Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded sharply on Wednesday to President Biden’s suggestion he withdraw his plan to overhaul the Jewish state’s judicial system — saying that Israel is “a sovereign country” that can make its own decisions.
Biden said Tuesday he was “very concerned” about Netanyahu’s controversial plan, which would give his ruling coalition greater control over Israel’s Supreme Court.
“I hope he walks away from it,” Biden said of the legislation, which was paused Monday following nationwide protests.
“They cannot continue down this road,” the US president added before urging the Israeli leader to compromise.
Netanyahu responded on Twitter early Wednesday, first noting his 40-year friendship with Biden and the president’s “longstanding commitment to Israel.”
“Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decision by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends,” the 73-year-old added.
In later remarks on Wednesday, Netanyahu asserted that the US and Israel were still on good terms, noting that their alliance was “unshakable” even though they have had their disagreements over the years.
The spat comes after US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides suggested that Netanyahu would soon be invited to the White House, to which Biden bluntly responded Tuesday: “No, not in the near term.”
Opposition leaders were spurred by Biden’s criticisms of the plan and planned a demonstration in front of a US Embassy building in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
The rare dispute between the two allies comes a day after Netanyahu called for a pause on his government’s contentious legislation in order to “avoid a civil war.”
His change ended two consecutive days of large-scale protests, with tens of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets, and a nationwide strike that paralyzed much of the country.
Tensions in hit a high point Sunday when Netanyahu fired his defense chief Yoav Gallant for criticizing his plan — though Gallant has remained at work this week despite his reported dismissal.
Netanyahu agreed to table the issue until the Knesset reconvenes for its summer session on April 30 following a break for the Passover holiday.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that while lawmakers are holding talks to try and find a compromise, the plan will move forward in one form or another during the summer session.
With Post wires.