US President Joe Biden backs compromise on planned Israeli judicial reform

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assures Washington that his country's democracy is healthy

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 09, 2016, US Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands while giving joint statements at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem.   President Joe Biden will talk "soon" with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has no "specific" plan to do so yet, the White House said on February 11, 2021, underlining an apparent distancing in the key relationship.

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US President Joe Biden has expressed his concerns about Israel's planned judicial overhaul and appealed for compromise after Israelis protested against the proposed reforms.

Mr Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone that he believed “that democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support”, the White House said.

Mr Netanyahu assured Mr Biden that Israel's democracy was healthy, his office said.

Mr Netanyahu, who leads one of the most right-wing coalitions in Israel's history, has pursued changes to the judiciary that would give his government greater sway in selecting judges and limit the Supreme Court's ability to strike down legislation.

The plan has led to weeks of demonstrations. On Sunday, hundreds of Israeli reservists in Israel's elite military and intelligence units said they would join the protests.

Mr Biden “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship”, the White House said.

He spoke of the need for broad support before making fundamental changes.

“The president offered support for efforts under way to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles,” the White House said.

The two leaders discussed tension and violence in the occupied West Bank, with Mr Biden citing the need for all sides “to take urgent, collaborative steps to enhance security co-ordination, condemn all acts of terrorism and maintain the viability of a two-state solution”.

Mr Biden also welcomed a meeting on Sunday between senior political and security officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and the US.

The meeting, held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh, was convened to find a way to reduce tension.

Updated: March 23, 2023, 9:55 PM