JERUSALEM (VINnews) — In an apparent allusion to Israel’s proposed judicial reforms, US Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the importance of an independent judiciary during a speech on Tuesday at an event marking the 75th anniversary of the Jewish state’s independence hosted by the Israeli embassy in Washington.
Speaking about US-Israel relations, Harris said that “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 democracies, which… are both built on strong institutions, checks and balances — and I’ll add an independent judiciary.” Harris’s words were met with applause from the audience, although Simcha Rothman, one of the architects of judicial reform who was present at the event, did not join the applause.
Israeli Ambassador to the US, Mike Herzog – brother of Israel’s President,Yitzchak Herzog – also alluded to the judicial reform, stressing that: “We are a young nation still deliberating on its path, but I am confident we will remain a democracy.”
In response to Harris’s veiled criticism, Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen commented during an interview on Israel’s Reshet Bet channel Wednesday morning, claiming the Vice President had no knowledge of the actual proposals in Israel’s judicial reform plan.
“If you’d ask Kamala Harris what bothers her about the reform – she wouldn’t even be able to cite a single clause that bothers her. I bet that she hasn’t even read the bill. Even the judges in the US don’t have the right to decide who will replace them.”
Cohen’s sharp response was rebutted by US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides who said on Israel’s Channel 12 that “The fact that the Vice President came to celebrate Israel’s 75th Independence Day speaks for itself about the relationship of the two countries. I have respect for Foreign Minister Cohen, but the Vice President said things the administration says every opportunity regarding the shared values and policies. Harris is a strong supporter of Israel.”
Cohen later clarified his words, stating on Twitter that “I have deep respect for our ally the United States of America and for Vice President Harris, a true friend of Israel. Israel’s legal reform is an internal issue that is currently in the process of consolidation and dialogue.
The State of Israel will continue to be democratic and liberal, as it has always been.”
The diplomatic sparring between Israel and the US has served as another negative backdrop to the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary, as opponents of judicial reform and of the current Israeli government sought to derail the festivities and to protest government policies at the New York events.