Biden on Israel’s proposed judicial reforms: ‘You cannot continue down this path’

President Biden said Tuesday he hopes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “backs down” from plans to continue reforms of the country’s judiciary, which have been criticized by US officials and sparked protests and work stoppages in Israel.

“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I am very concerned and I worry that they will make that clear. You can’t continue down this path,” Biden told reporters after a speech in North Carolina on the economy.

“Hopefully the Prime Minister will act in a way that he can try to work out a real compromise. But that remains to be seen,” Biden added.

Biden said Netanyahu will not be invited to the White House “in the near future.”

Arriving back at the White House on Tuesday night, Biden said Israel is in a difficult situation and he hopes Netanyahu will give up efforts on judicial reform legislation.

The comments were Biden’s most critical yet, as Netanyahu’s conservative government has sought in recent weeks to push through reforms to Israel’s judiciary that would effectively allow the government to choose judges on the country’s top court.

Critics of the law say it would obliterate checks and balances central to democratic governance — and specifically that it would protect Netanyahu from trials in which he faces charges of bribery and corruption, and important safeguards for minority groups in the country eradicating it would threaten efforts to maintain a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu announced on Monday that his government would postpone the continuation of the reforms by at least a month until the next parliamentary session. This announcement came a day after massive protests.

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The Biden administration had expressed concern over Israel’s plans for weeks, with the president expressing concern in a call with Netanyahu earlier this month and a National Security Council spokesman on Sunday saying they were “deeply concerned” about the recent ones Developments.

But officials also tried to tread a cautious line, as Israel is a critical and long-standing US ally in the Middle East, enjoying widespread support on Capitol Hill.

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“I want to emphasize that all of this concern stems from respect, friendship and admiration for the Israeli people and for Israel as a country and for Israeli democracy,” John Kirby, White House spokesman for national security issues, told reporters Monday.

Netanyahu himself responded to Biden’s comments on Twitter on Tuesday, saying he appreciated Biden’s “longstanding commitment to Israel.”

“Israel is a sovereign country that makes its decisions according to the will of its people and not based on pressure from abroad, including best friends,” added the prime minister.

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