Israel Crisis (Part 2): Netanyahu and Ben Gvir agree to postpone the judicial reform
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, agreed to postpone the passage of legislation related to the judicial reform plan until the next parliamentary session of the Knesset, and to do so through dialogue.
This came according to a statement by the far-right Jewish Power party, led by Ben Gvir, on Monday.
The statement said that Netanyahu and Ben Gvir agreed to grant the government an extension to the next parliamentary session to pass reform through dialogue.
The package of legislation for the controversial reform of the judiciary was scheduled to end during the winter parliamentary session of the Knesset, which ends on April 2.
The next parliamentary session of the Knesset begins on April 30 and continues until July 30, 2023, according to the official Knesset website.
On Sunday evening, Netanyahu sacked Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a day after the latter called on the government to halt the controversial judicial reform law.
Netanyahu called for unity and renunciation of violence, amid mass protests against his controversial judicial reform, a general strike and a state of alert in the army.
Netanyahu wrote on Twitter, on Monday, “I call on all protesters in Jerusalem, right and left, to act responsibly and not resort to violence… We’re brothers”.
The Israeli political crisis escalated further after the dismissal of Defense Minister Joav Gallant over his criticism of Netanyahu’s judicial reforms.
On Sunday, Netanyahu sacked Galant for calling for a halt to judicial reform.
Gallant called, on Saturday night, the government to engage in dialogue with its critics.
Thousands of people carrying Israeli flags and banners gathered in front of the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem.
Universities in Israel announced a temporary suspension of studies in protest of Gallant’s dismissal and reform plans.
A number of mayors went on hunger strike, demanding an immediate containment of the nationwide crisis.
Several ministers have reportedly threatened to resign if Netanyahu freezes the reforms.
His coalition won 64 seats out of 120, with a majority requiring 61 seats.
The Israeli President Isaac Herzog called on the government to back down.
“For the sake of the unity of the Israeli people and for the sake of responsibility, I urge you to halt the legislation immediately,” Herzog said Monday morning.
At stake, Gallant warned, was national security, particularly the military’s operational capability.
There has been talk, for weeks, of escalating discontent in the army, with many reservists not showing up for service in protest against reform.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel was in the greatest danger since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Arab countries unexpectedly launched an attack on Israel on the most important Jewish holiday.
Bennett called on Netanyahu to withdraw Galant’s dismissal, suspend reform, and start dialogue with the opposition.
Security experts warn that Israel’s enemies, led by Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and Palestinian armed organizations in the Gaza Strip, may seize the opportunity to attack the country weakened by the crisis.
The two opposition politicians, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, issued a joint statement urging Netanyahu’s comrades in the party not to participate in the destruction of national security, and said that the prime minister had crossed the red line.
The plans also drew international criticism.
The United States government, as the nation’s most important ally, has expressed its deep concern.
With fundamental changes to the democratic system planned, the White House called on the Israeli leadership to find a compromise as soon as possible.
Despite the protests, a key component of Israel’s controversial judicial reform removed another hurdle when Israel’s Judicial Committee approved a bill to change the composition of the judges’ selection committee, Monday morning.
Several Israeli media outlets said that the committee then referred the bill to the Israeli Knesset for a final vote on it.
The amendment would give the government a majority in the committee, and thus significant influence over the appointment of judges.
The government accuses the Supreme Court of interfering in political decisions.
In the future, the Israeli Knesset will be able to overturn Supreme Court decisions by a simple majority.
The prime minister will have greater protection against impeachment.
Critics of the reform see that the separation of powers is in danger, and some even warned of what they described as the beginning of the transition to dictatorship.
For its part, the White House said on Monday, that the United States remains concerned about the situation in Israel, adding that President Joe Biden has expressed his concerns about the judicial amendments directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We continue to be concerned about the latest developments,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters, calling for a compromise.
On Monday, Netanyahu delayed a decision on disputed plans for the judicial changes until next month, amid fears that Israel’s worst crisis in years could lead to a crack in the coalition or violence.
Kirby declined to comment specifically on the delay.
“We’re watching this as closely as possible… We’ve been very clear in private conversations, of course, with Israeli leaders as well as publicly about our concerns regarding the developments here in the last 48 hours, and again, we strongly urge Israeli leaders to compromise”.
Kirby noted that Israel was invited to attend a democracy summit organized by the United States this week.
Kirby said Biden has been very frank with Netanyahu about his concerns.
In response to a question whether Biden was concerned that the situation in Israel would turn into a civil war, Kirby said he wasn’t worried.
And he added that the United States’ concerns about the Judicial Amendments Act are that it will contradict the principle of checks and balances in government.