US envoy says peaceful struggle over overhaul shows Israeli democracy is ‘working’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

United States Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides speaks at the Herzliya Conference on May 22, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
United States Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides speaks at the Herzliya Conference on May 22, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

In a change of tone from previous statements from some senior White House officials, US Ambassador Tom Nides says that the public struggle over the government’s judicial overhaul plan is a testament to the strength of Israeli democracy.

“Think about this for a minute,” he says at the Herzliya Conference. “Every weekend for 20 weeks, between 150,000 and 250,000 Israelis have gone to the streets. And guess what’s happened? Virtually no one’s been arrested. There’s been no damage of property. God knows no one’s been killed. That’s a democracy, and some would say it’s actually working, really working.”

“I think it is a remarkable testament to this place,” he says in a conversation with retired Israeli general Amos Yadlin.

“Israel is going through a complicated period,” Nides continues. “But make no mistake, Israel is a thriving democracy with people that care deeply about the future of the country, and that’s something we should all be proud of.”

“This alliance is very healthy,” says Nides, who is stepping down from his position in six weeks. “This relationship is unbreakable, it’s worthy of both the United States and Israel, and we continue to expand it and grow it every day.”

Turning to the Iran threat, Nides says that the bilateral “coordination and conversation around Iran are completely without any lack of transparency.”

“There isn’t a day that goes by, and arguably not an hour that goes by, that we’re not talking to Israel about what they believe,” he says.

Nides also offers rare praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly blasted the 2015 nuclear agreement that continues to be a priority for US President Joe Biden’s administration.

“He’s been consistent for almost twenty years on the issue of Iran,” says Nides.

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