Netanyahu rejects US call to drop judicial reforms

 Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has reacted angrily to comments by the US president, who urged him to walk away from his controversial judicial reform plans.

“They cannot continue down this road,” Joe Biden told reporters.

Mr Netanyahu later tweeted that Is­rael would make its own decisions, “not based on pressures from abroad”. It comes after protests this week brought Israel to a standstill, forcing him to pause the proposals.

The protests have intensified since Mr Netanyahu returned to power at the end of last year, leading the most right-wing nationalist government in Israel’s history and promising to curb the powers of the judiciary.

His plans would give the government full control over the committee which appoints judges and would ultimately strip the Supreme Court of crucial pow­ers to strike down legislation that it saw as effectively unconstitutional.

Mr Netanyahu says they would stop the courts over-reaching their powers and that they were voted for by the pub­lic at the last election. But most legal scholars say they would effectively de­stroy the independence of the judiciary, while opposition figures describe them as an attempted “regime coup”.

Tens of thousands of people protest­ed across the country on Sunday and Monday, and the biggest trade union called a general strike, after the prime minister sacked Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, for publicly urging a halt to the reforms.

Mr Netanyahu eventually bowed to the pressure and announced on Monday night that he was pausing the judicial changes until the next session of Parlia­ment to allow time for dialogue.

Representatives from the governing coalition and the two biggest opposition parties in Parliament – Yesh Atid and National Unity – met for the first time at President Isaac Herzog’s residence on Tuesday.

Mr Herzog’s office said their dis­cussions on a framework for the talks “took place in a positive spirit”.

The president also met representa­tives of the opposition United Arab List, Hadash-Taal and Labour parties on Wednesday.

Mr Biden urged the coalition to abandon the reforms, “Like many strong supporters of Israel I’m very concerned, and I’m concerned that they get this straight,” he said. —BBC

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