Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced confidence Wednesday that he will find compromise with the political opposition over his judicial overhaul after the contested reforms drew a reproach from President Joe Biden.
Israel "can't continue down this road," Biden said Tuesday in reference to unprecedented protests that have swept the country and penetrated its military, spurring Netanyahu's defense chief to break ranks and call for a halt.
The conservative Israeli leader pressed the pause button on Monday to allow for negotiations with opposition parties.
Addressing the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy, Netanyahu said his stated reason for the reforms — balancing the branches of Israeli government — could be reconciled with civil liberties.
The negotiators, he said, will "try to achieve a broad national consensus to achieve both goals. And I believe this is possible. We're now engaged in exactly this conversation."
Opposition parties spanning the political spectrum have accused Netanyahu — who is on trial on corruption charges — of seeking to curb judicial independence. He denies any wrongdoing.
Separately, Netanyahu predicted on Wednesday that Israel will join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in September after passing legislation required by Washington. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.
In another signal of business as usual, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — whose dissent on the pace of the judicial overhaul prompted Netanyahu to announce his dismissal on Sunday, triggering a surge in the demonstrations and foreign alarm — oversaw the launch of a new Israeli spy satellite on Wednesday.
Gallant then posted a picture of himself hosting the foreign minister of Azerbaijan, a major defense partner of Israel. Aides say Gallant never got a formal dismissal letter from Netanyahu.
Now in his sixth term, Netanyahu straddles a religious-nationalist coalition whose far-right members have stirred worry in the West for the future long-stalled peacemaking with the Palestinians and the ability to coordinate strategies on Iran.
Tom Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, on Tuesday held out the possibility that Netanyahu might soon be invited to the White House after acceding to the compromise talks.
But Biden, asked by a reporter if he would invite Netanyahu, replied: "No, not in the near term."
Yair Lapid, Israel's centrist opposition leader, tweeted: "For decades Israel was the closest of U.S. allies. The country's most extreme government ever ruined that in three months."
Responding to the remarks by Biden, Netanyahu noted his rapport with the president and the "unbreakable" alliance between the countries, but said Israel would chart a course "by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad."
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