Israeli cabinet minister blames US Vice President Harris for criticizing judicial reforms

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s foreign minister criticized US Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday for speaking out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned reforms to the country’s judiciary.

The exchange highlighted tensions between the Biden administration and Netanyahu’s new government, the most right-wing and religious in Israel’s history, over planned judicial changes.

Speaking at an Israeli embassy event in Washington on Tuesday, Harris said shared values ​​are “the foundation of the US-Israel relationship” and that democracies are “built on strong institutions, checks and balances and, I would add, an independent judiciary.” .

Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eli Cohen, told “Kaan” public radio. “I can tell you that if you ask him what worries him about reform, he won’t be able to tell you.” He said he believed Harris had not read the bills in question.

Biden has publicly voiced concerns about the Netanyahu government’s plan to overhaul the legal system, which has sparked mass protests that continue every week even after the proposal was shelved. Amid the tension, Biden has not given Netanyahu a routine invitation to the White House since he was elected in 2022.

US Ambassador Tom Nides responded to Cohen, saying that Harris had only restated the administration’s longstanding position, according to Kahn.

Critics say the proposed bills would concentrate power in the hands of the Israeli government, giving politicians control over Supreme Court appointments, giving parliament the power to overturn supreme court decisions and enacting laws that are impervious to judicial review.

Cohen later tweeted that he had “great respect for our ally the US and Vice President Harris, a great friend of Israel,” adding that the judicial review was “an internal Israeli matter” and that the country would remain “democratic.” : and liberal as ever.”

While the freeze on the proposed legislation has eased tensions somewhat, Netanyahu’s allies are pushing him to press ahead with the reforms. The ongoing negotiations between the representatives of the government and the opposition parties aimed at finding a way out of the crisis have so far been fruitless.

Supporters of the overhaul say it is necessary to rein in what they see as an intrusive court and restore power to elected lawmakers. Opponents say it would undermine Israel’s delicate system of checks and balances and undermine the country’s democratic institutions.

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