Israeli PM says key judicial reform clause 'out'

AFP , Thursday 29 Jun 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had "thrown out" a key provision of his controversial judicial reform plan that has sparked one of the country's biggest ever protest movements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the District Court in Jerusalem on June 25, 2023. AFP


In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Thursday, Netanyahu said he intends to press on with the reforms, but without a clause that aimed to curb the supreme court's powers and give politicians a greater say in the selection of judges.

"I already changed a few things right after the original proposal was put forward," Netanyahu said.

"I said that the idea of an override clause where the parliament, the Knesset, can override the decisions of the supreme court with a simple majority, I said, I threw that out."

When the journalist asked whether the provision will be reintroduced in future, Netanyahu said: "People just don't know, they don't follow. I said it's out."

Netanyahu's office, when contacted by AFP, declined to comment further.

In March, as mass protests were backed by sweeping industrial action, Netanyahu had announced a "pause" to allow for talks on the reforms, which were moving through parliament and split the nation.

In the interview he said he had sought to have a "broad consensus" with the opposition, but on June 14 Israel's two main opposition leaders, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, pulled out of negotiations.

The proposals have sparked one the country's biggest protest movements, with tens of thousands taking to the streets every week since they were announced in January.

Netanyahu's government, a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues the changes are needed to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.

But opponents of the plan believe it could open the way to a more authoritarian government.

The proposed changes to the justice system have also drawn intense criticism from the international community, with Israel's close ally the United States questioning the entire programme.

US President Joe Biden has said he was "very concerned" over the proposed reforms, saying in March that "they cannot continue down this road, and I have sort of made that clear".

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