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Following announced pause, U.S. Republican senators express concern about judicial reform's impact on Israel's security

Republicans have been reluctant to publicly criticize Israeli government's proposed reforms

Republican U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (L) and Lindsey Graham are seen in this combination photo from U.S. Senate hearings on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Mar. 14, 2018 and on Jun. 18, 2018 respectively. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photos

Several United States GOP senators this week expressed concern about Israel’s judicial reform legislation that has been advancing over the past two months, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcement for a temporary halt on Monday evening. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, told Jewish Insider news site on Monday night that he was concerned about the legislation’s impact on Israel’s security. 

“I’m concerned that this effort to reform the judiciary – which is up to them – has had an effect of weakening the security apparatus,” Graham said.  

“The military people are refusing to show up to work and stuff – that’s concerning,” he said. “I think it encourages Israel’s adversaries to potentially strike against them," said Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fl, who previously delayed addressing the issue.

Utah Senator, Mitt Romney, issued a joint statement with Connecticut’s Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, welcoming the pause of the legislation. 

“We welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to postpone consideration of judicial reforms,” the statement read. “Shared democratic values have long underpinned the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we hope this delay provides an opportunity to work towards a compromise and de-escalation of the current crisis.”  

Previously, GOP lawmakers were reluctant to criticize the judicial reforms directly, with only some offering mild criticism. 

Earlier this month, Graham said he hoped for a compromise that would preserve judicial independence. 

“What I hope will happen is that, as they work through judicial reform, how to make judges more accountable, that they’re mindful of the idea that an independent judiciary needs to be still standing,” he said. 

U.S. Senator for Idaho Jim Risch, who visited Israel and met with Netanyahu in February, also mildly criticized the reforms.

“In our system, in the United States of America, this would not be a good thing,” Risch said, but softened that by saying, “Yes, it would be bad in America, but their system is different than our system.” 

Prior to Netanyahu’s announced halt of the judicial reforms legislation, Democrat lawmakers were more open in their criticism of the proposed plan, while Republicans have been more circumspect. 

Other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, criticized U.S. President Joe Biden for going too far in his comments about Israeli politics. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., expressed his support for the judicial pause, but said he didn’t want to interfere. 

“Israeli politics is for Israelis,” Kaine said. “They don’t need me telling ‘em how to do stuff.” 

“It has been deeply disappointing to see the Biden White House undermining the nation of Israel and, in particular, undermining the democratically elected leadership of Israel,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, who accused the Biden administration of “doing everything they can to tear down our friend and trusted ally.” 

Representative Dean Phillips, D-MN, said, “I think the United States should be a little bit more reflective on prescribing systems of government upon other nations.” 

The U.S. should “let Israelis resolve this in the way they see fit,” Phillips added. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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