Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) warned that the actions of Israel’s new government could result in an “erosion” in US support for Israel.
Speaking to Haaretz, Sherman, a top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I see the mistakes the current government is making,” adding that his support for Israel, “even when the government makes mistakes,” is why he has chosen to speak up.
“Because I’m part of the US government, I’m a little reluctant to say what exact structure of government Israel should have,” he continued. “But to the extent I have an opinion, judicial review is a good idea. It’s good to have basic democratic principles and a Supreme Court that can make sure you adhere to them.”
Sherman told Haaretz that he believes the planned judicial overhaul, along with the very makeup of the government, could further alienate many Democrats from supporting Israel.
“Before the current government does anything, just the makeup of that government is corrosive to support in the Democratic caucus,” he claimed, adding that “Israel has one friend in the world, plus Guatemala. It cannot afford to only have half of one friend. The fact is they need the United States. They need us in international forums, they need us for so many reasons. Those who risk US support should know what they’re doing.”
Sherman further said in the interview that the primary risk from Israel’s current government is failing to embrace the two-state solution and “toying with the idea of annexation.”
He warned of those on the right who think Israel will be able to annex Judea and Samaria without giving citizenship to the Palestinian Arab population.
“Disenfranchising, if it’s temporary, is entirely legal. If it’s occupied territory, you’re working toward a negotiated two-state solution, then people who aren’t going to be under your sovereignty and aren’t going to be your citizens don’t vote in your elections,” he told Haaretz. “Once you say out loud that the West Bank is a permanent part of your territory, how do you deprive the people who live there?” Supporters of annexation “don’t really have an answer,” he argued.
Sherman also argued that under the current circumstances, US President Joe Biden is “the best Democrat Israel could hope for” – though this should not make Israel overconfident of US support. “The fact that Biden’s policies are good doesn’t guarantee that, a decade from now, a different president would have equally good policies,” he warned.
Sherman’s comments come as the US expresses concerns over the judicial reform.
Axios reported last week that White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in a private meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, raised the Israeli government’s plan to overhaul the country's judicial system.
This is the first time that a senior Biden administration official has discussed the issue directly with Netanyahu. The Biden administration is concerned the plan could harm the independence of the Israeli judicial system and other democratic institutions, according to Axios.
On Sunday, Channel 12 News reported that Netanyahu conveyed a message of reassurance to Sullivan, telling him that that "as far as I’m concerned, the legal reform will pass with broad consensus, it will not pass as it is presented now."
Meanwhile, Channel 13 News reported on Sunday that the US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, has in recent weeks held several meetings with Israeli officials, among other things with current politicians, regarding the judicial reform.
In one of the meetings held about two weeks ago, which also dealt with security aspects, Nides expressed a great interest in understanding the latest government moves, and according to one of those present in the room, he said there that "Israel's internal moves are its business."
Nides was recently asked in an interview with Kan 11 News about Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reforms and replied, “I’m not here to involve ourselves in the judicial process of Israel. The Israeli people don’t want to be lectured by America.”
Nides added, “We have shared values. We’ll let the Israeli public articulate their support or their dismay. That’s up to them. It’s not up to the United States to be commenting on the judicial issues that they face.”