WASHINGTON — The Biden administration weighed in Sunday night on the unfolding chaos and the state of democracy in Israel, saying it was “deeply concerned” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly ousted an opponent of his controversial judicial reforms .
“We are deeply concerned by today’s developments outside of Israel, which further underscore the urgent need for compromise,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said. “Democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of US-Israeli relations.”
This follows a phone call between President Joe Biden and Netanyahu a week ago, in which the US president stressed the importance of democracy.
“Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system must be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support,” the White House said in its statement on Sunday.
Earlier, Netanyahu fired his defense minister after the top official called for a pause on a controversial judicial reform proposal that has fueled months of intense protests at home and abroad. In response, swarms of protesters took to the streets, lighting bonfires on a Tel Aviv highway and toppling a police barricade outside Netanyahu’s home.
The escalating tensions came after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Saturday night that Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul posed a threat to Israel’s security. Military reservists refused to enlist and many others threatened to do the same. Israel’s consul general in New York resigned in protest.
In addition to nightly protests in Israel, a powerful union was to call a general strike and universities were canceling classes.
As the Israeli government was expected to move forward this week with its controversial plan, the United States on Sunday urged rapid de-escalation.
“We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible,” the White House said. “We believe this is the best path forward for Israel and all of its citizens. American support for Israel’s security and democracy remains rock solid.”
Dig deeper:Protesters flood the streets of Israel after Netanyahu fires a minister opposed to controversial reforms
Contributor: Associated Pres
Francesca Chambers is a White House correspondent for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter @fran_chambers.