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Blinken to Meet Netanyahu at Turbulent Moment for Israel

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In his planned meeting on Tuesday with the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Blinken is likely to appeal to him to help contain the violence. He will also press Mr. Abbas to avoid pursuing cases against Israel in forums like the International Criminal Court, an approach the Biden administration calls counterproductive.

Thus far, administration officials have tempered their public criticism of Israel’s government, preferring to have difficult conversations in private, according to people familiar with the exchanges, particularly on matters of internal Israeli politics.

“They like to be private and behind the scenes,” Mr. Ben-Ami said. “Our line is that the administration has to be tougher, and more public about it.”

But the plan to exert more political control over the judiciary — especially at a moment when Mr. Netanyahu has three criminal cases pending against him, on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust — may be too much for the Biden administration, as well as Congress, to overlook.

“It sucks all the oxygen out of the room,” said David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A sense that Israel’s judiciary is no longer independent, he said, would mean that “you lose a huge chunk of the US-Israel relationship.”

He added that Mr. Blinken was likely to address the subject “gingerly.”

Briefing reporters last week, Barbara Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said that Mr. Blinken would speak to Israeli officials about “our unstinting commitment to Israel’s security and democracy.”

In an interview with The Times of Israel published on Jan. 22, Thomas Nides, the American ambassador to Jerusalem, said the United States hopes Mr. Netanyahu can help avoid actions that would make cooperating with the Biden administration more difficult.


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