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Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu jeered by protesters during Downing Street visit for talks with Rishi Sunak

The Israel prime minister's visit to Britain threatens to be overshadowed by controversial judicial changes back home, which have sparked mass protests across the country

Source: Sky News

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu faced noisy protests as he met Rishi Sunak in Downing Street, with uproar over his domestic legal overhaul that critics argue will destroy democracy.

Shouts of "shame" in Hebrew and jeers of hundreds of demonstrators in Whitehall could easily be heard as Mr Netanyahu shook hands with his UK host outside Number 10.

One sign branded Mr Netanyahu a "dictator on the run", while there was chanting of: "Netanyahu go to jail, you can't speak for Israel".

His controversial judicial changes in Israel have sparked mass protests at home and threaten to overshadow his visit to Britain.

He had delayed his departure to the UK to deal with the political crisis.

The unrest comes after Mr Netanyahu's right-wing nationalist coalition approved legislation that would protect him from being deemed unfit to rule.

Opponents argue the law is tailor-made to protect the leader from corruption charges.

After a series of scandals involving wealthy associates, Mr Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Israel's attorney-general has accused Mr Netanyahu of breaking the law by ignoring a conflict of interest.

Other reforms being pursued include giving the Jerusalem government sway in choosing judges and curbing the Supreme Court's power to strike down laws.

Supporters have said the plan would rein in judicial overreach and restore balance between the branches of government.

But critics believe it would weaken the courts, threaten civil liberties and harm the economy.

The issue was raised by Mr Sunak during his 45-minute meeting with Mr Netanyahu, during which they also spoke of strengthening ties between the two nations and discussed shared security and defence challenges, including Russia and Iran.

A statement issued by Downing street said: "The prime minister stressed the importance of upholding the democratic values that underpin our relationship, including in the proposed judicial reforms in Israel."

Outside, protest organiser Sharon Sochat told Sky News: "We're here protesting to this meeting, we're protesting that he's being welcomed in the UK, despite the assault on Israeli democracy in Israel at the moment.

"We're not going to let this happen, we're not going to let Netanyahu let our country down."

'Judicial coup'

Fellow protester Gilad Mandelboim said: "What Benjamin Netanyahu is doing is wrong, he is destroying the Israeli democracy."

Talli, an Israeli tech worker who has been living in London for six years, said she was protesting against Mr Netanyahu's "judicial coup".

"He's trying to gain power while on trial and he's trying to turn Israel into a non-democratic country," she said.

"We want not just Rishi Sunak but the international community and leaders to apply pressure on Netanyahu - whether it's financial deals, or anything at all - to back down on this coup.

"My family and friends all live in Israel and I'm worried about their futures."

'War for human rights'

Amnon Cohn said: "We're here to protest against Netanyahu, to protest against his attacks on democracy."

Liron Rosiner Reshef said: "This is a war for human rights... This is a war for all Israelis to fight."