Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen took aim at US Vice President Kamala Harris in a radio interview on Wednesday morning, hours after the American publicly jabbed the Israeli government over its judicial reform efforts.
During an event at the Israeli Embassy in Washington marking the Jewish state’s 75th anniversary, Harris stressed the shared values of Israel and the United States, which she said included “democracy” and an “independent judiciary.”
It was a clear swipe at legislation proposed by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would strip some of the powers of the Israeli Supreme Court.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Cohen noted: “If you ask [Harris] what bothers her in the reform, she wouldn’t be able to name one clause that bothers her.”
Asked if he was saying that Harris hadn’t even bothered to read the details of Israel’s judicial reform legislation, Cohen replied: “That is my belief.”
Cohen went on to emphasize that “most of the [Israeli] public want judicial reform.”
Indeed, judicial reform was also on the agenda of the previous center-left government headed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, and President Isaac Herzog has stated publicly that Israel “needs judicial reform.”
But Cohen said he personally agrees with some opponents of the current legislative push (including the US government) that judicial reform should be carried out with “broad consensus.”
American officials furious
According to Israel’s N12 news portal, US officials were furious after hearing Cohen’s criticism of Harris.
“Talking like that about the vice president, and she is such an ardent supporter of Israel, what good does it do?” one unnamed official was quoted as saying.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides added: “The fact that the vice president came to celebrate Israel’s 75th Independence Day speaks for itself about the relationship between the countries. I have respect for Foreign Minister Cohen, but the vice president said things that the administration says at every opportunity regarding the shared values between the countries.”
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