GOP’s Haley, Rubio slam Biden for rebuke of Netanyahu over judicial overhaul

Republican White House ticket hopeful says comments ‘outrageous,’ while Florida senator suggests US president responsible if Israel were to be attacked by Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran

(L) Nikki Haley on March 27, 2023, in Dover, New Hampshire (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) and (R) Marco Rubio at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 9, 2023 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(L) Nikki Haley on March 27, 2023, in Dover, New Hampshire (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) and (R) Marco Rubio at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 9, 2023 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

White House Republican hopeful Nikki Haley and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio bashed US President Joe Biden on Wednesday for his rebuke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s highly contentious judicial overhaul.

“It’s outrageous for Joe Biden to lecture Israel on a matter that is entirely their domestic concern,” Haley tweeted. “We would never want the Israeli government to push America on issues surrounding our Supreme Court, and they wouldn’t do it. We should let Israelis decide this themselves.”

Haley, a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador during the Donald Trump administration, has long touted her pro-Israel bona fides as part of her campaign to get the top slot on the Republican Party’s ticket for the 2024 election. However, she faces competition from, among others, her former boss and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Biden is widely assumed to be running for re-election.

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has previously expressed discomfort over the security situation unfolding amid the Israeli government’s plan to shackle the High Court, suggested that Biden’s comments constituted a threat to Israel.

“If during these already dangerous days Israel is attacked by Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran it will be because Joe Biden decided to involve himself in Israeli politics,” Rubio tweeted.

US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina, March 28, 2023, en route to Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has also showed discomfort with the plan, wrote as part of a series of tweets about a call he had with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, that “Israel and the United States have an unbreakable bond.”

The latest and most severe blip in the bilateral relationship — which has slowly deteriorated since Netanyahu returned to office three months ago at the head of the most right-wing government in Israeli history — unfolded on Tuesday when Biden was asked about the state of Israeli democracy and the prime minister’s planned judicial overhaul before boarding Air Force One.

The president responded that he hoped Netanyahu would “walk away” from his current judicial overhaul legislation, and that he was “very concerned” about the health of Israeli democracy. “They cannot continue down this road. And I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden said. “Hopefully the prime minister will act… to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen.”

Biden also gave an emphatic “no” when asked whether he would be inviting Netanyahu to the White House, adding: “Not in the near term.”

Netanyahu responded shortly thereafter by saying he appreciates Biden’s friendship and longstanding commitment to Israel and stressed that the US-Israel alliance is “unbreakable” and can overcome disagreements. The premier also said his government is committed to correcting what he claims is a power imbalance between Israel’s three branches of government but is trying to do so with as broad a consensus as possible.

However, Netanyahu closed by rebuffing Biden, saying that “Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Wednesday the White House offered praise for Netanyahu’s comments in what appeared to represent an attempt by the Biden administration to lower the temperature after tensions between the US and Israel.

The radical nature of the judicial overhaul being advanced by Netanyahu’s government has further strained a bilateral relationship that is already tested due to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Israel’s attorney general has warned that the package of legislation — which would give the coalition almost complete control over all judicial appointments, and radically constrain the High Court — would hand the government virtually unrestrained power, without providing any institutional protections for individual rights or for the nation’s democratic character.

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