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Israeli Politics

Israel Heats Up over Debate on Judicial Reform

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu and Aryeh at Cabinet meeting (Photo by Deri Kobi Gideon GPO)

The political debate in Israel over a judicial reform plan proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government is heating up. Some people have taken to calling Netanyahu a dictator and even calling for his death. For many Israelis, this is all too reminiscent of what went on in the country in the months leading up to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

None other than a former Israel Air Force pilot who took part in the mission to bomb Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981 is at the center of the volatility. Zeev Raz was taken in for questioning by police after he posted a comment on Facebook that could be construed as calling for Netanyahu’s assassination. “If a prime minister stands up and assumes dictatorial powers for himself, he deserves to die, it’s as simple as that,” wrote Raz.

Comments such as these led the former Prime Minister of Israel and current leader of the opposition in the Knesset Yair Lapid to publicly condemn anyone who may have called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a dictator.

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Lapid stated he “strongly condemns all incitement and the call to prosecute Netanyahu. This fight is for the soul of the country.”

“Any incitement and violence only harm the war to save the country,” Lapid added. “I call on all lovers of the country to demonstrate, protest, take to the streets, but keep the law, do not lead to violence.”

But this did not stop Lapid from also condemning the comments made by members of Netanyahu’s government in response to such threats.

“The new spin of the poison machine, Bibi (Netanyahu) (Finance Minister and leader of the right-wing Religious Zionism Party Bezalel) Smotrich and (National Security Minister and right-wing leader Itamar) Ben-Gvir think they can preach morality to us,” said Lapid.

Calling the 3 men the “trio of the weak (Netanyahu), the racist and the supporter of terrorism (Smotrich and Ben-Gvir),” Lapid went on to declare that “it’s time for you to understand – we don’t work for you, you won’t silence us and we won’t get lessons in democracy from you.”

Lapid further charged, “You are leading Israel to the end of the state as we knew it, we will fight with you and we will win.”
These comments came after Bezalel Smotrich charged that former Prime Minister Yair Lapid is personally calling on businesses to take their money out of the country in response to the government’s controversial judicial reform plan.

“You went off the rails,” charged Smotrich referring directly to Lapid in a Tweet. “It starts when opposition leader Lapid irresponsibly encourages pulling investments from Israel to Singapore and tries to harm the Israeli economy.”

“My friends in the opposition,” declared Smotrich, “show responsibility and stop now!

In a direct response to Smotrich Lapid wrote, “Bezalel, I don’t accept moral preaching from you and you certainly won’t teach me what the love of Israel is. We left you a prosperous economy, a powerful security system and a reformed democracy and you destroy everything in a few weeks, drag the country into system madness and do the only thing you are good at blaming others for the terrible damage you cause.”

“Instead of fighting all day, stop the destruction of democracy now and stop tearing the people apart.”

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.

The opposition in Israel’s Knesset calls the reform plan a “threat” to Israel’s democracy. The government, in turn, maintains that its program is intended to “restore” democracy in Israel as Israel’s Supreme Court, it maintains, has appropriated too many powers for itself over the years and is not elected by the public as the Knesset is.

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