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Biden stresses democratic values in call with Netanyahu on judicial overhaul

In the first call between the leaders since the Netanyahu-led government’s plan to gut Israel’s judiciary attracted widespread criticism, Biden says he hopes ‘compromise formula’ can be found, offers support

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Sunday with U.S. President Joe Biden about his government’s attempt to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.

In the call Biden “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the White House said, adding 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 president also “offered support for efforts underway to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles,” the White House said.

Referring to Sunday’s multilateral talks with a Palestinian delegation at a summit in Egypt, the U.S. president “reinforced the need for all sides to take urgent, collaborative steps to enhance security coordination, condemn all acts of terrorism, and maintain the viability of a two-state solution,” during his call with Netanyahu, according to the White House.

A U.S. official said the leaders spoke for nearly 45 minutes.

According to reports in Israeli media, the conversation also focused on the Iranian threat and widening the circle of peace between Israel and other Arab states. “Netanyahu told Biden that Israel is and will remain a vibrant and strong democracy,” the Prime Minister’s Office reported and added that Netanyahu thanked Biden for his steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.

Netanyahu updated Biden on the shooting attack in the Palestinian village of Hawara, in the West Bank on Sunday in which an American citizen was seriously wounded. Netanyahu told Biden that “Israel will continue to defend itself and act against terrorist and their backers,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

This is their third call since Netanyahu’s Likud party emerged victorious in November’s election, and the first since Netanyahu’s far-right government’s plans to gut Israel’s judiciary attracted widespread criticism and concern.

The call comes amid growing international pressure – including from Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and the foremost leaders of the U.S. Jewish community – to heed President Isaac Herzog’s compromise plan.

Netanyahu and his allies, meanwhile, have been growing increasingly disconcerted about the lack of invitation to Washington, with all parties aware that Israeli prime ministers have usually been welcomed at the White House by this point in their respective tenures.

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