NY Times writer, Pulitzer Prize winner calls on Biden to 'save' Israel

Thomas L. Friedman writes in his NYT column that Israel is on the verge of a transformation from a full-fledged democracy to something that may destabilize the whole region, and even impact U.S. national security interests

Ynet|
A Pulitzer Prize winner and a New York Times contributor wrote in his Tuesday's column that U.S. President Joe Biden needs to intervene in the political situation in Israel in order to save the country, which he claims is approaching the point of a civil unrest.
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  • In his New York Times column, Thomas L. Friedman said that if he could slip a memo to Biden about the new Israeli government, it would say: "Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation — from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one."
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    מפגינים בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב
    מפגינים בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב
    Some 80,000 Israelis protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday against the new government
    (Photo: EPA)
    "You may be the only one able to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition from turning Israel into an illiberal bastion of zealotry," he added.
    Friedman also addressed the internal civil conflict in the country. "For years, the fierce debates in Israel about the Oslo Accords were about policy. But today, this simmering clash is about power — who can tell whom how to live in a highly diverse society."
    "The Israel Joe Biden knew is vanishing and a new Israel is emerging. Many ministers in this government are hostile to American values, and nearly all are hostile to the Democratic Party," he continued.
    "Netanyahu and his minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, had plotted with Republicans to engineer Netanyahu’s 2015 speech in Congress against Biden’s and President Barack Obama’s wishes and policies. They would like to see a Republican in the White House and prefer the support of evangelical Christians over liberal Jews and that of M.B.S. over A.O.C."
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    נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן נפגש נשיא מקסיקו אנדרס מנואל לופס אוברדור בטקס קבלה בארמון הנשיאות ב מקסיקו סיטי 9 בינואר
    נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן נפגש נשיא מקסיקו אנדרס מנואל לופס אוברדור בטקס קבלה בארמון הנשיאות ב מקסיקו סיטי 9 בינואר
    Joe Biden
    (Photo: AFP)
    Friedman also claimed that the current crisis in Israel over the judiciary overhaul may be presented to Biden as an internal constitutional matter that he should stay out of, but the president should do the exact opposite.
    "Biden should wade right in (just as Netanyahu did) because the outcome has direct implications for U.S. national security interests. I have no illusions that Biden can reverse the most extreme trends emerging in Israel today, but he can nudge things onto a healthier path, and maybe prevent the worst, with some tough love in a way that no other outsider can.
    "The most pressing crisis is this: Israel’s courts, led by its Supreme Court, have largely been ferocious protectors of human rights, and particularly the rights of minorities. These minorities include Arab citizens, LGBTQ citizens and even reform and conservative Jews who want the same freedom and rights of religious practice as Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews enjoy. In addition, because Israel’s Supreme Court reviews the actions of all executive branches, including the military, it has often protected the rights of Palestinians, including providing protection from abuses by Israeli settlers and illegal expropriation of their private property."
    Friedman explained that the current government seeks to radically alter the situation in the West Bank, effectively annexing it without officially declaring to do so. He said the only thing that's stopping Netanyahu from doing so right now are Israel’s Supreme Court and legal institutions.
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    ישיבת סיעה הליכוד
    ישיבת סיעה הליכוד
    Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Rafi Kotz )
    Friedman writes that before Netanyahu succeeds in reigning in the Supreme Court, Biden needs to tell him in no uncertain terms:
    "Netanyahu you are riding roughshod over American interests and values. I need to know some things from you right now — and you need to know some things from me. I need to know: Is Israel’s control of the West Bank a matter of temporary occupation or of an emerging annexation, as members of your coalition advocate? Because I will not be a patsy for that. I need to know if you really are going to put your courts under your political authority in a way that makes Israel more like Turkey and Hungary because I will not be a patsy for that. I need to know if your extremist ministers will change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Because that could destabilize Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and the Abraham Accords — which would really damage U.S. interests. I will not be a patsy for that."
    Friedman ends his column by guessing how Netanyahu may respond to such intervention.
    "Joe, Joey, my old friend, don’t press me on this stuff now. I am the only one restraining these crazies. You and I, Joe, we can make history together. Let’s join our forces not to simply deter Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but to help — in any way possible — the Iranian protesters trying to topple the clerical regime in Tehran. And let’s, you and me, forge a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
    "Let’s do that and then I’ll dump these crazies."
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