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Benjamin Netanyahu open for talks to douse protests

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is still “open for negotiations” on a key clause of his hard-right government’s controversial judicial reforms, as protests intensified ahead of final votes on the bill.
Israel has been rocked by a months-long wave of protests after the government unveiled in January plans to overhaul the ­judicial system that opponents say threaten the country’s democracy.
An Israeli parliamentary committee has already moved to limit the “reasonability” clause that ­allows the judiciary to strike down government decisions, in a marathon debate that ended late on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).
But Mr Netanyahu, on live TV on Thursday night, tried to reach out to protesters and critics who have rallied against the reforms.
“I’m Prime Minister to all of you … we are still trying to reach an agreement with the opposition,” he said.
“Even now there are efforts to reach an agreement on the reasonability clause. I really hope that the efforts will be successful, but even if not, my door remains open for negotiations.”
Mr Netanyahu paused the legislative process in March and launched cross-party talks over the issue, but opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz pulled out of the discussions.
In recent weeks, he launched a fresh political offensive to push through the reforms in parliament.
Protesters claim the judiciary reforms would turn Israel into a dictatorship, a charge Mr Netanyahu dismissed.
“Israel will continue to be democratic, liberal, and will protect the rights of all citizens,” he said. “This law will strengthen democracy.”
The bill is due for second and third readings in parliament on Monday after receiving approval from parliament’s law committee.
If approved by the full parliament, it would be the first major component of the government’s proposed legal overhaul to ­become law.

Protesters have kept up pressure on the government, and on Thursday launched rallies in several cities across the country, ­including Jerusalem.
Hundreds were marching from Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial hub, to the seat of parliament in Jerusalem.
“We are marching to Jerusalem to protect our country from becoming a dictatorship,” said protester Yair Palti, who participated in the multi-day march that began early on Wednesday.
“We are a democracy but now we are already on the edge of dictatorship.”
Protesters set off every morning before taking a long midday break then resuming their march at 5.30pm.
They plan to reach Jerusalem by Saturday night and camp near the Knesset as MPs vote on Monday on the controversial bill.
The judicial reforms have split the nation and sparked one of the biggest protest movements in ­Israel’s history, with weekly demonstrations often drawing tens of thousands.
Other proposed reforms include giving the government a greater say in the appointment of judges.
The government, which includes Mr Netanyahu’s extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues that the changes are necessary to ensure a better balance of power.
Some critics of Mr Netanyahu, who is fighting corruption charges in court, have argued he was seeking to undermine a judicial system he has accused of targeting him unfairly for political reasons.


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Article source: The Australian

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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