UK welcomes Netanyahu's decision to pause reforms to Israel's judicial system

Critics say his coalition is dragging the country towards authoritarianism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. AP
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The UK government said it welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to delay his reform of the judicial system, as tens of thousands of Israelis took to streets to protest against the controversial plans.

Mr Netanyahu has been urged to seek a “long-term compromise” with his critics over the widely criticised plan, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

The Israeli leader said he wanted to “avoid civil war through dialogue” as he announced the delay to the proposals from Israel’s most right-wing government in history.

His proposed legislation would have protected him from being deemed unfit to rule, which critics say will shield Mr Netanyahu from his corruption trial.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stressed the importance of upholding “democratic values” to Mr Netanyahu as they met in Downing Street last week.

“The UK welcomes the decision today by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause legislation to reform Israel’s judiciary," Mr Cleverly said on Monday.

“The UK enjoys a deep and historic relationship with Israel.

"As the Prime Minister stressed in his meeting with PM Netanyahu last week, it is vital that the shared democratic values that underpin that relationship are upheld, and a robust system of checks and balances are preserved.

“We urge all parties to find common ground and seek a long-term compromise to this sensitive issue.”

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But Mr Netanyahu said it was just a “perfunctory” challenge from Mr Sunak that lasted less than a minute out of a 45-minute conversation.

“There was a debate in my team whether it was 45 seconds or 47 out of the hour, so yes he did raise it, you’re quite right, I don’t deny it," he told TalkTV

“But I think it’s become a perfunctory thing. You sort of have to say it because people are pressing.”

Much of the conversation between the two prime ministers focused on strengthening ties between the UK and Israel. and shared security challenges such as Iran and Ukraine.

Critics say Mr Netanyahu’s coalition is dragging the country towards authoritarianism by trying to up end its checks and balances.

After a series of scandals involving wealthy associates, Mr Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. He denies wrongdoing.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 6:55 AM