Israel Passes Sweeping Judicial Reform Bill Despite Biden’s Calls Not To

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Israeli lawmakers unanimously passed the first part of a sweeping judicial reform bill despite the Biden administration’s pleas not to, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The bill limits Israel’s Supreme Court’s ability to overrule parliamentary decisions and gives parliament the final call in selecting new judges, according to the AP. President Joe Biden had called on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay votes on the bill, warning that many Americans are fearful of where Israel is headed and attempting to pass the bill without broad consensus would be “divisive,” Axios reported.

“As a lifelong friend of Israel, President Biden has publicly and privately expressed his views that major changes in a democracy to be enduring must have as broad a consensus as possible,” the White House said in a statement Monday. “It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority.  We understand talks are ongoing and likely to continue over the coming weeks and months to forge a broader compromise even with the Knesset in recess.  The United States will continue to support the efforts of President Herzog and other Israeli leaders as they seek to build a broader consensus through political dialogue.”

Netanyahu has dismissed Biden’s requests to delay the vote and told him in a phone call last week that he was unconcerned about the bill’s ramifications, noting he wouldn’t promote other steps in judicial reform until October, according to Axios. He told Biden that he has tried to gather broad consensus for the bill but hasn’t been able to since parliamentary opposition suspended talks at the beginning of July, Axios reported. (RELATED: Democrats Join With Republicans To Support Israel, Denounce Antisemitism)

Mass protests and civil unrest have consumed Israel since the bill was announced in January, the AP reported. Thousands of Israeli military reservists, including fighter pilots and special operation agents, said last week they would not report to duty if the bill was passed, according to Axios.

The Pentagon is worried that the potential military crisis could weaken Israel’s defense and open it to conflict with Iran or Hezbollah. U.S. Forces in the region that closely coordinate with Israel’s Air Force could also be operationally weakened by the crisis, Axios reported.

“Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this — the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus,” Biden said to Axios before the vote. “It looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less.”

This article has been updated with a statement from the White House.

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