Sunday, Jun 04, 2023

President Biden Calls Israel PM Netanyahu After Israeli-Palestinian Meeting, Discusses Legal Reform

President Biden Calls Israel PM Netanyahu After Israeli-Palestinian Meeting, Discusses Legal Reform

The Israel-Palestine tensions have over the past year been at a peak not seen in over a decade. The past year has been marked with Palestinian attacks on Israelis and with near-daily Israeli military raids in West Bank.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu AP

Following a meeting between Israel and Palestinian officials in Egypt amid high tensions, US President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to welcome the move and discuss concerns over the proposed judicial overhaul in Israel.

The Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials on Sunday held talks promoted by regional powers of Egypt and Jordon along with the United States. 

A Palestinian attack in West Bank and rocket-fire from Gaza Strip coincided with the talks. Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas —which controls Gaza— often fire rockets into Israel. In the Sunday attack in West Bank town of Huwara, an Israeli-American man was injured, reported The Times of Israel.

The Israeli-Palestinian meeting took place at a time when the tensions are at a peak not seen in over a decade. Over the past year, a series of Palestinian attacks in Israel have killed dozens and Israel is carrying out nearly-daily raids in West Bank in which several Palestinians, including civilians, have died. 

Biden welcomes Israeli-Palestinian talks

US President Joe Biden on Sunday spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone after the Sharm El Sheikh meeting between officials of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

During the call, Biden welcomed the meeting between senior political and security officials from Israel, the PA, Egypt, Jordan, and the United States with an aim to reduce tensions, the White House said in a readout of the call. 

Biden reinforced the need for all sides to take urgent, collaborative steps to enhance security coordination, condemn all acts of terrorism, and maintain the viability of a two-state solution, the White House said.

"The President also underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship, that democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support," said the White House statement, adding that Biden offered support for efforts underway in Israel to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles.  

"The two leaders also discussed tensions and violence in the West Bank," it said.      

Biden reiterated his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and the ongoing cooperation between the two national security teams, including to counter all threats posed by Iran. Both leaders agreed to stay in regular contact over the coming weeks, the White House said.

"The participants noted that meetings at this level have not taken place in nearly a decade, and that these meetings are building toward establishing a series of understandings upon which to de-escalate tension," Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, White House, said in a separate statement.  

We welcome the meeting and understandings reached today in Sharm El Sheikh between senior political and security officials of Israel and the Palestinian Authority," he said adding that this was the second such meeting in this format, with participation by senior officials from the United States, Egypt, and Jordan, following the gathering in Aqaba three weeks ago.  

"We look forward to continuing these discussions as we enter the Holy month of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter, and over the months to follow," Watson said.

Biden expresses 'concern' over Israel judicial reforms

In the call, Biden also expressed "concerns" over Netanyahu's planned judicial reforms in Israel that have attracted widespread protests for many weeks.

The White House said Biden reiterated U.S. concerns about the measure to roll back the judiciary's insulation from the country's political system, in a call a senior administration official described as candid and constructive. There was no immediate indication that Netanyahu was shying away from the action, after rejecting a compromise last week offered by the country's figurehead president.

Critics of reforms say it will upend Israel's delicate system of checks and balances and slide the country toward authoritarianism. Opponents of the measure have carried out disruptive protests, and has even embroiled the country's military, after more than 700 elite officers from the Air Force, special forces, and Mossad said they would stop volunteering for duty.

(With PTI, AP inputs)