Benjamin Netanyahu delays judiciary bill

However, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has been leading the process, said that as a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party he would respect whatever decision the prime minister reached.


“A situation in which everyone does as they wish is liable to bring about the instant fall of the government and collapse of Likud,” he said in a statement.

As parliament passed a confidence vote in the government, tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, many waving the blue and white Israeli flags that have become an emblem of the protests.

A counter-demonstration planned for in front of the Knesset was expected to include Jewish settler groups and football supporter groups such as La Familia, an ultra-nationalist group associated with the Beitar Jerusalem club.

With fears of violence fuelled by social media posts calling for attacks on left-wing Israelis, police numbers were reinforced to handle possible trouble.

Speaking in London, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, a one-time rival of Netanyahu, said the country was fighting for its heart and soul – and whether it would be a dictatorship or a democracy. He predicted that the protesters would prevail.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak speaking at Chatham House think tank in London on Monday.Credit:Latika Bourke

“It’s a clash, a top-down regime change using the legal tools of democracy facing a counter-revolution from bottom up,” the former Labor party leader said at Chatham House.

“We will win, I am confident of it.”

Night of protests

The judicial legislation has ignited some of the biggest street demonstrations in Israel’s history and drawn a rare intervention by the head of state.

“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,” President Isaac Herzog said on Twitter.

Netanyahu, himself on trial on corruption charges that he denies, has promised to ensure civil rights are protected, but he has not backed down from the central thrust of the reforms.

However, the stark warning from Herzog, whose function is largely ceremonial and supposed to stand above politics, underlined the alarm caused by the proposals, which would tighten political control over judicial appointments and allow parliament to overrule the Supreme Court.


It followed a dramatic night of protests in cities across Israel following Netanyahu’s announcement that he had decided to dismiss Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for opposing the plans.

Gallant urged the government to halt its plans, warning that the deep split it had opened in Israeli society was affecting the military and threatening national security.

His removal fed accusations the government was sacrificing the national interest for its own. The army was already in the process of reinforcing units in the occupied West Bank after a year of violence that has killed more than 250 Palestinian gunmen and civilians and more than 40 Israelis.

No confidence motion defeated

During furious scenes in the Knesset early on Monday, opposition members of parliament attacked Simcha Rothman, the committee chairman who has shepherded the bill, with cries of “Shame! Shame!”

“This is a hostile takeover of the state of Israel. No need for Hamas, no need for Hezbollah,” one lawmaker was heard saying to Rothman as the constitution committee approved a key bill to go forward for ratification.

The shekel, which has seen big swings over recent weeks as the political turbulence has played out, fell 0.7 per cent in early trading before recovering ground to rise around 0.8 per cent as expectations grew the legislation would be halted. Shares in Tel Aviv rose around 2 per cent.

As opposition spread, the head of the Histadrut labour union called for a general strike if the proposals were not halted.

“Bring back the country’s sanity. If you don’t announce in a news conference today that you changed your mind, we will go on strike,” Histadrut chairman, Arnon Bar-David said.

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