US Vice President Kamala Harris hinted at the US opposition to the Israeli government's proposed judicial reform after she was informed that MK Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and one of the architects of the legislation, was in attendance at her speech, Ynet reported on Thursday.
Harris spoke on Tuesday at a reception in honor of Israel's 75th Independence Day which was hosted by the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. Among other things, she said that an independent judiciary was one of the values that have been the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship.
Citing a US source on Thursday, Ynet said that that Rothman was not on the original guest list and did not inform the embassy of his arrival in Washington. Following the incident, the embassy stated that "Shortly before the event, the Foreign Ministry informed us that MK Rothman contacted them and informed them of his intention to come to Washington and requested to be invited to the embassy event."
"We regret that the public focus on this event, which brought great honor to the State of Israel, is centered around the question of the presence of Member of Knesset Rothman. The Embassy of Israel is not a political entity and requests not to be drawn into political discussions. It represents the State of Israel with dignity and respects the elected officials of the State of Israel accordingly."
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen fired back on Harris' veiled criticism of the government's judicial reform, telling Reshet Bet radio in an interview that the Vice President had no knowledge of the actual proposals in the plan.
"If you'd ask Kamala Harris what bothers her about the reform - she wouldn't even be able to cite a single clause that bothers her. I bet that she hasn't even read the bill. Even the judges in the US don't have the right to decide who will replace them," claimed Cohen.
After his comments caused an uproar, Cohen walked back his criticism and wrote on Twitter, “I have deep respect for our ally the United States of America and for Vice President Harris, a true friend of Israel.”
“Israel’s legal reform is an internal issue that is currently in the process of consolidation and dialogue. The State of Israel will continue to be democratic and liberal, as it has always been,” he added.