US says approval of key piece of Israeli judicial overhaul 'unfortunate'
'It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority,' says White House
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The Israeli parliament's razor-thin approval of a divisive bill that will overhaul the country's system of checks and balances is "unfortunate," the White House said on Monday.
"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," spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority."
The Biden administration will continue to support efforts from Israeli President Isaac Herzog and other Israeli leaders "as they seek to build a broader consensus through political dialogue," she added.
Earlier on Monday, Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset, approved a key piece of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's effort to restrict the judiciary's ability to check government powers. The contentious overhaul plan spearheaded by Netanyahu has sparked 29 weeks of mass protests.
The government says the package is meant to restore power to elected officials, but critics argue it is a power grab by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption and was released from the hospital earlier in the day after an emergency heart procedure.
Biden has long called for Netanyahu to compromise with opposition lawmakers. In March he said he would not sit down with the Israeli leader "in the near term" due to the then-planned judicial overhaul.
But the White House announced last week that Biden and Netanyahu agreed to have a one-on-one meeting before the end of the year. Netanyahu has long sought a White House sit-down with Biden, but it remains unclear if he will receive the Oval Office meeting, or if it will be held at another venue.
It is not clear if the passage of a key part of Netanyahu's plan will alter plans for a sit-down between Biden and Netanyahu.
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