Political opposition to the judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is growing, as current and former judges, prosecutors and politicians alike have been coming out with statements condemning the attempt to curtail the powers that Israel’s courts have to review laws and government actions. The debate has gotten so charged that Israel’s President Isaac Herzog felt the need to call for calm and a more civil debate on the matter.
The government’s judicial reform plan would greatly curtail the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to nullify legislation passed by the Knesset and also limit the authority of Israel’s attorney general.
Israel’s opposition has said that the reforms, which would greatly curtail the authority of Israel’s Supreme Court and its Attorney General, would harm Israel’s democracy thereby eroding foreign confidence in the country and hurting its economy.
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President Isaac Herzog said over the weekend that the Netanyahu government should, “Stop the whole process for a moment, take a deep breath, allow dialogue to take place because there is a huge majority of the nation that wants dialogue.”
On threats made against Netanyahu personal Herzog added, “When I see people are threatening to murder the prime minister. It’s a terrible thing that needs to be eliminated and the stain removed. One mustn’t use these types of expressions in the discussion. The debate is heating up to a dangerous place, and I call from here on all those involved in the disagreement: stop a moment, breathe.”
Former Minister of Defense and a former IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who is currently an opposition leader in the Knesset repudiated those who have called for acts of violence against the government.
“I wholeheartedly reject any incitement or call to violence,” Gantz told Israel’s Channel 13. “Netanyahu, I oppose such things, and it’s unfortunate you didn’t say such statements clearly more than two decades ago.”
That last remark was clearly a slam on Netanyahu for not speaking out against the incitement from Israel’s right wing against Yitzhak Rabin in the weeks before that prime minister was assassinated.
But Gantz also took the opportunity to criticize the proposed judicial reform plan adding, “From everything that I have heard so far, there is not one item in the judicial reform that serves the citizen, all it contains is ways to give the government and the Knesset more power against the judicial system. Netanyahu has no legitimacy to change the form of government in Israel. This is what we’re fighting for.”
Benny Gantz also dismissed the government’s proposal to have a committee of representatives from all the parties in the Knesset to discuss the reform plan as nothing more than window dressing. He said that if there were to be any such committee it would need to include not only politicians, but also representatives of the judiciary and the attorney general’s office. Gantz also declared in a Tweet, “Under no circumstances – will there be the politicization of the judicial system.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara published a position paper condemning the judicial reform plan saying it would, “fundamentally change the democratic nature of the state’s governance.”
“Every one of the proposed arrangements raises substantial problems that go to the root of the principle of the separation of powers,” she added, “judicial independence and the professionalism of the judicial branch, protection of the rights of the individual, the rule of law, and the preservation of proper governance. Adopting the proposed arrangement would lead to a governmental regime in which the executive and legislative branches would have broad and in practice unlimited authority.”