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Biden urges Netanyahu to rethink plan

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WILMINGTON, DELAWARE: US President Joe Biden has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express ‘‘concern’’ over his government’s planned overhaul of the country’s judicial system that has sparked widespread protests and to encourage compromise.

The White House said Biden reiterated US concerns about the measure to roll back the judiciary’s insulation from the country’s political system, in a call a senior administration official described as ‘‘candid and constructive’’.

There was no immediate indication that Netanyahu was shying away from the action after rejecting a compromise last week offered by the country’s figurehead president.

The hard-right government’s drive to limit Supreme Court powers while increasing its own power in selecting judges has caused alarm at home and abroad about the country’s democratic checks and balances. Anti-reform protests have swelled for weeks.

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the leaders’ private call, said Biden had spoken to Netanyahu ‘‘as a friend of Israel in the hopes that there can be a compromise formula found’’.

The White House added that Biden ‘‘underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support’’.

Netanyahu told Biden that Israel would ‘‘remain, a strong and vibrant democracy,’’ according to the prime minister’s office.

Netanyahu said earlier that the legal changes would be carried out responsibly while protecting the basic rights of all Israelis.

His government, the country’s most right-wing ever, says the overhaul is meant to correct an imbalance that has given the courts too much power and prevented MPs from carrying out the voting public’s will.

Critics say it will upend a delicate system of checks and balances and slide the country towards authoritarianism. Opponents of the measure have carried out disruptive protests.

The conversation followed a meeting in Egypt between Israeli and Palestinian officials in which they pledged to take steps to lower tensions ahead of a sensitive holiday season. Administration officials praised the outcome of the meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

A joint communique said the sides had reaffirmed a commitment to de-escalate and prevent further violence.

Biden in the call ‘‘reinforced the need for all sides to take urgent, collaborative steps to enhance security co-ordination, condemn all acts of terrorism and maintain the viability of a two-state solution,’’ according to the White House.

The Israeli and Palestinian delegations met for the second time in less than a month, shepherded by regional allies Egypt and Jordan, as well as the United States, to end a year-long spasm of violence.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and more than 40 Israelis or foreigners have been killed in Palestinian attacks during that time.

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Article source: The Age / AP | Aamer Madhani | 21.3.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000