US Envoy to Israel: Israelis Want Us to Interfere in ‘Their Business’

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides. (Photo: US Department of State, via Wikimedia Commons)

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, outgoing US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides warned that “things are going off the rails.”

The reference was made in the context of the ongoing Israeli mass protests and the so-called judicial reforms, which rightwing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to implement.

Nides, who will be stepping down from his post after nearly two years as Washington’s envoy, had an ominous message to Israel just before his departure.

Impossible Not to Interfere

In the interview, published Monday, July 10, Nides revealed that he had spoken to Netanyahu, and urged him to slow down the planned judicial overhaul.

He spoke about the fact that, historically, the US had a policy of not interfering in Israel’s domestic affairs, but divisions and concerns over the judicial overhaul have made it impossible to stay on the side-lines.

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Nides came under criticism earlier this year for remarks about the far-right government led by Netanyahu.

Senior members of the Israeli government told him to refrain from meddling in Israel’s internal affairs.

“I think most Israelis want the United States to be in their business,” Nides told the Journal. “With that, sometimes comes a modicum of a price, which is articulating when we think things are going off the rails.”

The main concern for Nides is how Israel will be perceived if the controversial bill is rushed through.

“Rushing things through that ultimately could have huge implications, at least perception-wise, about what makes Israel great,” is a primary concern for the administration of President Joe Biden, Nides said.

Nides clarified his remark by adding that what made “Israel great” are its democratic institutions, which US officials often tout when defending Israel in international forums.

Though Israel is an Occupying Power, often accused of racial apartheid, Washington has maintained that Israel is a democratic state, has the right to ‘defend itself’ and that Tel Aviv and Washington share such values as democracy, human rights and respect for the law.

Palestinians, and most of the international community disagree.

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Netanyahu’s Reforms

Washington’s controversial bill to overhaul Israel’s judiciary advanced through the first of three hearings in the Knesset — parliament.

One of the main contentions about the bill is that limitations will be imposed on the power of the judiciary to hold elected members of the Knesset in check through the “reasonableness” test.

The principal grants power to the judiciary to throw out legislation that judges consider to be unreasonable.

Under Israel’s unicameral system, wherein there is only one parliamentary chamber, no constitutional restraint on government policy will remain if the bill becomes law.

Such an eventuality is likely to be disastrous for advocates of Israel in the West, who have long championed the idea that Israel can always find the balance between racial apartheid and democracy.

(MEMO, The Palestine Chronicle)

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