Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a special address to the nation this evening concerning the government’s reforms of Israel’s judicial system. The address was supposed to have been made after a press conference by Minister of Defense Yoav Galant who reportedly intended to call for a pause in the legislation. After a meeting with Netanyahu this evening, at which he presented the effect of the legislation on the IDF, Galant canceled his speech, at Netanyahu’s request.
In his address, Netanyahu attacked the Supreme Court, saying, “Supporters of the reform think that there is no genuine democracy here, and that what endangers democracy is an all-powerful Supreme Court, and that in effect it runs the country. On the other side, opponents of the reform think that what will endanger democracy is a Knesset and government acting with no checks and no brakes that will harm individual rights. A proper democratic regime has to deal with both these things. It must ensure the rule of the majority and preserve individual rights.
“Many people who do not describe themselves as supporters agree that changes are needed and that there needs to be substantial reform of the courts. But there are those who fear that the democratic reform as proposed will go too far, and that it will enable the government and the Knesset to dominate the court, to override any ruling, to pass any law. They fear a halakhic state, and an illiberal state, legislation against LGBT people, secular people, women, minorities.
“In the light of these fears, I say this evening: I believe that it is possible to pass a reform that will provide an answer to both sides, that will restore the balance between the branches of government, and that will not only preserve, but will safeguard the individual rights of every citizen of the state. We have not come to trample and oppress, we have come to balance and repair. And therefore we are determined to repair, and to advance, responsibly, the democratic reform that will restore the balance between the branches of government.”
In his speech, referring to his meeting with Galant, Netanyahu said he had heard the fears concerning Israel’s defense, but he condemned the refusal of some army reservists to report for duty in protest against the legal system reforms, saying that this endangered the country’s security.
Netanyahu was widely expected to announce a halt in the legislation of the reform to facilitate dialogue with the opposition, but instead he confirmed that the legislation to change the composition of the judicial selection committee would proceed next week as planned.
This afternoon, when it was still expected that Galant would make a call to halt the legislation, both Shas and the United Torah Judaism, haredi parties in the coalition, said that they would accept any decision that was made. Galant, however, came in for fierce condemnation within the Likud party, and this appears to have tipped the balance.
It should be pointed out that Netanyahu’s declaration that he would personally become involved in the reform legislation breaches the conflict of interest agreement that precludes his involvement since he is on trial on corruption charges. This morning, however, the Knesset passed a law that in effect prevents the Supreme Court from declaring the prime minister incapacitated, and referring to this Netanyahu said, “Up to now, my hands have been tied, they threatened to declare me incapacitated up until today. I inform you that I am becoming involved in events. I will do everything in my power to reach a solution.”
Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid said in response to Netanyahu’s speech, “Instead of halting the legislation and calming things down, Netanyahu again played the victim and complained, and continued to spread shameful lies against the justice system that have no connection to reality. His announcement that the change in the judicial selection committee will be legislated next week demonstrates that he has no intention of conducting genuine dialogue.”
A statement from the leaders of the protest movement said that demonstrations would be held on Saturday night, for the twelfth successive week. “Any call for dialogue while the legislation proceeds is not legitimate,” the statement said.
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange rose sharply this afternoon, apparently in anticipation of a compromise gesture by the prime minister, and the shekel strengthened against the US dollar, but since Netanyahu’s speech the shekel has retreated.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on March 23, 2023.
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