White House welcomes Netanyahu delay in judicial overhaul, urges compromise


WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) - The United States welcomes the decision on Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay a decision on divisive plans for a judicial overhaul until next month, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Netanyahu on Monday delayed a decision on bitterly contested plans for a judicial overhaul until next month amid fears that the country's worst national crisis in years could fracture his coalition or escalate into violence.

"We welcome this announcement as an opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise. A compromise is precisely what we have been calling for. And we continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible," Jean-Pierre said.

The United States remains concerned about the situation in Israel and President Joe Biden has shared his concerns about a proposed judicial overhaul directly with Netanyahu, the White House said on Monday.

"We remain concerned by the recent developments," White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, calling for compromise.

Kirby noted that Israel had been invited to a U.S.-organized Summit for Democracy later this week.

Kirby said Biden has been "very forthright" with Netanyahu about his concerns. Asked if Biden was worried that Israel would devolve into civil war, Kirby said he was not.

He said U.S. concerns about the judicial reform legislation were that it would "fly in the face" of the principle of having checks and balances in government.

"All of that concern comes from ... a place of respect and friendship and admiration for the Israeli people, for Israel as a country and for Israel's democracy," Kirby said.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Jasper Ward and Susan Heavey; Editing by Howard Goller and Tomasz Janowski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA's work was recognized with Deutsche Welle's "Freedom of Speech Award." Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA's “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure" award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists' "Breaking News" award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.