Senator Tom Cotton Calls Out Biden, Says Democrats Must Stop Trying to Subvert Israeli Democracy

In a dramatic speech on the Senate floor, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) denounced a plot by the Democrats and Joe Biden’s State Department “to topple the democratically elected government of Israel.” The junior Republican senator from Arkansas cited an article from the Washington Free Beacon that detailed how the American Department of State was using taxpayer money to fund Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition and how one organization in particular, the Movement for Quality Government [MQG] in Israel was given $38,000 since 2020 for democracy education.

The Republican lawmaker inquired in his speech “what is the Movement for Quality Government and how good is this ‘democracy education?'” and he replied, that “[t]his ‘movement’ is an activist group that’s fomenting unrest against the Israeli government and demanding Netanyahu’s resignation.” He also noted that “[t]he State Department doesn’t even deny that it’s funneling money to these left-wing activities, by the way. Which is troubling, because it’s a clear violation of the usual State Department policy against funding foreign partisan organizations.”

He called out Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, by name for having “lectured Netanyahu about the judicial reforms to his face, tacitly siding with the demonstrators.” The judicial reform question and the protests over it in Israel revolve around the nature of internal Israeli checks and balances.

The Israeli supreme court is seen by many in Israel as having usurped power in the 1980-1990s and having used its powers in a partisan fashion that necessitates a better check on judicial activism. In effect, they argue these reforms further democratize power and protect Israeli democracy. At the same token, many Israelis oppose reforming courts as they feel that the court has done a good job and see the attempts to reform it as undermining what they argue is the only check on the unicameral legislature.

Senator Cotton called for Biden’s Secretary of State to “immediately apologize to the prime minister of Israel, demand your money back, and open an investigation into how this happened.”

What is of note is that MQG has a notoriously political history to it. Its leader, Eliad Shraga, has previously called on “President Isaac Herzog to declare Benjamin Netanyahu as unfit to serve as prime minister” and has appealed to the Israeli equivalent of the Supreme Court to do likewise. The organization was also behind (successfully) petitioning the court with no legal basis to block a Netanyahu ally from becoming a minister of government and despite its pretense about being non-partisan had no meaningful activity during the previous Israeli government. As one article notes “MQG’s only named donor on its annual reports [of foreign government donors] is the U.S. State Department.”

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An accusation is leveled that the money MQG receives from the State Department for democracy education “are disguised efforts to subvert Israeli democracy. In the case of its school programs, the subversion comes in the form of post-Zionist [post-Jewish/Israel nationalism] indoctrination.” In effect, it is argued that the real goal of such education is that it bars students from learning about Jewish history, the Bible, and the like.

The American ambassador to Israel has not been subtle either in what side Biden supports as he has publicly and privately told the Israeli government to slow down the reforms. An Israeli minister commented on this that the ambassador should “[m]ind…[his] own business. You’re not the sovereign here. … We’d be happy to debate with you international or security affairs, but respect our democracy.”

The ambassador shot back by saying that “Some Israeli official—I don’t know who he is, I don’t think I’ve met him—suggested that I should stay out of Israel’s business. I really think that most Israelis do not want America to stay out of their business.”

This is not the first time that Democrats have attempted to bring down Benjamin Netanyahu nor funded or staffed efforts to do so. An object of American diplomacy, as Senator Cotton points out, ought to be to respect the internal politics of fellow democracies. Yet, evidentially and worryingly this is not the case.

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