Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley blasted President Joe Biden Wednesday for interfering in Israeli domestic politics, saying the U.S. would never tolerate the same.
Haley was referring to Biden’s refusal to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, as he invited both of Netanyahu’s predecessors, in protest at the Israeli government’s ongoing judicial reforms.
The Biden administration has backed the opposition’s protests against the reforms. Critics on the Israeli right note that Biden appears to be trying to oust Netanyahu at a delicate time, as Iran is nearing a nuclear weapon.
Israel’s judiciary, referred to as a “juristocracy” by critics, has assumed vast powers in recent decades, including not only the power to overturn legislation but also the power to control the appointment of judges to the bench.
Because most of the judges are left-wing, and from Israel’s secular, European elite, many Israelis on the right and from Middle Eastern or African backgrounds have come to resent the court’s interference in government.
Netanyahu ran on a promise to reform the judiciary, and some of his proposals parallel U.S. law. In some ways the U.S. has even stronger checks and balances: Congress can eliminate most federal courts, for example.
Biden himself considered sweeping judicial reforms to install a left-wing Supreme Court by “packing” the Court with new seats that would be filled by liberal nominees. His White House launched a commission on the topic.
Haley, widely viewed as a strong advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship during her tenure at the U.S., is the first presidential contender to criticize Biden for his stance against Netanyahu and the Israeli judicial reforms.
Former President Donald Trump has been quiet about the issue. Though he was arguably the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history, he has criticized Netanyahu for acknowledging Biden’s victory in the 2022 election.
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, another Republican contender, has yet to respond to Biden’s attacks on Israel, but is due to travel to the region next month.
Haley is therefore the first major contender to comment on the crisis.