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Tension boiling over as Biden, Netanyahu trade words on judicial overhaul

US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at rift over judicial overhaul. (File photo)

As US president Joe Biden has dramatically escalated pressure on the Israeli regime’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to drop the controversial judicial reforms, Netanyahu responded by saying Israel rejects “pressure from abroad”; a trade of words signaling that US-Israeli relations are in crisis mode.

Biden said on Tuesday that he is not going to invite Netanyahu “in the near term” to the White House, adding that Israel cannot continue down this road with its so-called judicial reforms.

This is the first time Biden publicly speaks about the judicial overhaul, which has led hundreds of thousands of illegal Israeli settlers to the streets in protest.

“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. I’m concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden said in North Carolina, where he was kicking off his “Investing in America” tour.

“Hopefully the prime minister will act in a way that he will try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen,” he added.

Netanyahu was quick to fire back and tell Biden that Israel rejects pressure coming from abroad, by that meaning the US administration.

“Israel is an independent country that takes decisions based on the will of its citizens and not based on external pressure, including from our best friends,” the Israeli prime minister said.

However, Biden’s relationship with Netanyahu is rooted in part in his longstanding love and support for Israel. After firing back at Biden, Netanyahu said the Israel-US alliance is unbreakable “and always overcomes the occasional disagreements between us.”

Earlier, the White House called on the Israeli regime’s officials in a statement to immediately come up with a “compromise” to resolve the weeks-long crisis in the occupied territories over Netanyahu’s widely-bashed judicial reforms.

Since January, Netanyahu has vowed to move further with a plan to give him greater control over the Supreme Court, which could allow his far-right administration to end the corruption trial against him.

Netanyahu announced on Monday evening that he was temporarily freezing the bill that would alter the makeup of Israel’s judicial system. However, he said he was determined to pass the judicial reform plan.

He spoke after tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside the Knesset and workers launched a general strike in a dramatic escalation of the mass protest movement aimed at halting his plan.

The chaos shut down most cities and threatened to paralyze the economy, with flights suspended at Ben Gurion International Airport and work halted at main seaports.

Israeli protesters, for their part, vowed to press ahead with demonstrations across the occupied territories as long as the legislation continues.

“As long as the legislation continues and is not shelved, we will be on the streets,” Shikma Bressler, one of the main leaders of the protest movement, said after Netanyahu made the announcement in a televised address on Monday.

The ongoing protests reflect the deep divide among the Israelis and the growing number opposed to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu had said the so-called judicial reform will stop the courts from over-reaching their powers, but critics say they will help him as he faces an ongoing trial for corruption.

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