Washington DC – Tensions between American and Israeli leaders rarely play out in public.
But this week, US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanged views over plans by Netanyahu’s far-right government to reform Israel’s judicial system.
The Israeli occupation was not part of the exchange between the two leaders, but analysts said public discord could provide an opportunity to make the plight of the Palestinian people known to a wider audience in the United States. said.
Palestinian-American analyst Youssef Munayer said Biden’s “significant statement” on Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan would have “a much broader impact” than that issue alone.
Munayer said direct criticism from Biden was already against the notion that the close US-Israel relationship was based on “shared values” of democracy and freedom, especially among Democrats. said it would boost growing skepticism.
This is “the latest step in exposing the idea of shared values as a fundamental myth of human relationships. When you realize it, you start to completely reassess your position on these issues,” Munayyer told Al Jazeera.
Biden, citing Jewish American opposition to Israel’s controversial judicial reform proposal, warned the Israeli prime minister on Tuesday that his government “cannot go down this path.” Netanyahu countered in his official statement, saying Israel is a sovereign state that makes its own decisions.
Israel’s judicial proposal, which has been criticized for limiting court oversight of the government, has rocked Israeli politics and sparked nationwide protests. Despite the delay in passing the proposal under pressure, the plan has not been scrapped.
Even some die-hard Israeli supporters in the United States, including many Democratic lawmakers and prominent Jewish organizations, have refused to push for judicial reform in rare criticism of the Israeli government.
“If these reforms are implemented, Israeli democracy will be dramatically weakened, losing the meaningful checks and balances that provide the separation of powers that are the backbone of a secure democracy,” said the reformist Jewish The church’s religious leader said in a statement in January.
Palestinians are largely absent from the debate, but Palestinian rights advocates say the unusual criticism of the Israeli government in mainstream US circles will help open further conversations about the state and its treatment of Palestinians. says it might.
They note that Palestinians are gaining more sympathy in the United States, especially among young people and Democrats.
James Zogby, director of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a think tank in Washington, D.C., said that while Israel’s internal crisis will not change the Biden administration’s overall position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it ultimately will He said it could influence public opinion.
A self-proclaimed Zionist, Biden has sought unconditional U.S. support for Israel throughout his decades-long political career, despite pledging to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy as president. Israel has been accused of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians by major human rights groups, including Amnesty International, and receives at least $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid each year.
Zogby said when the U.S. president confronted Israel, as Biden did this week, “it shows it can be done.”
“And it shows that Israel is responding to pressure,” he told Al Jazeera. “Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have also been seen demonstrating against the government. All of which contributes to raising deeper questions within the United States about what is happening in Israel.”
At the same time, in Congress, some legislators are trying to bring the focus back to the Palestinian issue when it comes to Israel.
U.S. Rep. Jamal Bowman and Sen. Bernie Sanders are leading pressure on the Biden administration to stop the use of U.S. weapons in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, according to a news website. The Jewish Tide reported on Wednesday. While primarily focused on Israeli abuses of Palestinians, the letter also mentions Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms.
“This Israeli government’s anti-democratic mission to dismantle the rule of law is a threat to both Israelis and Palestinians,” it read. “In addition to its clearly hateful anti-Palestinian policy, this government seeks to destroy an independent Israeli judiciary.”
Appeal to Americans
But for the most part, US politicians have directed their criticism at Netanyahu’s judicial reform plans, not at his government’s treatment of Palestinians. Indeed, US officials often reaffirm their “ironproof” commitments to Israel.
Like Biden, some Democrats in Congress expressed concern over Israel’s “democracy”, with millions of Palestinians living under the control of the Israeli government without basic citizenship. He welcomed the protesters without mentioning the country’s occupation of the Palestinian Territory.
To support Israel is to support democracy.
A strong and independent judiciary is vital to any democracy, including Israel.
We applaud the thousands of Israelis who have spoken out against Netanyahu’s actions.
Israel cannot become an authoritarian state. pic.twitter.com/MpiYAHrjNC
— Rep. Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) March 29, 2023
Palestinians have also been left out of calls for so-called “demonstrations for democracy” in Israel. Israel’s Supreme Court, where anti-Netanyahu demonstrators have converged to stay in power, often upholds laws that target and oppress Palestinians, analysts say.
Nonetheless, Palestinian-American activist and legal scholar Noura Elakat said Palestinian advocates could use the Israeli crisis to highlight violations of Palestinian rights.
“I think everything is an opportunity to intervene, even if it is a disruption, basically to shorten the media narrative and highlight these things,” he told Al Jazeera. She told Al Jazeera.
Erakat argued that many Palestinian commentators, through mainstream, alternative and social media, argued that Israel could not be a democracy if it continued to oppress the Palestinians living under its rule. I added that there is.
She likened the moment to the era of Donald Trump, whose liberal critics consistently denounced the former American president’s domestic and foreign policies, opening a window of criticism for America’s support for Israel.
Erakat said it was frustrating for Biden and some pro-Israel groups to criticize Netanyahu only when Israeli internal affairs were involved, saying Palestinians “do not count” on them. It is shown that.
Munayer also said it was “frustrating” that Israeli violations against Palestinians would not spur this kind of reaction from Washington, but that Palestinians should focus on pushing themselves into the conversation. added.
“We need to consider how the issue of Palestinian rights can appeal to American audiences through the prism of shared values,” he said.
“If this is indeed the case for US-Israel relations, it is clear that there are no shared values without Palestinian freedom and Palestinian equality, and that true democracy includes Palestinians. need to do it.”