Harris renews US calls for Israel independent judiciary
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - US Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday renewed calls for Israel to ensure independence of its judiciary, after major protests against changes pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Harris spoke at a gala reception to mark 75 years of the Jewish state organized by the Israeli embassy at a museum in Washington.
The number-two US leader promised "ironclad commitment to the security of Israel" but also alluded to Netanyahu's judicial proposals.
"Under President Joe Biden and our administration, America will continue to stand for the values that have been the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship, which include continuing to strengthen our democracy," she said.
The two countries' values are "built on strong institutions, checks and balances and, I'll add, an independent judiciary," she said.
Netanyahu, leading the most right-wing government in Israel's history, has proposed curtailing the authority of the Supreme Court and giving politicians greater powers over the selection of judges.
After massive street protests and boycotts of military reserve duty by critics who say he is destroying democracy, Netanyahu in March announced a "pause" to allow for talks on the reforms.
Biden said at the time that he was "very concerned" about Netanyahu's proposal, leading to rebukes from some of the Israeli leader's right-wing allies.
Harris also renewed support for an independent Palestinian state -- rejected by much of Netanyahu's base -- saying that Israelis and Palestinians should "enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy."
Harris attended the reception with her husband Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president, and said that as a girl she collected donations for the Jewish National Fund which develops land for Israeli communities.
"Today, under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the United States has an unbreakable bond with the State of Israel," she said.