Israel’s right-wing religious government has changed part of its controversial judicial reform. A first-reading bill to change the selection of judges has been modified, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party announced on Monday. The new version provides for an increase in the body for appointing judges.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party defended the new version, which “does not allow the coalition or the opposition to take over the court but ensures diversity in the selection of judges.” The amended draft law would have to pass a vote in the Legal Affairs Committee before a second and third final reading in Parliament’s plenary session.

The coalition parties said in a joint statement on Monday that they intend to finalize the law on the appointment of judges within weeks before parliament goes on recess next month. Other draft bills in the reform package would wait until the summer session to allow for “real dialogue” with the opposition, the statement said.

Opponents of the reform were not impressed. The adjustments outlined did not go far enough for them. Opposition leader Jair Lapid rejected the offer. Nothing essential has changed. “If the amendment to the Judge Selection Committee is passed, it will represent a hostile and dangerous takeover of the court system by ruthless politicians,” Lapid said. The opposition leader called it a “lie” that the new version was a compromise.

The opposition also announced that it would contest the planned judicial reform. Once the amendment is passed, an appeal will be lodged with the Supreme Court, Lapid told MPs from his party Yesh Atid (There is a Future) on Monday.

Activists accused Netanyahu of trying to “lull the protest with nice words”. They announced further protests. Voices from the government camp accused Netanyahu of giving in to the opposition. “I woke up to a morning of surrender,” Likud MP Talli Gotliw said on the radio.

The government’s plans aim to drastically reduce the powers of the judiciary. The focus of the controversial reform is the procedure for selecting judges. The government wants to increase its influence and limit the powers of the Supreme Court. She justified this with the accusation that judges had interfered in politics.

Critics accuse the government of conservatives, religious fundamentalists and right-wing nationalists of wanting to restrict the independence of the judiciary. They fear that the separation of powers will be abolished and that democracy will be undermined. President Isaac Herzog has called for the reform to be postponed. There have been mass protests against the project in Israel for eleven weeks.