Netanyahu shrugs off protest, says millions of voters demanded judicial overhaul

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called off an 80,000-strong rally against the government’s controversial plans to overhaul the judiciary, telling cabinet ministers that national elections are a major demonstration of the will of the people.

Changes in the pipeline include weakening the Supreme Court so that it cannot veto legislation and policies deemed unconstitutional, and giving government control over panels that select judges.

Critics say that, along with other planned legislation, the revisions would undermine Israel’s democratic character by undermining its system of checks and balances, giving too much power to the executive branch, and Minorities will be left unprotected.

“Two months ago there was a huge demonstration, the mother of all protests. Millions of people took to the streets to vote in the election. Netanyahu said of the November 1 vote, according to a statement from his office. , on which they voted was to reform the judicial system.

“Everyone who was at our election rallies, in the city centers and in the neighborhoods, heard the chants from the crowds,” he told the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, though he did not give any specific examples.

Millions of people took to the streets to vote in the elections. Netanyahu told ministers that one of the main topics they voted on was reforming the judicial system.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protests against the government of Israel on January 14, 2023 in Tel Aviv. (Jacques Guise/AFP)

Netanyahu urged against “getting carried away by inflammatory slogans about civil war and the destruction of the state.”

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He added, “I must say that when we were in the opposition, we did not call for civil war or talk about the destruction of the state, even when the government took decisions that We strongly opposed. I expect the same from the opposition leaders.

He predicted the changes would “restore public confidence in the justice system.”

Rhetoric over the changes and pushback against them heated up last week when opposition lawmaker Benny Gantz accused Netanyahu of “leading to civil war” and opposition leader Yair Lapid urged supporters of his Yesh Atid party to take to the streets as part of “ending the war”. Our Home.”

This prompted a lawmaker from the coalition’s far-right Otzma Judaism party to call for Gantz and Lapid to be arrested on charges of “treason”.

On Sunday, Likud MK Tali Gottlio said he had asked Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has championed judicial reform, to remove Supreme Court President Esther Hewitt from her post, citing a conflict of interest.

Gotliv pointed to a speech by Hewitt last week in which he railed against the planned moves, accusing the justice of scaring the public with lies, “expressing a political opinion on a controversial subject”.

President Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, called on politicians to “turn down the temperature” in their talks on the overhaul. Herzog said Sunday that he is working to mediate between the two sides on the upcoming legislation.

A group of organizers of Saturday’s protest said on Sunday that they were planning a new rally on January 21, though on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street near the government complex that includes the IDF headquarters. – instead of Habiba Square – to allow more people to go there. Attend a somewhat less residential area.

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“The journey to stop this uprising has only just begun,” organizers said in a statement. “This is a determined and uncompromising fight to save democracy, and the people of Israel are coming out in droves to protest.”

However, in a separate statement, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the main organizers of the protests, said it plans to hold a rally in Habiba Square on Saturday night.

“We will continue together to lead and organize this fight for the role and identity of the State of Israel as a democratic and liberal nation,” said Eliad Shraga, head of the Movement for Quality Government. “We will fight in the streets, squares and bridges – in the courts and the Knesset.”

Option to transfer

The cabinet on Sunday also approved the creation of a Public Diplomacy Ministry, which will be headed by newly appointed minister Gilit Distill Atebrian. Similarly, the cabinet approved the appointment of May Gulen as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Both moves still require Knesset approval.

Diplomacy Minister Gilit Distill Etebrin arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on January 15, 2023 in Jerusalem.

The ministers also approved the members of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which will be chaired by Levin.

Other members of the forum include Minister of National Security Atmar Ben-Goverr, Minister of Education Yov Kish, Minister of Education Haim Batan, Minister of Welfare Yves Ben-Zor within the Ministry of Welfare, Minister of Housing Yitzhak Goldknouf, Minister of Environmental Protection Aditya Salman, Minister of Communications Shlomo. Included. Karhi, and Diaspora Affairs and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli, along with Distal Atbarian.

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The PMO statement said the “transfer of operational areas and powers from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Equality to the Prime Minister’s Office was approved as per the alliance agreements”.

According to Channel 12 News, the decision cited the transfer of outdoor programming for school students from the Ministry of Education to the Prime Minister’s Office, where it will be overseen by Deputy Minister Avi Maoz, who is from the far-right anti-LGBTQ Noam party. are the leaders of .

Mauz’s appointment as overseer of a key component of the student curriculum has sparked criticism and concern, with several local municipalities saying they will not allow anti-LGBTQ or illiberal material to be introduced into their schools.

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