Despite President Joe Biden's call to halt the judicial overhaul in Israel, the White House reiterates again and again that the United States doesn’t interfere in the internal affairs of its allies.
Even though a draft statement presented to the U.S. Congress last week expressed official support for protests against the legislation in Israel, it doesn’t call on the Biden administration to act right away, but it does represent an unprecedented step in Washington's involvement in Israeli politics.
One of the two congresswomen who drafted the statement, Representative Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, says the move was inevitable, despite criticism of foreign intervention. “I was proud to introduce a resolution to make clear that the United States Congress stands for democracy in Israel, as we have for decades.”
According to her, the move’s advantages outweigh its possible faults. “Looking to the future, I am confident that democracy will prevail and that the United States and Israel will continue to be allies to address the most pressing issues of our time.”
The congresswoman clarified that she believed intervention was unavoidable after being “alarmed by the current Israeli government’s attempts to weaken democratic institutions in the country. These actions risk corroding the values that bind our nations together.”
Kuster, a 66-year-old attorney, expresses particular concern about the cancellation of the reasonableness standard. " The current Israeli government's attempts to weaken the Supreme Court pose a critical threat to Israel’s democratic institutions, which are the foundation of the relationship between our two countries.”
Kuster’s great-grandfather, John McLane, served as the Governor of New Hampshire in the early 20th century. Her father, Malcolm McLane, was the mayor of Concord, New Hampshire’s capital, a member of the state’s government, and the owner of a popular ski resort. Her mother, Susan McLane, was the state's Republican representative in the Senate.
Kuster, a Protestant Christian with dovish opinions, is considered one of the pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress and has been involved in legislation supporting the Abraham Accords and normalization efforts between countries in the Middle East.
She was among the signatories of the letter to U.S. President Biden in March, calling on him to “use all diplomatic tools available to prevent Israel’s current government from further damaging the nation’s democratic institutions.”
In the same letter, senior figures in the Democratic Party alarmed Biden that "the legislature to overturn Supreme Court decisions would jeopardize Israeli democracy, which in turn would undermine the very foundation of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Today, Kuster leads a group of 12 other Democratic lawmakers who submitted a draft statement for approval, showing support for protest organizations in Israel. The short statement includes three clauses that Congress members are asked to agree upon:
1. Democracy is at the core of the special relationship between the United States and Israel.
2. Congress opposes actions that undermine Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state.
3. Congress stands with all Israelis seeking to defend liberal democracy, judicial review, and independent political institutions acting in a system of checks and balances.
The letter is endorsed by the Jewish left-wing organization J Street and was well received by Israeli protestors. Offir Gutelzon, founder of the UnXeptable protest movement, told Kuster that U.S. solidarity with the protestors is highly appreciated in Israel.
“The decision expresses support from both Congress and the White House that has been increasing over several months –for the Israelis who have been fighting to save every day for the last seven months to save Israel’s democracy,” he said.
In a foreword to the statement, Kuster and her colleague, Rep. Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, make it clear the decision is intended not only to support Israeli democracy but also to oppose “any actions that undermine Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state.”
“The vote by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s extremist coalition to strip the judiciary’s check over the government’s decisions and appointments – after months of unprecedented public protest – represents a huge blow to Israeli democracy,” the statement read.
“With additional anti-democratic reforms in the pipeline, this resolution sends the message that the United States Congress supports protestors in Israel demanding their voices be heard and that Israel’s democratic institutions be protected.”
"The Netanyahu government’s anti-democratic agenda not only threatens Israel’s standing in the world, but also the very core of the special relationship between the United States and Israel," said Schakowsky, who participated in a demonstration against the judicial overhaul in Chicago.
"I hope this resolution serves as a warning to the Netanyahu government to reverse course, and as a beacon of hope for the millions of Israelis protesting to save the foundation and future of their nation."