Biden invites Netanyahu to US, Israeli PM's office says

Biden invites Netanyahu to US, Israeli PM's office says
Amid perceived strained relations between Joe Biden the far-right government of Benajmin Netanyahu, the US president has invited the hard right Israeli prime minister to the US.
3 min read
18 July, 2023
Tensions between Biden and Netanyahu have allegedly been heightened due to the Israeli PM's increasing authoritarian domestic policies and his aggression against Palestinians [Getty]

President Joe Biden invited Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States for a meeting, the first since the latter returned to office late last year, Netanyahu's office said on Monday.

The invitation comes at a time when Washington continues to express disapproval over the Israeli government's controversial legal reforms and aggressive settlement expansions.

It also comes the same day Israeli President Isaac Herzog is set to travel to the United States for a visit where he is expected to meet Biden at the White House.

"President Biden invited PM Netanyahu for a meeting in the US soon," the Israeli premier's office said in a statement.

"The PM accepted the invitation and it was agreed that Israeli and US teams will coordinate the details of the meeting."

Live Story

In recent weeks the Netanyahu government has launched a new political offensive to pass a controversial legal overhaul, which Biden himself has spoken out against.

In a Monday phone conversation, Netanyahu updated Biden on "the bill that is slated to be passed next week... and on his intention to reach wide public support for the rest of the reform during the summer recess", Netanyahu's office said.

It said the telephone call between the two leaders was "long and warm".

The judicial reforms proposed by Netanyahu's government include limiting the "reasonability" clause, through which the judiciary can strike down government decisions.

Opponents have warned that the reforms threaten Israel's democracy, and regular mass demonstrations have been held since they were unveiled in January.

Live Story

Tensions over Israeli settlements in West Bank

Herzog's visit to the United States this week illustrates the difficult relationship Biden has with Netanyahu, who since taking office had not been invited to Washington until now.

Asked in a CNN interview that aired earlier this month why he had not invited Netanyahu, Biden said Washington has "other contacts" such as Herzog.

He said Netanyahu's coalition was exacerbating tensions with Palestinians by facilitating settlement expansion on Palestinian land.

Combined with the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, Biden said it is all creating "a vacuum for extremism among Palestinians".

"Bibi I think is trying to work through ... his existing problems in terms of his coalition," Biden said, using Netanyahu's nickname.

"This is one of the most extremist... cabinets that I've seen," Biden said.

Live Story

Netanyahu returned to power in December at the head of a coalition with ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right allies.

His administration argues that the judicial revamp is necessary to ensure a better balance of power between elected officials and the judiciary, while opponents say it will only harm Israel's democracy.

"We are all fighting to keep Israel as a Jewish and democratic country," Netanyahu said at Monday's cabinet meeting.

"The State of Israel is, and will always be, a democratic state."

The measure of "reasonability" was used recently to force Netanyahu to remove from his cabinet Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish party Shas, over the senior politician's previous tax evasion conviction.

Critics have also accused Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charge that he denies, of trying to use the reforms to quash possible judgments against him.

He rejects the accusation.

Protesters in Israel have called for nationwide rallies against the judiciary reforms on Tuesday.