Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen chided US Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday for publicly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan.
The incident highlighted tensions between the Biden administration and Netanyahu’s new government – the most right-wing and extreme in Israel’s history – over the planned judicial reform.
Speaking during an event at the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Tuesday, Harris said shared values are “a cornerstone of US-Israel relations” and that democracies are “built on strong institutions and checks and balances, and I would add: an independent judiciary.”
“I can tell you that if you asked her what bothers her about reform, she wouldn’t be able to tell you,” Israel’s foreign minister told Kan public broadcaster, adding that he believed Harris had not seen the bills in question.
Biden has publicly expressed concern about the Netanyahu government’s plan for what he calls judicial reform, sparking weekly public protests, even after the proposal was put on hold.
Amid the tensions, Biden has not offered Netanyahu the usual invitation to the White House since his election in 2022.
The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nedis, responded to Eli Cohen, saying that Harris said things the administration says at every opportunity regarding common values and policies, stressing that she is an ardent supporter of Israel, according to Kan radio.
Critics say the proposed bills would concentrate power in the hands of the Israeli government by giving politicians the final say in Supreme Court appointments, giving the Knesset the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions and pass laws that are not subject to judicial review.