Defense minister said to warn PM he won’t back overhaul legislation in current form

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During the highly publicized meeting with the prime minister on Thursday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Benjamin Netanyahu that he will not vote in favor of the bill to assert political control over the country’s Judicial Selection Committee if it is brought to a vote. next week in which. present form, according to Friday’s report.

Without citing sources, Channel 12 said that Gallant warned that if the bill – a cornerstone of the government’s judicial reform – is not amended or a compromise is not reached with the opposition in the coming days, he will not support the legislation, and will . abstain or actively vote against it.

The report said Gallant has no intention of resigning, despite his protests.

He said Netanyahu asked the minister to give him a few days to try to resolve the emerging crisis, which Gallant agreed to.

Gallant is widely reported to be planning to hold a press conference on Thursday in which he would publicly call for a halt to the legislation, given his deep concern about the serious damage to the cohesion of the military and the growing number of reservists warning that they will not serve if Israel did. democracy is harmed.

Channel 12’s Nir Dvori said the minister provided the premier with a “very worrying” picture of Israel’s military and security situation, saying the threat of increased rejection was no longer limited to reserves, but could extend to conscripts and career officers. .

Gallant was said to have noted to the chief that IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s dire predictions regarding the deepening divisions within the country’s defense force have so far come true.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) speaks with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi (left), head of the Northern Command Ori Gordin (right), and commander of the 91st territorial division Shai Klapper (back to camera), at Har theater Adir. point on the Lebanese border, 16 March 2023. (Elad Malka/Ministry of Defence)

The New York Times reported on Friday that Halevi has warned government leaders that the army is about to reduce the scope of certain operations because of the large number of reservists who refuse to report for duty.

“I haven’t folded and I haven’t spoken out publicly yet,” the network said at Gallant, referring to the minister’s unidentified partners. “I am willing to take a bullet for the country.”

After word got out on Thursday about Gallant’s planned press conference, and before he called it off, the minister was met by other members of the coalition government including members of Likud, who took to social media to excommunicate him for the amount which they painted. betrayal of right-wing voters and capitalization of anti-government protesters. Far-right party Otzma Yehudit issued a direct statement against Gallant, saying he had “removed himself from the right-wing camp” and was trying to attract voters.

“Unlike others, I haven’t given up on my priorities yet,” Channel 12 quoted Gallant as saying. “First the state, then the IDF. In my estimation, the prime minister’s inner circle has not made a serious security case.”

The network also confirmed, again without sourcing, that Likud MK Yuli Edelstein and others who may be thinking of openly opposing the overhaul in its current form, may do so if Gallant speaks.

Currently, the government is pressing ahead with its legislative plans. Netanyahu said in a speech Thursday night that he would scale back parts of the shakeup going forward, but also said he would vote next week to pass the bill to put key Supreme Court appointments, including its presidency, directly under his control. coalition control. It is not yet clear when the vote will take place, although Tuesday has been set as a likely target.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement to the nation regarding the judicial overhaul on March 23, 2023 (Channel 12/ Screencapture)

Reformers have drawn a line in the sand on that bill, saying it will politicize the court, remove key checks on government power and seriously damage Israel’s democratic character. In response, protest leaders on Friday announced an unprecedented nationwide “week of paralysis” to disrupt daily life, including massive protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The reform has faced growing outrage and protests from top public figures including the president, lawmakers, business leaders, Nobel-winning economists, prominent security officials, and many others. . This week the chief officers of the Ministry of Finance warned of deep and lasting damage to the economy if the changes are successful in their current form.

“We are entering the most critical week in Israel’s history,” protest leaders said in a statement on Friday. “This destructive government is tearing the nation apart and dismantling the military and the economy.

Thousands of Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government plans to reform the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

“Faced with the attempt to turn Israel into a dictatorship, millions will take to the streets to defend the State of Israel and the Declaration of Independence,” the statement said. “All citizens who want to live in democracy must come out into the streets and oppose the dictatorship at all costs.”

Netanyahu also said on Thursday that because of the crisis, he would henceforth ignore the 2020 conflict of interest agreement that bars himself from involvement in the overhaul amid his ongoing corruption trial, and would be heavily involved in the legislation which is emerging, is very controversial. Netanyahu’s announcement came hours after the Knesset passed a law to protect him from being removed from office for violating its limits.

Setting up a full confrontation with the prime minister, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara informed Netanyahu that he had violated the conflict of interest agreement and that any further involvement in the coalition’s judicial overhaul would be “illegal and corrupted by conflict. interesting.”

On Friday night, while the prime minister was in London, a senior Israeli official traveling with Netanyahu told reporters there was “no conflict of interest.”

“In one of the worst crises the nation has seen, it is unbelievable that the prime minister will be on the sidelines,” he said. The official insisted that the prime minister was “looking for any path, any partner” for a compromise on the overhaul.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara seen during a welcoming ceremony for her in Jerusalem on February 8, 2022 (Courtesy of Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Speaking to Channel 12 on Friday, former justice minister Gideon Sa’ar from the National Unionist party said he recommended “not to be intimidated by the attorney general’s letter. “Anyone acting in a conflict of interest is breaking the law. He will be subject to criminal investigation… and contempt of court.”

Regarding the state of Likud’s internal opposition to the forward legislation, Sa’ar said that “there are some people in Likud who understand what is happening to the country.

“I call on all these people — on Yoav Gallant, on Yuli Edelstein, on Nir Barkat, on other people in Likud who I know very well and understand the situation… They will not be able to stay where Bibi is taking the country… to stop it, they can prevent a terrible disaster.”

Officials in the office of National Unity party leader Benny Gantz, a key member of the opposition who also served as defense minister and IDF chief, said Thursday that he was in talks with coalition MKs in Likud and ultra-Orthodox parties, with their includes Gallant, in an effort to prevent irreversible damage to democracy and civil war, and to maintain the security of the country and its economy.

Gantz stressed to them that stopping the reform legislation was critical to ending the crisis, the officials said.

MK Gideon Sa’ar attends a National Unity Party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In his address to the nation on Thursday, Netanyahu said his government will continue to handle the plan “responsibly”.

“Until today my hands were tied,” Netanyahu said. “So tonight I announce to you, no more.”

Confirming his intention to be actively involved, Netanyahu said he was “putting aside all other issues” and “will do everything I can to find a solution for the benefit of our people, our state.”

Opposition leaders have said they will not negotiate the reform until the coalition takes a legislative recess, and will not participate in the upcoming April Knesset recess if the judicial appointments law passes first.

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