Israeli Diplomatic Outposts in US Closed, Biden Admin Calls for Compromise Amid Israel Judicial Crisis
by Andrew Bernard
The Israeli embassy in Washington and all eight of Israel’s consulates in the US were closed on Monday “until further notice” as the Histadrut, Israel’s largest trade union and the union representing Israel’s diplomats, announced a general strike in response to the ongoing Israeli judicial reform crisis.
“Today (3/27), the Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor union, instructed all government employees to go on strike, including Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world,” Israeli Embassy Spokesman Elad Strohmayer wrote on Twitter. “The Embassy of Israel will be closed today until further notice and no consular services will be provided.”
An Israeli official confirmed to The Algemeiner that the closures also extended to Israel’s consulates across the United States.
Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, announced on Sunday that he was resigning his post as the political situation in Israel reached a “critical point.”
“Today’s dangerous decision to fire the Minister of Defense convinced me that I can no longer continue representing this government,” Zamir wrote in his resignation letter. “I have become increasingly concerned with the policies of the new government, and in particular, the judicial reform it is leading. I believe that this reform undermines the very foundation of our democratic system and threatens the rule of law in our country.”
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a Likud MK, after Gallant urged that the judicial reform proposals be put on hold because the political crisis was threatening Israel’s security and military preparedness.
US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications in a briefing to reporters on Monday said that the Biden administration did not believe that the situation in Israel would devolve into civil war. That possibility had been raised by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in a speech earlier in March.
The Biden administration on Sunday night issued a call for political compromise while emphasizing that US support to Israel’s security remained “ironclad.”
“As the President recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” said US National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support. We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Monday echoed that call.
“We are concerned that continued internal turmoil could lead to violence and may leave Israel vulnerable to external threats,” AJC said in a statement. “As stalwart friends and unwavering supporters of the democratic State of Israel, AJC urges Israeli leaders to put unity and security over politics and power.”
On Saturday, AJC urged the Israeli government and opposition to use the Passover holiday as a chance to find consensus.
Israel has experienced 12 weeks of mass political protests that peaked on Saturday with as many as 600,000 Israelis taking to the streets to oppose a raft of judicial reform measures introduced by Prime Minister Netanyahu in December. Among the most controversial proposals included in the measures is a judicial override bill that would allow a simple 61-vote majority in the Knesset to overrule any ruling by Israel’s supreme court. Supporters of the reform argue that it is a needed, democratic check on an out-of-control, activist judiciary, while opponents of the bill say that the proposals dangerously undermine Israel’s democracy by removing checks and balances on the legislature.