Israel: Defence minister calls for pause to reforms as thousands protest


Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday against controversial judicial reform, as Defense Minister Yoav Galant broke ranks to call for a pause on the government’s reforms.

The latest demonstration to hit Israel’s commercial center came days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with the changes despite growing international alarm.

Israel: Attorney General says Netanyahu’s role in judicial overhaul is illegal

Read more ”

But his defense minister said on Saturday “we have to stop the legislative process” for a month.

“The victory of one of the sides, on the streets of the city or in the halls of the Knesset (parliament), is a loss for the State of Israel,” he said in a speech.

Galant called for it to be stopped before lawmakers are allowed to vote next week on a key part of the government’s proposals, which would change the way judges are appointed.

The Tel Aviv protest on Saturday swelled to around 200,000 demonstrators, according to Israeli media estimates.

“We are here today to show our voice and add to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Israelis who support the values ​​this country was founded on,” said tech worker Daniel Nisman, citing the democracy and tolerance.

“This is all we can hope for, that he (Netanyahu) will bring us back from the edge of the abyss,” the 36-year-old told AFP.

Demonstrations flared in January after the coalition announced its reform package, which the government says is necessary to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.

‘Turning into a dictatorship’

But the protester Daphne Oren-Magidor, 41, said the overhaul risks Israel “turning into a dictatorship”.

“The laws that are currently being passed are laws aimed at making the government essentially the sole ruler and destroying the separation of powers,” said the historian rallying in Jerusalem.

Thousands of demonstrators marched past President Isaac Herzog’s residence in Jerusalem, where demonstrator Harriet Scher had an Israeli flag wrapped around her shoulders.

“It is very upset for our country,” said the 80-year-old.

Protests held in London against Netanyahu’s visit

Read more ”

The amendments “will be very harmful to people on the margins – lesbians, gays and the Arab population – not everything will be good for the country, if they (politicians) have completely violated the Supreme Court,” she said.

Plans to give more control to politicians and reduce the role of the Supreme Court have been questioned by Israel’s main allies including the United States.

US President Joe Biden expressed “our concerns about these proposals, these proposed judicial reforms”, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of protesters also met Netanyahu in London, where he met his British counterpart Rishi Sunak on Friday.

During the talks, the British prime minister “stressed the importance of upholding the democratic values ​​that underpin our relationship, including in the proposed judicial reforms”, a spokesman said.

‘End the divide’

Netanyahu said on Thursday that the legislation due in the parliament chamber next week “does not take control of the court but balances and diversifies it”.

The draft law has been amended by a parliamentary committee with the aim of making it more palatable to opponents, but the opposition has not ruled out supporting any part of the reform package until all legislative steps have been halted.

In response, demonstrators announced a “national week of paralysis”, including rallies across the country, protests outside ministers’ houses and on Wednesday outside parliament.

In his televised address on Thursday, Netanyahu said he would do everything “to ease the situation and end the split in the nation”.

However, the chief executive said his administration was still “determined to correct and responsibly promote the democratic reform that will restore the right balance between the authorities” by proceeding with the overhaul.

Netanyahu came under fire a day later from Israel’s attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, who said his public intervention was “illegal” because of his ongoing corruption trial.

The top law officer cited a previous court ruling that an indicted prime minister has no right to act on a matter that could cause him a conflict of interest.

Leave A Reply