Israeli government delays disputed judiciary bill

STORY: As protests intensified across Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced he would delay a decision on a bitterly contested plan to overhaul the judiciary and would seek time for compromise.

The move comes as fears rise that Israel’s worst national crisis in years could fracture his coalition or escalate into violence.

In a televised address, Netanyahu said 'When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue"

Opposition parties said they would work to reach an agreement if the government was sincere.

Former centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the opposition needed to be sure Netanyahu was not bluffing but also pointed out in a statement “If the government engages in a real and fair dialog we can come out of this moment of crisis- stronger and more united- and we can turn this into a defining moment in our ability to live together.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has been leading the judicial reform process, said that as a member of Netanyahu's Likud party he would respect whatever decision the prime minister reached

"A situation in which everyone does as they wish is liable to bring about the instant fall of the government and collapse of Likud," he said in a statement.

Protestors have flooded Israeli streets for weeks to express their opposition to the plan which would limit the Supreme Court's powers to rule against the legislature and the executive, while giving coalition lawmakers more power in appointing judges.

Netanyahu, himself on trial on corruption charges which he denies, has promised to ensure civil rights are protected but has not backed down from the central thrust of the reforms.

His decision Sunday to fire the defense chief for opposing his plans prompted mass overnight protests.

Some members of parliament chanted “shame, shame” as the government coalition pressed ahead with the plan earlier Monday.

While opposition from a labor union grounded flights at Ben Gurion airport.

The union said it had called off the strikes after Netanyahu announced the delay which was praised by leaders in the UK and US governments.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre:

“We welcome this announcement as an opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise. 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.”

The crisis is among the worst in Israeli domestic political history and comes amid escalating violence in the West Bank, where more than 250 Palestinian gunmen and civilians, and more than 40 Israelis have been killed in the past year.