Israelis back on streets after Netanyahu rejects reforms compromise

TEL AVIV, Israel - Israeli protesters returned to the streets Thursday to rally against proposed judicial reforms, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a compromise plan touted by the country's president.

The reforms, several provisions of which have already been adopted by parliament, are "the end of democracy," read a placard brandished by demonstrators in Tel Aviv.

"I am afraid that we will become a religious state, that the laws of Judaism will come first and the democratic freedom that we have will not be there anymore," Liat Tzvi, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, told AFP.

Demonstrators also gathered in Jerusalem and the northern city of Haifa to denounce the overhaul that would, among other things, allow lawmakers to scrap supreme court rulings with a simple majority vote.

Since Netanyahu's hard-right government announced the reforms in January, the month after taking office, massive demonstrations have regularly taken place across Israel.

Opponents of the package have also accused Netanyahu, who faces a string of corruption allegations, of trying to use the reforms to quash possible judgements against him.

President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday presented a proposed compromise on the reforms, but it was immediately rejected by the government.

"Anyone who thinks that a genuine civil war, with human lives, is a line that we could never reach, has no idea what he is talking about," Herzog said.

Netanyahu later told reporters: "As for the president's compromise, I think any attempt to reach an agreement and a dialogue is certainly welcome."

"But what the president is proposing has not been accepted by the representatives of the ruling coalition. Key points in his programme only perpetuate the existing situation and do not bring the required balance between the powers," he added.