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Protests in Israel have the country's president warning of a possible civil war

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to overhaul his country's judiciary, but he's gotten huge pushback and there have been massive protests. Now he's rejected a compromise plan, and Israel's president is warning of civil war. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: President Isaac Herzog said Israel stands at the edge of the abyss.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: Addressing the nation on TV last night, he warned of a real civil war with human lives. For months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been rallying in the streets against the government's efforts to change the balance of power. The right-wing government thinks the Supreme Court is too liberal and wants to limit the court's ability to overturn laws. U.S. Jewish leaders flew to Israel to urge compromise. Eric Fingerhut heads the Jewish Federations of North America.

ERIC FINGERHUT: This issue is causing real concern and divisions also in our communities.

ESTRIN: Israel's largely ceremonial president consulted with Netanyahu's government and legal experts and proposed a detailed compromise to limit, but not to shackle, the Supreme Court and to finally establish a Bill of Rights as Israel approaches its 75th Independence Day. But Netanyahu and his coalition rejected that compromise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: Netanyahu said the president's proposal does not bring the necessary balance of powers to Israel. That is the unfortunate truth. Protesters are returning to the streets today. Some have painted the road outside the Supreme Court in red. This crisis comes as the U.S. orchestrates a meeting next week of Israeli and Palestinian officials to try to avert more violence as Ramadan and Passover approach.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.