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‘Pump the breaks, slow down’: US envoy tells Israeli PM on judicial changes; Jerusalem hits back

The United States ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said that Prime Minister Netanyahu should slow down the progress on the controversial judicial overhaul which has sparked protests for weeks. Speaking to the CNN podcast “The Axe Files” on Saturday (February 18), Nides said, “We’re telling the Prime Minister, as I tell my kids, pump the brakes, slow down, try to get a consensus, bring the parties together.” Nides emphasised that Israel had America’s support on security and at the United Nations. 

However, the US envoy also said that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hope of forging diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia or dealing with Iran’s nuclear programme was at stake. “The Prime Minister wants to do big things, okay? He tells us he wants to do big things. I said to him, to the prime minister, a hundred times, we can’t spend time with things we want to work on together if your backyard’s on fire,” Nides said during the podcast. 

‘You pump the breaks’: Israeli minister to US envoy

Israeli PM Netanyahu did not immediately comment on Tom Nides’ remarks but the country’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli told the US envoy to mind his own business. Speaking to public broadcaster Ken, Chikli said “I tell the American ambassador, you pump the brakes. Mind your own business. You are not sovereign here to discuss judicial reforms. We’re happy to discuss diplomatic and security matters with you but respect our democracy,” the news agency Reuters reported.

The protests in Israel against the government’s controversial legal reforms continue. On Saturday night, tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets to oppose the plan to overhaul the country’s court system. They are against the reforms that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies hope to pass that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers to rule against the legislature and the executive while giving lawmakers decisive powers in appointing judges. 

Netanyahu said the changes are needed to restore the balance between the government, the Knesset and the judiciary

On Saturday, Israel’s Justice Minister Yariv Levin told Channel 13 that he was determined to complete the legislation, adding “I don’t think it’s right to manage a country with threats and dictations from the street.” 

(With inputs from agencies)

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