israel’s system more like America’s. It would reduce the role of the court itself in picking its justices (our own court has zero role in selecting justices). It would increase the role of the legislature. Our justices must be approved by the Senate.

So similar are these reforms to our system that one wonders what Mr. Biden is really thinking — other than to make political hay out of someone else’s crisis. Mr. Netanyahu reacted to Mr. Biden’s criticism, the press association reports, by replying that Israel is sovereign and “makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends.”

Right on cue, the Associated Press reports, Israeli protest organizers called for a demonstration Thursday in support of Biden outside the U.S. embassy building at Tel Aviv. Why, of course. It means that we can expect to see newsreel clips of these protests in Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign. Never mind that the American embassy itself is, thanks to President Trump, at Jerusalem.

The tragedy in what Mr. Biden is doing is that it further erodes the standing of Israel as a matter above partisan politics in America. As Democrats fall away from support for Israel, as the left wing grows more influential in Democratic Party affairs, and as the Republicans emerge as the party more willing to breast the controversies, support for the Jewish state is likely to emerge as one of the issues in the 2024 campaign. Another Biden effect.

The New York Sun

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