Israeli FM lashes out at Kamala Harris for urging Israel to preserve independent judiciary

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Israeli FM lashes out at Kamala Harris for urging Israel to preserve independent judiciary

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen claimed U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris 'hasn't read the law' after her thinly-veiled remarks about the controversial judicial reforms.

Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris speaks at a press conference.
Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris speaks at a press conference.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen lashed out at that the Vice President of the United States after she urged Israel to maintain an independent judiciary, a remark seen as a jab at the government’s controversial judicial reforms.

VP Kamala Harris commented on Israel’s judicial system, which has been at the centre of a nation-wide dispute for six months, saying that the U.S. will continue to “stand for the values that have been the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship, which include continuing to strengthen our democracies, which… are both built on strong institutions, checks and balances — and I’ll add an independent judiciary.”

Harris’ remark was widely seen as another remark aimed at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government and the judicial reforms it intended to carry out, until mass demonstrations across Israel put a temporary halt to it in late March.

Foreign Minister Cohen lashed out at Harris in an interview with Kan Public Broadcaster on Wednesday, saying: “If we were to ask Kamala Harris what bothers her about the reform, she wouldn’t be able to name a single clause.”

“In the places I visit I have asked people what is bothering them, and nobody can put their finger on what is bothering them. I don’t know if (Harris) read the law or not — my assessment is that she hasn’t,” Cohen added.

The government has been widely criticised, at home and abroad, by top experts in economy, law, defence, high-tech, academia etc. for promoting reforms that would essentially nullify the High Court’s power but allowing a simple majority of lawmakers to pass rulings by the court, in addition to letting the government pick High Court judges.

Cohen’s unprecedented remark about Harris’ lack of understanding of law rings hollow as the vice president has a long legal career behind her, working six years a California’s Attorney General.

This isn’t the first time the Biden administration has publicly commented on the government’s judicial reforms. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave Netanyahu what was seen as a lecture in democracy at a press conference in Israel earlier this year, stressing the importance of upholding democratic values.

President Biden later said Netanyahu should “walk away” from the reforms. “Like many strong supporters of Israel I’m very concerned … They cannot continue down this road, and I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden said in March.

Netanyahu, on his part, has brushed off all criticism aimed at him and his government by the Biden administration, insisting that the reforms would “strengthen” Israel’s democracy.

“Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends,” Netanyahu said in response to Biden’s comment.

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