(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down at a hotel Wednesday in New York City, the first in-person meeting between the two since Netanyahu returned to office nine months ago.
Biden has strongly spoken out against Netanyahu’s push to overhaul the country’s judicial system, but Iran and its nuclear program was one subject the two leaders appeared to agree on.
Was anything achieved?
“Not too much,” in the eyes of John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations and former national security adviser in the Trump administration.
“It’s politics for both of these leaders; for Netanyahu to show that despite the animosity of the Biden White House that Israel and the U.S. are still close, for Biden to try to do the same,” Bolton said Wednesday on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.” “Today’s meeting was an effort to paper over differences.”
Netanyahu has faced criticism and mass protests over his efforts to reform the country’s judicial system. Netanyahu tried to play down concerns about the plan, saying there is “one thing that will never change and that is Israel’s commitment to democracy.”
Biden opened the meeting by stressing the U.S. friendship with Israel as being “ironclad” and said, “Without Israel, there’s not a Jew in the world who is secure. Israel is essential.” But Biden also acknowledged the tensions with Netanyahu’s government and its policies.
“We’re going to discuss some of the hard issues, that is upholding democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including the checks and balances in our systems,” Biden said. He said they would also talk about a path to a negotiated two-state solution with Palestinians and “ensuring that Iran never, never acquires a nuclear weapon.”
Netanyahu says the country’s unelected judges wield too much power over government decision-making. His plan seeks to give more authority to the ruling coalition in parliament, which he heads. Critics say that by weakening the independent judiciary, Netanyahu is pushing Israel toward authoritarian rule.
Bolton suggested there’s a “lack of understanding” or a “willful disregard” of what Netanyahu is proposing from those who are opposed to his plan.
“Imagine in this country if we switch that system tomorrow, and the current nine Supreme Court justices would decide, if a vacancy occurred, who would fill it. That is far more undemocratic than what Netanyahu is proposing,” Bolton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.