Israel’s prime minister says he is dropping one of the most contentious elements of the judicial reforms his government has struggled to push through since it took office at the turn of the year.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Benjamin Netanyahu said the overhaul would no longer include the controversial “override clause” which would have given the government power to overrule the country’s courts with a simple majority of one in the Knesset.
Mr Netanyahu currently has a majority of four.
“I threw that out,” he told the US paper, “the idea of an override clause, where the parliament, the Knesset, can override the decisions of the Supreme Court with a simple majority, I threw that out, it’s out.”
It echoes remarks the prime minister had previously made, and suggests he is now more willing to pursue a more moderate and ultimately more popular course of action.
It’s also probably no coincidence he made the announcement in an American newspaper considering how critical Biden’s White House has been of the proposed reforms.
Weekly protests have continued throughout the year and are now entering their twenty-sixth week, with more planned for this weekend.
The Israeli economy has taken a big hit, with the shekel down against the dollar, question marks over the country’s credit rating and a significant fall in investment in the heralded tech sector.
Mr Netanyahu’s personal polls have also tanked.
Compromise talks have broken up, with no agreement, so the government is looking to push through reforms unilaterally, although they are likely to be considerably watered down.
Some of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition colleagues have reacted angrily to his announcement.
The far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir accused him of surrendering to protesters, and a member of Mr Netanyahu’s own party said they’d lost because “we did not know how to govern”.
The override clause was a coalition demand of the ultra-orthodox parties which have long been angered by the High Court’s rulings against them, particularly on the issue of exemption from military service.