US President Joe Biden has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone his controversial law restricting the independence of the judiciary. He says so in a statement to the Axios news site. The Israeli parliament will vote on the reform on Monday.
Thousands of Israeli reservists, including fighter pilots and members of the IDF’s intelligence, cyber and special operations units, have said in recent days that they would resign from their positions if the law passes the Knesset. They are supported by more than a hundred former heads of the Israeli security services.
Washington fears that enemies of Israel’s ally, including Iran or the militant group Hezbollah, will seize on divisions in Israel and launch provocations that could lead to instability. Moreover, the crisis of the Israeli armed forces could have negative consequences for the American forces with which Israel cooperates.
“It appears that the current legal reform proposal is more divisive, not less,” Biden said in the statement. “Given the range of threats and challenges Israel currently faces, it makes no sense for Israeli leaders to rush things – the focus should be on bringing people together and building consensus,” he added.
Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of reform opponents once again took to the streets in Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to express their displeasure. Netanyahu, 73, was fitted with a pacemaker on Saturday evening and was due out of hospital on Monday in time for the crucial vote.
months of protests
Since Netanyahu’s government presented its proposal to reform the justice system in January, large-scale protests against the plans have taken place almost every week. This includes a proposal that deprives Supreme Court justices of the ability to rule on the “reasonableness” of a government decision. Parliament also has more power.
If the government’s plans come to fruition, the Supreme Court will no longer be allowed to overturn decisions of the government, ministers and elected officials as “unreasonable”. Critics fear the bill could lead to corruption and the arbitrary appointment of leadership positions. For example, the government could now appoint judges. Today, it is still an independent committee that takes care of it.
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