Israeli lawmakers react following a vote on a bill that would limit some Supreme Court power, in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem July 24, 2023. (Reuter)

US calls Israel judicial overhaul ‘unfortunate’, urges for broader consensus

Israeli lawmakers react following a vote on a bill that would limit some Supreme Court power, in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem July 24, 2023. (Reuter)

The White House on Monday called it “unfortunate” that the Israeli parliament ratified part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contested judicial overhaul plan and encouraged the government to reach a broad consensus with the opposition.

US President Joe Biden’s administration reiterated its long-standing concerns after Israel’s Knesset approved the first bill that limits the Supreme Court’s powers, despite months of street protests and appeals from the US and other countries to hold off on such a move.

“As a lifelong friend of Israel, President Biden has publicly and privately expressed his views that major changes in a democracy to be enduring must have as broad a consensus as possible,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority,” she added.

Opposition members of parliament boycotted the vote backed by lawmakers of Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition.

Hours after the vote, Netanyahu said in a televised address that the courts will remain independent and he hopes to reach an agreement with the opposition on the judicial changes by the end of November.

Biden, who has had frosty relations with Netanyahu compared with former President Donald Trump, finally invited the prime minister last week for an official US visit later this year. But US officials have yet to set a date or concur with Israeli statements that they would meet at the White House as soon as September.

Biden had delayed extending the invitation out of concern over what aides said were Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan and Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

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