Israeli opposition leader says no progress on judicial overhaul talks

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Israeli parties have made no progress on a compromise over the government’s judicial overhaul package, a leading opposition figure said on Monday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he continued to seek agreement on the bitterly-disputed plan.

The planned overhaul, which would give the government control over naming judges to the Supreme Court and let parliament override many rulings, was paused after some of the biggest street protests ever seen in Israel.

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The government says the overhaul is needed to rein in activist judges and restore balance between parliament and the courts, while protesters see the plans as a threat to Israel’s democracy.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Netanyahu said he wanted to come to a “broad agreement as much as possible” on the issues “at the heart of the dispute.”

However, Benny Gantz, current head of the opposition National Unity Party who has taken a leading role in talks with President Isaac Herzog to soften the legislation, said the meetings were “not really progressing on any of the issues.”

In particular, he pointed to a standoff over one of the central questions, the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee, which appoints judges and would be controlled by members from the government camp under current plans.

“We set out with a number of principles, first and foremost that there will be no politicization of the judicial system,” he said, as the Knesset parliament returned from its spring break.

Opponents say the proposals would give Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition free rein, threatening minority rights and undermining Israel’s democratic foundations.

Visiting US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said checks and balances were part of democracy. “But we leave it up to you, your country to figure out how to do that,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets since the start of the year, with opponents including most of the business establishment, lawyers, academics and significant numbers of military reservists.

The government and supporters have said they hope for compromise but have vowed not to back down and have organized large counter demonstrations.

An Israeli Channel 13 survey on Sunday put Gantz’s party ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud party, which has slumped since coming to power at the start of the year.

It also showed only 8 percent of Israelis want the judicial overhaul to be the government’s top priority.

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