Sara Lehmann
Sara LehmannCourtesy

Eighteen years ago, my family was in Israel on a summer vacation that coincided with the imminent Disengagement from Gush Katif. Orange ribbons were everywhere.

We visited the Knesset and sat in the Visitors Gallery behind a thick glass partition to watch the Knesset in session. The speaker at the podium looked to be former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was then a minister in the Ariel Sharon government. I saw him glance up several times at the gallery in my direction, motion to a guard and whisper in his ear. A few minutes later the guard entered the gallery and approached me. He said that the orange ribbon attached to my purse, which I had placed on the table in front of me, was disturbing the speaker at the podium. Either I would have to remove the ribbon or leave the gallery.

As an American used to freedom of expression, this request seemed ludicrous and offensive. But the guard was totally in earnest. Not wanting to leave my family after we had just arrived, I had no choice but to comply.

Fast forward to Olmert’s view of civil disobedience today. Last month Israel’s Channel 14 revealed texts (dated before the announcement of the judicial reform plan, ed.) from a secret WhatsApp group of leading protest organizations that included Olmert. Olmert, who has clearly moved on from ribbons, urges, “We have to fight head-to-head, hand-to-hand.”

Along with other instigators, Olmert has certainly succeeded in inciting the leftist mob in Israel. Under the banner of democracy, they have shut down major highways, disrupted Ben Gurion Airport, pressured chain stores to close, assaulted police officers, thrown rocks, and engaged in other violence. They harass Netanyahu’s coalition partners and have enlisted ex-patriots in America to hound those politicians on visits to the U.S. In some instances, the harassment is clearly violent.

The protests against judicial reform, cloaking a seething resentment against Prime Minister Netanyahu and his rightwing religious cohorts, seem to be serving an additional purpose. They are providing the Biden administration with an expedient excuse to shun the Bibi coalition.

There is little common ground and no love lost between the Biden administration, which has largely buckled under pressure from leftwing Democrats hostile to Israel, and the Israeli government. This extends beyond divergence over foreign policy, such as the two-state solution.

Recent decisions bear this out, including the Biden White House pursuit of a deal with Iran, Biden’s snubbing of Netanyahu, the refusal to embrace the IHRA definition of antisemitism in the new U.S. national strategy to combat antisemitism, and the U.S. State Department’s decision to restrict funding to Israeli institutions located over the Green Line. The latter limits scientific and technological cooperation with Israel, after rescinding a Trump administration decision that removed such limitations.

Back in March, President Biden said he was “very concerned” about judicial reform and added, “They cannot continue down this road.” Just last week, he insisted, “We urge authorities to protect and respect the right of peaceful assembly.”

Just who is lecturing whom? While “Days of Disruption” mount, Israeli Police have sent files on anti-reform activists to the Prosecutor’s Office but not one of them has led to an indictment. Yet, while Israeli officials allow protestors to subject an Israeli public, which voted overwhelmingly for judicial reform, to every conceivable hardship, January 6th demonstrators are still being prosecuted. Some for merely trespassing. There are non-violent detainees who were subjected to inhumane treatment and forced to be in solitary confinement 23 hours a day before their trials started. Such treatment even led the ACLU and Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren to object.

More evidence of the Biden administration’s weaponization of federal agencies, including the DOJ and the FBI, and its collusion with big tech to violate American civil liberties provide more bad optics. Biden would be well advised to keep his nose out of the Netanyahu coalition, whom he maligned as “one of the most extreme” cabinets, when that coalition exhibits more compunction towards citizens’ civil liberties than he does. Perhaps too much.

He would also be well advised to steer clear of Jewish naysayers with outsized mouthpieces, like Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Both are tripping over each other in an attempt to badmouth Israel’s current leadership.

In a particularly vicious op-ed, even by his own standards, Friedman condemned Netanyahu and his coalition of “ciphers and ultranationalists” as being responsible for “the U.S.-Israel breakdown in shared values” because of their pursuit of judicial reform. He claimed that Biden believes Netanyahu is exploiting judicial reform to engage “in unprecedented radical behavior…that is undermining our shared interests with Israel, our shared values and the vitally shared fiction about the status of the West Bank that has kept peace hopes there just barely alive.”

Therein lies the rub. Before accusing Israel of destroying “shared values”, it needs to be determined what those values are, whether they are indeed shared and whether they are worth sharing.

Israel and America no longer share many of the same “values” that the leftwing Friedman thinks and wishes they did. The split between right and left in America was precipitated by a split in these same values. Democrats and Republicans now subscribe to vastly different ideologies – whether cultural, economic, religious or national. This extends to their view of Israel as the only democratic ally in the Middle East.

A similar gulf exists in Israel, although the right outnumbers the left. Those “shared values” that Friedman references are shared only with Israel’s left, who are protesting any effort to reign in a leftist Supreme Court that threatens the Jewish nature of Israel and undermines its security.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Nides said, “I think most Israelis want the United States to be in their business. With that sometimes comes a modicum of a price, which is articulating when we think things are going off the rails.” Considering who is running the United States today and which rails they’re running on, that presumptuous statement is as false as it is dangerous.

Until the Biden administration can prove that it has Israel’s back, it should not be in its business.

Sara Lehmann is an award-winning New York based columnist and interviewer. For more of her writings please visit

A version of this article first appeared in Hamodia.