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Why are Israel's ex-Shin Bet chiefs urging Biden not to host Netanyahu?

Two former directors of the Israeli Shin Bet — Ami Ayalon and Yuval Diskin — call on President Joe Biden to support the Israeli protest movement against the judicial overhaul by not inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House.
US Vice President Joe Biden (L) listens to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during joint statements in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on March 9, 2016. Biden implicitly criticised Palestinian leaders for not condemning attacks against Israelis, as an upsurge in violence marred his visit. / AFP / POOL / DEBBIE HILL (Photo credit should read DEBBIE HILL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former heads of the Israeli Shin Bet Security agency Ami Ayalon and Yuval Diskin are calling on President Joe Biden to refrain from inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House during his scheduled visit to the United States in mid-September. They fear that such an invitation would send Israelis a message that Biden supports Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan. 

Netanyahu had waited for eight months since coming to office to be invited for a meeting with Biden. It was only on July 17, one day before Israel’s President Isaac Herzog traveled to the United States to meet with Biden at the White House, that the US President extended an invitation to Netanyahu. The readout of the telephone conversation between the two leaders does not indicate whether Biden intends to invite Netanyahu to Washington or meet with him in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The expectations from political watcher favor a meeting on the side of UNGA.

The White House has been reluctant to invite the Israeli premier for an official meeting over its objections to anti-Arab, xenophobic and racist statements made by several far-right Cabinet ministers, the government’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, unprecedented settlement expansion and the judicial overhaul plan, which threatens to erode Israel’s democracy. Netanyahu’s associates have been saying the meeting will take place at the White House, but Biden’s office has not yet confirmed that. According to The Times of Israel, the meeting is now scheduled for Sept. 21.

Speaking with Haaretz, Ayalon warned that "an official visit of Netanyahu to Washington will be seen as legitimizing the government coup that he is leading with the aim of weakening the judicial system and establishing an authoritarian regime in Israel. We expect the United States president to make it clear that the alliance between us requires maintaining Israel's identity in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence."

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