Middle East Monitor / September 1, 2023
Two former heads of the Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency have called on US President Joe Biden not to “legitimize” the Israeli government’s extremism, xenophobia and “coup” by inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House during his visit to the US next month.
Ex-Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon, who served from 1995-2000, warned that hosting Netanyahu would appear to “legitimize the government coup he is leading to weaken the judicial system and establish an authoritarian regime.”
Ayalon added: “We expect the US president to make it clear that the alliance between us requires maintaining Israel’s identity in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.” The 1948 declaration, which was announced as 750,000 Palestinians were being ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages, declares Israel to be a “Jewish and Democratic” state.
Israeli governments from all sides of the political spectrum have tried in vain to balance the “Jewish and Democratic” characteristic of the occupation state, but critics argue that the contradictory goal of upholding democratic values while preserving an ethno-nationalist state is deeply contradictory. They cite the rise of Jewish supremacy and Israel’s practice of apartheid to stress the point.
Former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, who served from 2005-2011, echoed Ayalon and urged Biden to avoid Netanyahu until he halts the judicial overhaul.
“Netanyahu is causing severe damage to US-Israel strategic ties and American interests in the Mideast,” Diskin is reported saying in the Haaretz, while accusing the Israeli prime minister of undermining the military and judiciary to evade prosecution.
Diskin slammed Netanyahu’s “illegitimate government” of “right-wing extremists” and “racist Jewish supremacists” seeking de facto West Bank annexation and apartheid rule. He warned Israel could go from “strategic ally to strategic burden.”
Biden has so far rebuffed invites to Netanyahu, signalling displeasure with Israel’s conduct. Netanyahu barred ministers, except Ambassador Ron Dermer, to force meetings outside the capital.
Netanyahu claimed Biden invited him to the White House this summer, though Biden only committed to meeting this year. A Washington visit late September now appears likely, if Israel avoids derailing efforts.