Likud minister claims Biden coordinating overhaul criticism with Lapid, Ehud Barak

Amichai Chikli says US president’s ‘people’ are synchronizing their comments with Israeli opposition leader and former PM

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli at the Knesset, June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli at the Knesset, June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Diaspora Affairs and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli alleged Tuesday that comments made by US President Joe Biden earlier in the week criticizing the government and expressing concern over its judicial overhaul program had been coordinated Israel’s Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and former prime minister Ehud Barak.

“Every time they [overhaul opponents] want to fan the flames, all of a sudden there’s a comment from the direction of the [US] president,” Chikli remarked in an interview with the Kol Barama radio station.

“I think these comments are prompted and timed by Lapid and Barak and their people who are friends with these people [in the Biden administration],” he added. “There is a certain amount of coordination between Biden’s people and Lapid and Ehud Barak; there is certain amount of synchronization.”

In an interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday, Biden said the current Israeli government had some of “the most extreme members of cabinets” he had ever seen, and, regarding the judicial overhaul, “hopefully, Bibi [Netanyahu] will continue to move toward moderation in changing the court.”

The outspoken Chikli has chafed against other US officials, lawmakers, and some elements of the US Jewish community.

Chikli told US Ambassador Tom Nides in March to “mind your own business” after Nides said the government should slow down its push to overhaul the judiciary.

In June, he called the liberal Jewish Middle East lobbying group J Street “hostile” to Israel after it retweeted a photo of the minister from New York City’s Celebrate Israel Parade in which he appeared to be making an obscene gesture toward a group protesting the Israeli government. He and his staff said he was signaling to the protesters to smile and did not intend to make an obscene gesture.

Days earlier, in an interview, the minister appeared to dismiss US antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt as a “nice lady who deals with antisemitism,” and a leftist.

Also in June, Chikli reportedly irritated a group of Jewish Democratic lawmakers when he told them, “I’m not progressive, I’m not woke.” Chikli made the comment during a Washington, DC, meeting with about 10 moderate and progressive members of Congress from the Democratic party, according to Axios.

US President Joe Biden waves as he walks down the steps of Air Force One at Vilnius International Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 10, 2023. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The Netanyahu government is pushing ahead with a controversial drastic overhaul of the judiciary that has prompted months of mass protests. Opponents ramped up rallies on Tuesday after the Knesset approved in its first reading a key element of the overhaul that would curtail judicial review of government actions.

While the government says the judicial plan is needed to rein in what it sees as an over-intrusive court system, critics say the changes will dangerously erode Israel’s democratic character.

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