Cracks in Netanyahu coalition over judicial crisis

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STORY: In the face of continued mass protests and signs of cracks in his governing coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed forward Thursday with his plan to overhaul the country's judiciary.

In a televised address he said his goal was what he called "democratic reform" to "restore the proper balance between the authorities."

It comes after Netanyahu had summoned Defense Minister Yoav Galant, after reports the top-level cabinet member wanted to call a halt to the planned overhaul.

Israeli media said Galant had planned to make a statement seeking to stop the reforms in the name of maintaining order in the military ranks, where some officers and reservists have vowed to refuse orders over the overhaul.

The apparent willingness of Gallant, a senior member of Netanyahu's conservative Likud party, to break rank drew criticism from a far-right faction in Netanyahu's religious-nationalist coalition government.

The proposed overhauls would give the government more control over appointing judges and limit the Supreme Court's ability to check the prime minister or the legislature.

Proponents say the high court has too much power; critics say the court's independence is a vital part of the country's democracy, and warn that the overhaul could benefit Netanyahu who faces corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing.

The proposed overhaul has prompted weeks of mass protests in the streets.

Police in Tel Aviv used a water cannon to disperse demonstrators who had blocked a highway. In Jerusalem, officers scuffled with protesters who tried to push through barriers near the prime minister's residence.

On Thursday, Netanyahu called for unity, saying Israelis had one country, and must do everything to protect it.

Twenty-five-year-old protester Keren Pikovski watched the speech, and shrugged, saying, Netanyahu was trying to sell them out, just so he could continue to be prime minister.