ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Breaking silence, GOP lawmakers lament overhaul’s security ramifications for Israel

Sens. Graham, Rubio and Young point to large numbers of IDF reservists refusing to report for duty if coalition’s legislative effort passes; Romney joins Democrat in hailing pause

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., right, speaks during a news conference on the violence in the Mideast on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Standing with Rubio is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., center. (AP Photo)
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., right, speaks during a news conference on the violence in the Mideast on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Standing with Rubio is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., center. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON — Several Republican lawmakers have expressed their concern regarding the judicial overhaul plan’s security ramifications, breaking the party’s silence on the issue and implicitly coming out against the effort to radically curb the High Court of Justice’s power.

The four Republican lawmakers who weighed in on Monday and Tuesday did not go nearly as far in their comments as the Biden administration and the dozens of Democrats who have not shied away from expressing their displeasure with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s now-paused legislation. But the decision to weigh in at all — and not to express their support for the hardline Israeli government — demonstrated that discomfort with the overhaul extends to both parties on Capitol Hill.

“I’m concerned that this effort to reform the judiciary — which is up to them — has had an effect of weakening the security apparatus,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told the Jewish Insider news site after Netanyahu announced a temporary suspension of the overhaul amid mass protests against it. “I am glad Bibi wanted to try to find a compromise and take the time out… Their security has been affected by all this domestic drama.”

Graham was apparently referencing the large numbers of IDF reservists who have either threatened to refuse to report for duty if the overhaul is passed or have already begun doing so, sparking grave concerns in military leadership, which has warned that the protests are harming its operational capacity (reservists have announced they are removing the threat for now, since the overhaul has been suspended).

Sen. Marco Rubio told Jewish Insider he was also concerned about the overhaul’s impact on the security situation, but avoided commenting on the specific proposals being pushed by Netanyahu’s government.

“The military people are refusing to show up to work — that’s concerning. I think it encourages Israel’s adversaries to potentially strike against them.”

Israelis protest outside the Knesset against the government’s planned judicial overhaul, in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Sen. Todd Young told reporters that the fallout over the shakeup has produced a “really concerning situation” due to its “national security implications.”

Another Republican senator, Mitt Romney, signed on to a joint bipartisan statement Monday with Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy that welcomed Netanyahu’s decision to pause the overhaul effort.

“Shared democratic values have long underpinned the US-Israel relationship, and we hope this delay provides an opportunity to work towards a compromise and de-escalation of the current crisis,” the two senators said.

Roughly a month ago, The Times of Israel reached out to the office of every Republican in the party’s congressional leadership, requesting comment on the matter, but either did not receive a response or was told that the respective lawmaker was not interested in commenting.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Axios earlier this month he didn’t have an opinion that he was willing to voice. “This is something the citizens of Israel are going to have to sort out for themselves without any American influence… It isn’t any of my business to give Israelis advice about how to sort this out.”

David Friedman, who served as former US president Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel, had been one of the few Republican voices to weigh in until this week, taking particular issue with the coalition’s legislative effort to allow the Knesset to override decisions made by the Supreme Court. “That to me is offensive to my idea of how courts should work,” he said during a private event earlier this month.

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