Tom Nides
Tom NidesGideon Markowicz/TPS

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Tuesday that he does not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will move forward with the entire judicial reform plan unilaterally because the public reaction will be "dramatic", as he put it.

Nides’ comments were made in a virtual briefing to the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA). They come after the Knesset resumed the advancement of the government's planned judicial reforms, a move implemented after the opposition froze the negotiations on the issue that were taking place at the President's Residence.

Nides said that, while some of Netanyahu’s coalition partners might have other objectives, he does not believe Netanyahu himself wants to move forward with the legislation, and would rather focus on the efforts to counter Iran and achieve normalization agreements with Arab countries.

"I do not believe we're gonna wake up and they're gonna do all this legislation unilaterally. I do not believe that will happen. I don't believe the Prime Minister wants this. This was never, in my humble view, the Prime Minister's major objective becoming a Prime Minister," the Ambassador said.

"His coalition partners have a different objective, but I think he himself wants to do big things. He wants to focus on Iran, he wants to focus on normalizing with Saudi Arabia. So my hope is they will not do everything unilaterally. Because I think the reaction here would be quite dramatic," Nides added.

US officials have repeatedly opined that any changes to the judicial reform in Israel should be implemented with the agreement of both the government and the opposition.

Just last week, a US National Security Council spokesperson said, "The President has said consistently, both privately and publicly, that fundamental reforms like these require a broad basis of support to be durable and sustained, and we hope there will be genuine compromise."

"Ultimately, it is up to Israelis to find the best path forward.  But as close friends of Israel, we urge them to reach a compromise with the broadest possible base of popular support.  We look forward to working with Israel to advance the interests and democratic values that have been at the heart of our relationship for decades," added the spokesperson.

President Joe Biden weighed in on the judicial reform in February, telling The New York Times, “The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary.”

“Building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained,” the President added.

Vice President Kamala Harris later also weighed in on the issue, telling Politico, “As the president has said, an independent judiciary is foundational for a democracy. And I think that there is no question that we need to make sure that that is supported in terms of what we talk about [and] in terms of our values.”

Three weeks ago, Harris again commented on the judicial reform, telling a reception held by the Israeli Embassy in Washington that an independent judiciary was one of the values that have been the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship.

Nides himself called on Israeli leaders to “pump the brakes” on the judicial reform. This resulted in a back-and-forth with Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, who responded to Nides in a radio interview and said, “I say to the American ambassador, put on the brakes yourself and mind your own business. You aren’t sovereign here, to get involved in the matter of judicial reform. We will be happy to discuss foreign and security matters with you. But respect our democracy.”

Nides later took a swipe at Chikli, describing him as “an Israeli official that I don’t know”.