Israels president calls for halt to judicial overhaul after mass …

Posted By on March 28, 2023

Israels president has urged the government to halt its bitterly contested judicial overhaul, a day after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his defence minister for opposing the move, sparking mass street protests.

For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately, Isaac Herzog said on Twitter.

The warning from the head of state who is supposed to stand above politics and whose function is largely ceremonial underlined the alarm the judicial proposals have caused.

It followed a dramatic night of protests, as tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Sunday night after Netanyahu fired the countrys defence minister. Yoav Gallant had called on the prime minister to scrap the proposals which have divided the country, led to mass protests and sparked growing discontent within the military.

Netanyahus move on Sunday underscored his determination to press on with the overhaul which has also angered business leaders and raised concerns among Israels allies.

Demonstrators blocked Tel Avivs main artery late into the evening, transforming the Ayalon highway into a sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags and lighting a large bonfire in the middle of the road.

Protests took place in Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, where thousands of people gathered outside Netanyahus private residence. Police scuffled with demonstrators and sprayed the crowd with a water cannon. Thousands then marched from the residence to the Knesset, Israels parliament.

We saw very difficult scenes tonight, Herzog wrote.

I am addressing the Prime Minister, the members of the government The eyes of all the people of Israel are on you. The eyes of the entire Jewish people are on you. The eyes of the whole world are on you.

Come to your senses now! This is not a political moment, this is a moment for leadership and responsibility, he added.

A parliamentary vote this week will take place on a centrepiece of the overhaul a law that would give the governing coalition the final say over all judicial appointments. It also seeks to pass laws that would grant parliament the authority to override supreme court decisions and limit judicial review of laws.

In a brief statement on Sunday, Netanyahus office said the prime minister had dismissed Gallant after the defence minister had called for a pause in the legislation until after next months Independence Day holidays, citing the turmoil in the military over the plan.

Gallant was the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against the plan.

But as droves of protesters flooded the streets late into the night, other Likud ministers began indicating willingness to hit the brakes. Culture minister Miki Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said the party would support him if he decided to pause the judicial overhaul.

A White House spokesperson said the US urged Israels leaders to find compromise as soon as possible.

As the president recently discussed with prime minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship, White House national security council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.

On Sunday, Israels consul-general in New York said he was resigning in protest at Netanyahus treatment of his defence minister. I can no longer continue representing this government, Asaf Zamir said on Twitter. I believe it is my duty to ensure that Israel remains a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world.

Yair Lapid, the opposition leader, said Gallants dismissal was a new low for the anti-Zionist government that harms national security and ignores warnings of all defence officials.

The prime minister of Israel is a threat to the security of the state of Israel, Lapid wrote on Twitter.

Avi Dichter, a former chief of the Shin Bet security agency, is expected to replace Gallant. Dichter had reportedly considered joining the defence minister but instead announced on Sunday that he was backing the prime minister.

Netanyahu and his allies say their plan will restore a balance between the judicial and executive branches and rein in what they see as an interventionist supreme court with liberal sympathies.

But critics say the laws will remove the checks and balances in Israels democratic system and concentrate power in the hands of the governing coalition.


Israels president calls for halt to judicial overhaul after mass ...

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