US State Department
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State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday that, while Israel is an independent country, the US will continue to express concerns it has over goings on in Israel.

Miller was responding to comments made by National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, who had responded to US President Joe Biden’s recent criticism of Israel and said that that Israel is an independent country and not another star on the US flag.

Asked during his daily press briefing to comment on Ben Gvir’s remarks, Miller said, “Well, that’s a statement of fact. Israel is an independent country. At the same time, when we have concerns, we will continue to express them, just as countries express their concerns about actions the United States takes, and we view that as constructive and healthy.”

Ben Gvir was responding to Biden’s assertion, in an interview with CNN on Sunday, that the current Israeli government is the "most extreme" he has ever dealt with.

“It’s not all Israel now in the West Bank, all Israel’s problem, but they are a part of the problem and particularly those individuals in the cabinet who say, ‘We can settle anywhere we want. They have no right to be here, etc.,’” Biden said. “And I think we were talking with them regularly, trying to tamp down what’s going on, and hopefully, Bibi will continue to move toward moderation and change.”

In his press briefing on Monday, Miller was also asked about the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform and reiterated the administration’s stance that such moves need to pass with a broad consensus.

“With respect to judicial reform, as the administration has said on a number of occasions, both US and Israeli democracy are built on strong institutions, checks and balances, and an independent judiciary,” he said.

“The President has said publicly and privately that fundamental reforms like this require a broad basis of support to be durable and sustained,” added Miller.

Earlier on Monday, the outgoing US Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, told The Wall Street Journal that the Biden administration is trying to stop Israel from “going off the rails” with the overhaul of its judicial system.

Nides said the planned overhaul raised questions about Israel’s democratic credentials and the US-Israeli bond, which he called “as close as family”.

“One of the messages I sent to the prime minister was to tap the brakes, slow down,” Nides added. “Try to get consensus.”

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.

Nides himself called on Israeli leaders to “pump the brakes” on the judicial reform several months ago.

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”.