Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pushed back on President Biden over his criticism of Israel’s proposed judiciary overhaul, which has sparked waves of protests.
Netanyahu said he has known Biden for more than 40 years and expressed appreciation for the President’s “longstanding commitment to Israel.”
“The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and always transcends the occasional disagreements between us,” Netanyahu said.
The Prime Minister said he was committed to “strengthening democracy by restoring the right balance between the three branches of government, which we seek through broad consensus”.
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“Israeli sovereign country that makes its decisions according to the will of its people and not based on pressure from abroad, including best friends,” Netanyahu said.
The comments appeared to be aimed at President Biden, who earlier on Tuesday told reporters he was “very concerned” about Israel’s proposed judicial overhaul and said he hoped Netanyahu “walked away from it.”
“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I am very concerned and I worry that they will make that clear. You cannot continue down this path,” Biden said after a speech in North Carolina. “Hopefully the Prime Minister will act in a way that he can try to work out a real compromise. But that remains to be seen.”
Among other things, the judicial reforms would allow the ruling coalition to control the appointment of judges and give it the power to overturn Supreme Court rulings it displeases.
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Netanyahu’s conservative allies have said the bill is necessary to curb a system of unelected judges who interfere excessively in political issues. But opponents have likened the overhaul to a power grab that would undermine a system of checks and balances and concentrate authority in the hands of the prime minister and his allies.
After weeks of mass protests that brought Israel’s biggest cities to a standstill, Netanyahu delayed plans on Monday, saying he wanted to “avoid civil war” by taking time to seek compromises with political opponents.
The announcement appeared to calm some of the tensions that have fueled three tumultuous months of unrest. But it failed to address the underlying issues that have polarized the nation, and the anti-government protest movement vowed to step up its efforts.
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Netanyahu has vowed to get the reforms through parliament “one way or the other”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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