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Amid turmoil, Israel is showing signs of blinking with regard to judicial overhaul


JERUSALEM – Israel’s governing coalition on Monday, amid crushing pressure from massive street protests, international criticism and a direct appeal from President Biden, offered to postpone some parts of its controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary.

But it stuck to pledges to issue the most provocative components — including a proposal to give the government greater control over the selection of Supreme Court judges — by early April and the move did little to ease the crippling unrest that had swept the country. hold in its grip.

After a cabinet meeting, coalition leaders said they were willing to moderate the planned overhaul by expanding the committee that would select judges and giving more say to the opposition and other members. Critics say the new proposal would still allow the government to dictate the composition of the Supreme Court.

The Israeli military joins nationwide protests over judicial overhaul

Leaders of the opposition and protest movements rejected the coalition’s offer, claiming that the right wing was still pushing through changes that would undermine the balance of power between the government and the judiciary.

“This will not be the judges selection committee, this will be the committee to nominate cronies,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a statement. “It’s exactly what they planned from day one.”

The coalition’s offer to slow down the transformation of the judiciary, though limited, was one of the first signs that the ongoing protests are divisive within the government, the most conservative in Israel’s history. Less than a week ago, the coalition flatly rejected a compromised proposal from President Isaac Herzog, leading the president to warn that the country was headed for “civil war.”

Now some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party have come out fearing the unrest threatens Israel’s economy and their own standing.

“If the economic prophecies of doomsday come true, the Likud will be done for,” David Bitan, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, said on Israeli television on Sunday. “There are at least five Likud members who are in favor of stopping the legislation.”

But hardliners were outraged by the proposal to delay the revision, accusing their fellow coalition members of giving in to leftist and international pressure.

“Now is not the time to fold or give in,” Likud member David Amsalem wrote on Twitter. “We did not win the election for this.”

The turmoil that has plagued Israel since the coalition launched its effort to review the courts in January should show no signs of easing. An estimated 250,000 protesters gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv over the weekend and organizers have called for another nationwide mobilization on Thursday.

Hundreds of Air Force reserve pilots said on Sunday they would boycott training this week, part of an unprecedented participation by military, security and intelligence personnel in civilian protests that led Netanyahu to call on the army chief of staff to crack down on objectors.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that a number of reservists failed to report on Monday, but declined to provide details.

Widespread international condemnation of the judicial review also continued. In a phone call with Netanyahu on Sunday, Biden offered to help broker a compromise.

Biden warns Israeli leader of legal changes

Biden told the prime minister that “democratic societies are strengthened by real checks and balances, and fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible popular support,” the White House said.

In turn, according to his office, Netanyahu “told President Biden that Israel was and will remain a strong and vibrant democracy.”

The two leaders also discussed the wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank. Amid attacks and reprisals that have killed more than 80 Palestinians and more than a dozen Israelis in recent months, representatives from Israel and the Palestinian Authority met in Egypt for the second time in a month to promote calm, along with mediators from the United States. Egypt and Jordan.

Both sides are bracing for the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday, both traditionally periods of peak tension in Jerusalem.

As with the first meeting in Jordan, violence broke out while the participants were talking. A Palestinian allegedly opened fire on a car carrying two Israelis in the West Bank. The driver, an American-born Israeli, was hit but managed to return fire, according to media reports. The attacker was later apprehended, the Israeli army said.

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