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White House urges dialogue in Israel after ‘unfortunate’ vote on judicial bill

The White House on Monday urged political dialogue in Israel after lawmakers approved a key part of the country’s controversial judicial reforms.

“It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.  

“We understand talks are ongoing and likely to continue over the coming weeks and months to forge a broader compromise even with the Knesset in recess. The United States will continue to support the efforts of President [Isaac] Herzog and other Israeli leaders as they seek to build a broader consensus through political dialogue,” she added.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, approved the reforms, which have been backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Opposition lawmakers chanted “shame” and walked out ahead of the vote, which the governing coalition ultimately passed in a 64-0 vote; 61 votes are needed for a majority in the 120-seat chamber.

Jean-Pierre pointed out that 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.”

Biden on Sunday called on Netanyahu to not advance the vote, arguing that it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush it, because of the many threats and challenges confronting Israel.

During an address to Congress last week, Herzog, a moderate, said he would work to “preserve, protect and defend” the country’s democracy amid the judicial crisis. He also met with Biden during the visit.

The judicial reform bill has sparked protests across Israel. Critics have labeled reforms as a threat to democratic values, because they would allow the government to overrule Supreme Court decisions and give the executive branch more power to appoint justices.

Biden last week invited Netanyahu to meet with him in the United States, seven months after he was sworn in as prime minister.

Source: The Hill

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