Jacob Kornbluh, The Forward
Jacob Kornbluh, The ForwardIsrael National News

According to political commentator Jacob Kornbluh, there is “frustration” among Biden White House staff over the judicial reform situation in Israel, which is leading to the charge that they are distancing themselves from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The Biden administration expressed their objections to the judicial reform because it lacked broad support and condemned recent moves by the government and rhetoric by some senior ministers,” Kornbluh, the Forward’s senior political reporter, told Israel National News.

“They don’t want to distance themselves simply because there is so much at stake and have no interest in deepening the rift. But there’s clearly frustration among White House officials about the events that led to this current situation.”

He described the position of the opposition in Israel to judicial reform as being similar to the misgivings expressed by the White House.

“The concerns the administration expressed about the judicial reforms are similar to those expressed by Israeli defense officials and a majority of the American Jewish establishment. The White House hasn’t said anything different,” he said.

Speaking about why Netanyahu wasn’t invited to the White House, it was his opinion that it had nothing to do with the composition of his government.

“Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu know each other for 40 years and have established a working relationship and even a friendship over the years. They don’t need a meeting just for the purpose of a meeting or to get to know each other,” Kornbluh said.

“The fact that Netanyahu hasn’t been invited to the White House yet has to do with the fact that the administration wants to wait and see how this issue plays out and think that an Oval Office meeting while thousands of Israelis are protesting on the street and there’s political instability won’t lead to any positive developments.”

He went on to describe the protests surrounding judicial reform as a distraction for issues important to the "core" of Israeli's relations with the US.

“This turmoil serves as a distraction for all the important matters that are at the core of the US-Israel relationship—including the battle against Iran and the expanding of the Abraham Accords.”

He does not believe that there is a “significant crisis” in the relationship between Israel and the US, and mentions that Israel is not in the current top list of American priorities, which are largely issues of domestic and foreign policy emergencies.

“America is consumed with [so] many domestic and international crises that Israel is not on the top in the list of priorities, but there’s a clearly a crisis that shouldn’t be taken lightly by the Israeli government. And I believe Netanyahu knows that. Since he came back to power, Netanyahu hasn’t shown that he has his hands firmly on the wheel,” he said.

He called for a comprise solution – “that will be acceptable to some parties in the opposition and the restoration of calm both in Israel and in [Judea and Samaria]” – to tame the current crisis in Israel.

Speaking about whether the judicial reform situation could harm the continuation of US military aid to Israel, which is a big top in the Israeli media currently, he notes:

“The Biden administration and the current leadership in Congress in both parties won’t let that happen. But there are growing calls, including in the Jewish community, for certain conditions on aid to Israel, whether it’s prohibiting military assistance to be spent on the expansion of settlements or annexation or condition future aid on Israel upholding democratic values. If the legislation passed without compromise it will be harder to fight those battles.”

Kornbluh does not believe that the Biden administration is interfering in Israeli domestic affairs with its position on judicial reform, but rather that it is “expressing concerns from a wide range of Israeli society and American Jewry.”

“This is not just a matter of disagreement on certain policy… but expressing the views of many Israelis, as they see it reflected in public opinion polls conducted by Israeli media,” he said.“Their urging of the Israeli government to make changes with broad support is backed by a majority of the American Jewish leadership as well.”

He added: “There’s also an issue of trust and the belief that Netanyahu is not controlling his ministers and partners and they worry about what may happen next and about a possible escalation in violence.”