Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday his government plans to charge ahead with an overhaul of the country's judicial system, despite fierce criticism from top legal officials and protests against the changes that have drawn thousands of people. Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has made the legal changes the centerpiece of his new government's agenda, and the surging opposition to them is presenting an early challenge for the Israeli leader. Opponents say the changes could help Netanyahu evade conviction in his corruption trial or make the court case disappear altogether, the AP reports.
The overhaul would weaken the power of the Supreme Court, granting legislators the ability to pass laws the court has struck down with a simple majority, as well as give the government greater power over the appointment of judges and limit the independence of government legal advisers. The proposed changes have sparked an outcry from the Supreme Court's top justice, who in rare criticism called the overhaul an "unbridled attack on the justice system." The country's attorney general has also spoken out against the plan, as have many of her predecessors, and tens of thousands protested the proposed changes in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
Despite the opposition, Netanyahu told a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday that voters cast their ballots in November elections in support of his campaign promise to overhaul the justice system. "We will complete legislating the reforms in a way that will correct what needs correcting, will totally protect individual rights and will restore the public's faith in the justice system that so much requires this reform," Netanyahu said. A poll released Sunday painted a more complex picture. The survey found that 58% of Israelis believe the Supreme Court should have the power to overturn laws passed by parliament if they conflict with democratic principles. The survey was conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute in October just before the election.
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