Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a public address on Thursday that while his coalition is determined to advance a controversial judicial reform that will “re-set the proper balance of power between the branches of government,” he is also working to advance a broad compromise.
“I said before that I am a prime minister of everyone and that is what I intend on being,” Netanyahu said. “Opponents of the judicial reform are not ‘traitors’ and supporters are not ‘fascists’. There are disagreements.”
“The reform must address both sides to prevent the fracture among the people. Each side must seriously address the other side’s concerns,” he added.
“I believe that it is possible to pass a reform that will answer to both sides. We are not here to tread or destroy, we are here to fix. The best way to do so is through discussion and reaching the broadest possible compromise. So far, the opposition has refused to do so. I am acting to reach a solution. We have already implemented some changes.”
Netanyahu promised that there will not be an “unlimited override clause," saying, “I will not allow it to happen. I intend to ground in law all individual rights of all Israeli citizens.”
He reassured that the coalition will move ahead next week to pass in third reading a bill would change the makeup of the committee that selects Supreme Court judges.
Prior to his televised statement, Netanyahu met with Israel's defense minister and Likud party member, Yoav Gallant, who, according to local reports has called to halt the process of the judicial reform. Gallant intended to deliver his own remarks before the premier’s speech, but following a meeting with Netanyahu, Gallant’s office announced his own press event would be canceled.
Netanyahu has also vowed to get “deeply involved” in the progress around the reform. Up until this week, he was barred from doing so by the country’s attorney general due to a conflict of interests’ agreement in light of his trial. He said that his “hands were tied.”
That changed on Thursday when the coalition passed the Incapacitation Law, which blocks the attorney general from declaring an incumbent prime minister unfit to serve the country.
The Israeli premier added, “We have one country and we must do everything in order to defend it from outside threats from a rift that cannot be mended from within. Not only must we outright reject violence, but we must also reject and condemn incitement.”
Netanyahu’s remarks came at the end of another “Day of Disruption” across State of Israel. Protesters opposing the coalition’s judicial reform took to the streets in major cities, blocked highways in the middle of a workday and attempted to sabotage the operations of a power station in northern Israel by staging a maritime demonstration.
מחאה ימית נגד הרפורמה: מפגינים בכלי שיט וגלשנים חסמו ספינה מחוץ לתחנת אורות רבין חדרה— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 23, 2023
(אורלי אלקלעי) pic.twitter.com/NM6M4RyTpc
Later in the evening, hundreds of protesters marched to the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak in central Israel. One photo circulating on social media showed a protester holding a sign which read: "Orthodox parasite not at my expense."
Recent tensions between Israel’s secular and religious communities have been brewing below the surface since the inception of the country and have emerged in full-display in recent weeks. In another video that went viral, one of the demonstration leaders began to throw shekel bills at a large crowd of Orthodox men who were dancing and singing in an attempt to protest against their reliance on the welfare state. The man reportedly apologized later for his conduct.
Groups of protesters who support a reform in the judiciary also flocked to the streets in several towns once rumors broke out that Netanyahu and Gallant might backtrack or halt the legislation. They were joined by Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and one of the main proponents behind the reform.
Netanyahu will depart at 4 a.m. on Friday morning for a visit to London, where he is expected to meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and spend the weekend in the United Kingdom.
The prime minister's trip to the UK marks the third consecutive week that Netanyahu will travel to Europe. Local protests against the Israeli government are reportedly being organized in the British capital, as was seen during the Israeli premier's visits to Rome and Berlin earlier this month.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.