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Biden Seeks Compromise On Israeli Legislation Amid Judicial Reform

Senior member of National Security Council emphasizes ongoing US-Israel cooperation in White House briefing

A senior member of the National Security Council, which advises the U.S. president, said on Monday that U.S. President Joe Biden wants to see compromise on future Israeli legislation despite the government’s passage of the “reasonableness” law, an important part of judicial reform.

Terry Wolff, the council’s senior director for Middle East and North Africa, spoke about the new law and about Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s recent visit to Washington and New York during a White House video briefing for the American Jewish community.

Judicial reform in Israel was one of many issues that Biden and Herzog discussed last week in their meeting in the Oval Office, according to Wolff.

The conversation, Wolff said, is one that happens continually in official channels between the United States and Israel.

Samantha Sutton, director for Israel and Palestinian affairs at the National Security Council, who also participated in the briefing, echoed Wolff’s perspective on broad American-Israeli cooperation.

Sutton, who recently ended her tenure as chief of staff to former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and worked for the U.S. mission to the United Nations at the U.S. Department of Defense, told attendees that she has seen “the breadth of issues that we cooperate with Israel on” at the United Nations, in Jerusalem and at the Pentagon.

Herzog is on a multi-day visit to the United States where he is set to meet President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken and Congressional leaders as well as address a joint meeting of Congress to reaffirm the US-Israel relationship. PHOTO BY KEVIN DIETSCH/GETTY IMAGES 

Many of these topics surfaced in a phone call last week between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, their first direct communication in months.

Ilan Goldenberg, special adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris for Middle East and North Africa, said during the briefing that the setting was right—given Harris’s focus on Africa and Israel’s attention to the region—for the joint announcement from the vice president and Herzog of a climate technology initiative.

He said on the call that Harris “raised the importance of working with Palestinians” on climate and environmental issues “by investing in renewable-energy projects that can help spur Palestinian economic growth” with Herzog, even though the Palestinians are not a part of the new climate technology program.

Sutton, who assisted Nides on efforts to gain Israel entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, cited the announcement during Herzog’s visit that Washington and Jerusalem had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on a pilot program.

The program is designed to ensure that Palestinian Americans and other Arab Americans are treated at entry points to Israel in a manner that fits the Visa Waiver Program parameters. Israel had long avoided reducing such scrutiny, citing security concerns.

Sutton said on the call that she was skeptical that Israel would be accepted into the Visa Waiver Program but has since changed her mind.


Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

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