May 26, 2024

The coalition will not freeze its “softened” proposal to restructure the Judicial Selection Committee, but will do all it can to arrive at a solution and calm tensions on the streets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference on Thursday at the end of a dramatic day, which included security warnings against the reform, a “Day of Paralysis” and political drama.

After explaining the concerns of both the supporters and detractors of the reform, the prime minister stated that his government was “determined to advance with responsibility a reform that will bring back the proper balance between the branches [of government],” which will provide a solution for all of the sides involved.

The reform will end decades of what the prime minister said was the High Court of Justice taking authorities unilaterally and end the lack of proper representation amongst the judges, but will also promise and fortify the rights of all citizens and minorities, the prime minister said.

Specifically, Netanyahu said that there would not be an unlimited Override Clause, but he stressed that the coalition would continue with its proposal for the Judicial Selection Committee and will pass it next week – despite the opposition, protests leaders and legal authorities’ claims that it would still lead to the politicization of the court system.  The bill gives every coalition the power to appoint two judges as it wishes and will give the current coalition the power to appoint the next Chief Justice, who in turn controls the makeup of specific hearings and has other powers such as appointing senior election officials.

Netanyahu is standing trial for corruption charges but said that he would now begin to enter the heart of the issue after his “hands were tied” due to a threat of the attorney general deeming him unfit for service due to violation of a conflict-of-interest agreement, which bars him from engaging in issues that could affect his trial.

Netanyahu is still bound by the agreement, but the coalition on Thursday morning passed the Incapacitation Bill, which blocks the attorney-general from removing him.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen addressing a townhall in Munich, Germany, on February 20, 2022. (credit: Munich Security Conference)

Gallant cancels planned attack on reform after meeting with Netanyahu

The statement came after Gallant and Netanyahu held a meeting that was convened at the prime minister’s request after Channel 12 News reported at approximately 5:00 p.m. that Gallant was expected to make a later on in the evening and call for an immediate halt to the reform due to its potential damage to the IDF.

Gallant eventually canceled the statement at Netanyahu’s request.

In the meeting with Netanyahu, Gallant pressed the prime minister to pause the judicial overhaul to try to reach a compromise.

Unlike recent weeks when various former officials warned of threats to the IDF’s readiness and various vague public letters were posted about potentially not showing up for reserve training, Gallant related to Netanyahu unequivocal current and concrete threat to the continued functioning of the IDF.

In other words, Gallant made it clear to Netanyahu that failing to pause the legislation would likely lead to major damage to the IDF with immediate consequences for national security readiness just as there is updated evidence of escalating security threats in the current month of Ramadan.

In addition, the defense minister emphasized the harm that the legislation in its current form could have on security relations with the US – something also with more evident potential imminent consequences for the IDF.

Channel 12 reported on Thursday night that Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar also warned Netanyahu about clear risks to national security of continuing with the judicial overhaul.

This goes beyond the recent attack on Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul by the most recent former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman in an interview on Channel 12’s Uvda last week.

Instead of general security objections to continuing the legislation, Bar told Netanyahu about more current threats.

Publicly, the Shin Bet refused to confirm the report and it was unclear if the report might have come from Netanyahu’s circle to provide him with a greater basis for pausing the legislation.

The prime minister, who was expected to fly out for a weekend visit to the United Kingdom, delayed his flight to 4:00 a.m. early on Friday morning.

Netanyahu and Gallant in the past two weeks held a number of difficult conversations, as Gallant argued that the tensions between the IDF and the government caused by the judicial reform controversy were becoming too much.

According to unconfirmed reports earlier this week, Gallant warned that he would resign as defense minister if no compromise was reached regarding the proposed judicial reform.

Former defense minister MK Benny Gantz, currently in the opposition, repeatedly met for hours on Wednesday with Gallant, and former chief of staff MK Gadi Eisenkot met with Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter earlier this week in order to make a similar call.

The report that Gallant would call to stop the legislation created an uproar within the Likud, as members of the party began to attack Gallant, accusing him of betraying the party and giving up on its voters.

Likud CEO and coalition whip MK Ophir Katz said, “The decision regarding the reform obligates all of the members of the Likud. Whoever decides to vote against its position will damage the movement and coalition discipline, we cannot accept this.”

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal-Atbaryan wrote, “Every MK from the Likud who is planning to stop the legislation is invited to resign, preferably today, ideally at this minute. But one thing must be clear: No one of the Likud’s representatives has the right to enjoy the mandate that brought him into the Knesset, but turn his back on the voters. Our voters have gone through enough. They do not need this Bennettism on their heads,” Distal-Atbaryan wrote, referring to former prime minister Naftali Bennett, who violated a promise to voters that he would not join with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid to form a government.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi called the decision a “disgraceful surrender” and warned that it could “break apart the government” and lead to the rise of a “new disaster government the likes of which we have never seen.”

Karhi added that he stood behind Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin against the “instigators of anarchy who were not willing to talk to us during the past three months.”

The prime minister’s son also attacked the decision on Twitter.

Shas released a vague statement on Thursday afternoon, reaffirming that the haredi faction will support any decision taken by Netanyahu and the Likud faction. The Lithuanian haredi faction “Degel Hatorah,” part of United Torah Judaism, later on Thursday evening released a statement of its own, saying that it would not block the prime minister from taking the “necessary actions to arrive at as broad understandings and agreements as possible, which will lower the flames and prevent a rift amongst the people.”

According to unconfirmed reports earlier this week, Gallant warned that he would resign as defense minister if no compromise was reached regarding the proposed judicial reform.

Opposition MKs also commented.

“I hope the reports are correct and Defense Minister Gallant is actually going to call tonight to stop the legislation, with the hope that the prime minister will also accept his position,” Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman wrote on twitter.

It is time to stop the insanity and heal the rift amongst the people of Israel,” he said.