The Jerusalem Post spoke with B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin for an article on U.S.-Israel relations following U.S. officials’ comments, particularly President Joe Biden’s, on the situation in Israel surrounding the issue of judicial reform.
It was a turbulent week for the US-Israel relationship. It started on Sunday, with the National Security Council issuing a statement expressing “deep concern” over the situation in Israel, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The administration also touted the “urgent need for compromise.”
On Monday, shortly after Netanyahu announced a pause in the judicial overhaul plan, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre welcomed the statement “as an opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise.”
“Compromise is precisely what we have been calling for, and we continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible,” she said.
But then, on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden surprised many, when asked if he would invite Netanyahu to the White House, Biden quickly replied, “No, not in the near term.” It is highly unusual for a US president to refuse to host an Israeli leader.
“I hope he [Netanyahu] walks away from it,” Biden told reporters as he issued his most clear objections to the plan to date and opened an intensely public dispute between the two leaders.
Biden’s words were heatedly debated in Israel as the Right accused him of crossing a redline when it came to domestic interference, while the Left blamed Netanyahu for creating a dangerous rift with the country’s strongest ally.
Although it was after midnight in Israel when his words came out, Netanyahu tweeted a response: “I have known President Biden for over 40 years, and I appreciate his longstanding commitment to Israel. The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and always overcomes the occasional differences between us.
“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,” he added.
On Wednesday, US officials tried to soft-pedal the Biden administration crisis with Israel as a “dispute with friends.”
“Our commitment to Israel is ironclad and steadfast, and that will continue to be the case,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters in Washington, adding that “sometimes the best of friends can disagree.”
DAN MARIASCHIN, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, noted as well that the countries “never had an issue quite like this,” but added that one has to look at this “with a bigger field of vision.”
“The core issues are the existential issues, the threats, the Iranian issue on Israel’s northern border, Russia and Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, all of that [while] maintaining the Abraham Accords,” he said. “These are all common interest issues shared between Israel and the United States.
“At the end of the day, there is no other real reliable ally for the US in the region, no other,” said Mariaschin. “So, I’m not minimizing the back and forth over the direction that the judicial reform issue has taken over the last couple of months, particularly over the last month or so. But I also try to keep an eye on the larger picture. Hopefully, these negotiations between the government and the opposition can be resolved.”
But the other issues, the strategic threats, are not going away, he said. “They’re getting bigger. And I think that at the end of the day, that really is very much a part of the glue that holds the US and Israel together. Of course, shared values are extremely important, there’s no question but I think we have to look at the larger strategic picture.
“Of course, we don’t like to see these kinds of differences of opinion play out before us. But I think that based on the past, there definitely is good reason to believe that this relationship – if it’s a little bit off track – certainly will be back on track,” said Mariaschin.