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US VP: Israel needs ‘independent judiciary’

Protester: Israel's judicial reforms will lead to 'constitutional crisis'

June 7, 2023 at 11:57 am

US VP: Israel needs ‘independent judiciary’

US Vice President Kamala Harris said that Israel’s democracy requires an “independent judiciary”, adding her name to the controversy over the judicial amendments proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which sparked massive protests in Israel.

“America will continue to stand for the values that have been the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship, which includes continuing to strengthen our democracies, which as the [Israeli] ambassador has said, are both built on strong institutions, checks and balances, and I’ll add: an independent judiciary,” Harris said.

The vice president was speaking at a reception hosted by the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Her remarks on the judiciary were met with applause.

Harris also reasserted President Joe Biden’s administration’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

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The streets of Israel witnessed unprecedented protests for weeks after Netanyahu announced a package of planned amendments to the Supreme Court, with members of his national religious coalition accusing him of elitism and overreach.

Under internal and external pressure, including pressure from the Biden administration, Netanyahu has delayed implementing the amendments in an effort to reach consensus with the political opposition.

Critics see Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies, as a threat to the courts’ independence.

Senior economists and national security experts have warned of the plan’s repercussions, saying that an independent judiciary is vital to Israel’s democratic norms and economic strength.

Before Harris spoke, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a video speech to the crowd that he planned to visit the White House and address a joint session of the US Congress “in the near future.” The trip is expected to take place in July.

Biden has not yet extended an invitation from the White House to Netanyahu, despite Israel’s status as a major ally in the Middle East.

Relations between Biden and Netanyahu have chilled since the US president took office. Biden has pressured the Israeli prime minister in the past few months to abandon the judicial amendment plan.

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