June 5. 2023. 6:04

The Daily

Read the World Today

Netanyahu rebuffs Biden’s suggestion he ‘walk away’ from legal overhaul in Israel

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu rebuffed US president Joe Biden’s suggestion that the premier “walks away” from a contentious plan to overhaul the legal system, saying the country made its own decisions.

The exchange was a rare bout of public disagreement between the close allies and signals building friction between Israel and the US over Mr Netanyahu’s judicial changes, which he postponed after mass protests.

Asked by reporters late on Tuesday what he hoped the Mr Netanyahu did with the legislation, Mr Biden said: “I hope he walks away from it.”

Mr Biden said Mr Netanyahu’s government “cannot continue down this road” and urged compromise on the plan unsettling Israel.


[ Where now for Binyamin Netanyahu? ]

Mr Biden also stepped around US ambassador Thomas Nides’s suggestion that Mr Netanyahu would soon be invited to the White House, saying: “No, not in the near term.”

Mr Netanyahu replied that Israel was sovereign and “makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends”.

The frosty exchange came a day after Mr Netanyahu called for a halt to his government’s contentious legislation “to avoid civil war” in the wake of two consecutive days of mass protests that drew tens of thousands of people on to Israel’s streets.

“Hopefully the prime minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise. But that remains to be seen,” Mr Biden said.

Israeli protest organisers called for a demonstration in support of Mr Biden outside the US embassy building in Tel Aviv on Thursday, while Mr Netanyahu’s allies doubled down on their criticism. Speaking to Kan public radio, education minister Yoav Kisch said that “a friend may not try to impose on the other regarding internal issues”.

[ Israel’s three-month government in survival mode ]

Mr Netanyahu and his religious and ultranationalist allies announced the judicial overhaul in January, days after forming their government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history.

The proposal has plunged Israel into its worst domestic crisis in decades. Business leaders, top economists and former security chiefs have all come out against the plan, saying it was pushing the country towards dictatorship.

The plan would give Mr Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, and his allies the final say in appointing the nation’s judges. It would also give parliament, which is controlled by his allies, authority to overturn supreme court decisions and limit the court’s ability to review laws.

Critics say the legislation would concentrate power in the hands of the coalition in parliament and upset the balance of checks and balances between branches of government.

Mr Netanyahu said he was “striving to achieve via a broad consensus” in talks to opposition leaders that began on Tuesday.

Yair Lapid, the opposition leader in Israel’s parliament, wrote on Twitter that Israel had been the US’s closest allies for decades but “the most radical government in the country’s history ruined that in three months”. – AP

[an error occurred while processing the directive]