As of July 4, French police had detained some 2,000 people in response to the riots that swept through the country. Yet the White House made no statement comparable to that issued on Monday urging Jerusalem “to protect and respect the right of peaceful assembly” after a handful of arrests in protests there. Elliott Abrams notes that this was but one of several declarations from U.S. officials about the turmoil in Israel surrounding judicial reform:
Unlike in France, the protests [in Israel] are non-violent, no one has been killed, and there are many fewer arrests—dozens, not hundreds or thousands.
Why does the administration feel quite free to interfere with the internal politics of one democratic ally and not another? Here are two related reasons: in the case of France, critics of Macron have not sought such U.S. interference and pressure. In the case of Israel, opponents of Prime Minister Netanyahu have traveled to the United States and made almost daily appeals for this pressure. Second, there is no domestic pressure in the United States for criticisms of Macron while there is one for criticisms of Netanyahu. Many American Jewish groups and leaders have expressed their own opposition and invited—or demanded—U.S. pressure on Israel’s government.
The double standard in Biden administration treatment of the unrest in France and in Israel is evident. It is also quite problematic, because it creates a precedent that those who are today urging interference in Israeli domestic disputes may tomorrow regret. Unlike Israel’s policies regarding Iran, Egypt, Jordan, or the Palestinians, the role of its judiciary is about as “internal” an internal matter as can be imagined. Israelis are struggling—democratically and peacefully—over those domestic issues. They should be able to do so without U.S. interference—and without unfair and baseless suggestions that Israeli authorities are not protecting the right to demonstrate.