Biden urges Israel not to rush ‘divisive’ reforms

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President Joe Biden urged Israel in a statement Sunday not to rush increasingly “divisive” judicial reforms, given the other challenges facing the US ally.

In a statement first published by news site Axios and later shared with AFP by the White House, Biden said, “It doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this - the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus.”

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“From the perspective of Israel’s friends in the United States, it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to bring his controversial proposal to curb the power of judges to a vote in the Knesset as soon as Monday.

The proposal triggered dueling protests over the weekend between supporters of the proposal and those who fear it will undermine Israel’s democracy.

The driving force behind the reforms, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, said the bill being put to lawmakers on Monday had undergone changes to accommodate critics, but added that the coalition was still open to “understandings.”

Netanyahu faced other challenges over the weekend, not the least of which was a trip to the hospital to have a pacemaker fitted after he was hospitalized for a reported spell of dizziness.

His government, which includes far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues that the proposed reforms will prevent overreach by unelected judges and ensure a better balance of power.

Opponents accuse the 73-year-old Netanyahu, who has been fighting corruption charges in court, of a conflict of interest and some protesters have labelled him the “crime minister.”

Some 20 legislators have lined up to speak against the bill, which would limit Supreme Court judges’ ability to strike down government decisions they deem “unreasonable.”

If approved, the “reasonability” clause would be the first major component of the overhaul to become law. Other proposed changes include allowing the government a greater say in the appointment of judges.

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