McConnell urges US to stay out of Israeli judicial overhaul 

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was part of a Republican delegation that recently visited numerous nations in the Middle East, says he wants the United States to take a strictly hands-off approach to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to restructure Israel’s judicial system. 

As first reported by Axios, McConnell met with both Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem during a trip that also included stops in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

McConnell returned from his travels with a call for American neutrality, a stark contrast to Democrats, who in large measure prefer the U.S. to intercede and prevent the new Netanyahu government from instituting a plan that will severely diminish the powers of Israel’s top court.

“This is something the citizens of Israel are going to have to sort out for themselves without any American influence,” Axios quoted McConnell as having said. “It isn’t any of my business to give Israelis advice about how to sort this out.”

The proposed plan would limit the Israeli Supreme Court’s ability to review or strike down laws, would allow a simple majority of the Israeli legislature to overrule Supreme Court decisions by simple majority votes, and would remove the court’s ability to revoke executive decisions based on the standard of “reasonability.” 

Critics question the timing of the move, which comes as Netanyahu prepares to battle charges of fraud. Others say that Palestinians in the West Bank would face a tougher challenge in land disputes with Israelis. 

Opposition leaders in Israel have pledged to unite in protest of the plan.

“It is time for the public to go out and rock the country,” former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has said. “If Netanyahu continues down this path, the responsibility for the civil war in Israeli society will be his.”

Herzog has called for calm on all sides. 

“I will not allow the principles of our declaration of independence to be harmed,” Herzog has said. “This is a sensitive and explosive time in Israel’s public life … I call on all Israelis to exercise restraint and calm things down.”

Back in the U.S., even as Democrats have called for intervention, President Joe Biden has been cool on the idea of stepping in. He told the New York Times recently that he hoped any new plan would be based on public consensus. 

McConnell’s primary goal while in Jerusalem seems to have been pushing for more Israeli support in Ukraine. 

“We want to see as much help for Ukraine internationally as we possibly can, and to the extent that the government of Israel could head in that direction, that would be a good thing,” Axios quoted McConnell as saying. 

Israel, though, is in a tough position with regard to Russia. Agreements between Israel and Russia, and more important Israel and Syria, limit the type of assistance Netanyahu can offer. 

“The deconfliction agreement they have with the Russians with regard to Syria makes things somewhat complicated,” McConnell said. “But anything that the Israeli government could do to help Ukrainians would be appreciated.”