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Israel’s judicial reform leader Rothman says protests are start of ‘religious war’

Shas leader Aryeh Deri expresses willing to engage in dialogue, while warning the opposition

Simcha Rothman, head of the Constitution Committee seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Speaking to an online gathering of members of The New York Sun, Israeli Knesset Member Simcha Rothman said the protests against Israel’s judicial reforms are “the beginning of a religious war.” 

Rothman, chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, made his remarks during an online conversation with 70 members of The New York Sun in an event moderated by its editor, Dovid Efune. 

Viewed as one of the architects of the judicial reform initiative, Rothman claimed that anti-reform protestors share similar objectives to groups who are hostile to the Jewish state. 

The Knesset member also told those in the online forum that the coalition’s future depends upon the successful implementation of the reforms, adding that if the judicial reforms were not passed, there would be “significant problems” for those who feel the reforms are a priority and, would therefore “find it difficult to support the government.” 

Rothman dismissed American criticism of the proposed reforms, stating that Israel should be allowed to determine its democratic character for itself, commenting that he wished 'outsiders' found Israel a little less special and left it to determine its own future by itself. 

Rothman’s remarks appeared to echo Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, when he responded to U.S. President Joe Biden suggestion that the prime minister would not be invited to the White House in the near future.

“Israel is an independent country that makes decisions based on the will of its citizens and not based on external pressure, including from our best friends,” Netanyahu had stated. 

During the online forum, Rothman expressed a significant concern regarding the phenomenon of reservists refusing to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, saying, “Leave the IDF out of it.” 

However, in his party newsletter, Shas leader Aryeh Deri expressed a mild critique about the way Rothman and Justice Minister Yariv Levin presented the reforms, saying, "We made a mistake by presenting the entire package of the reform together."

Deri said the coalition should be willing to engage in dialogue. 

“You need to know when to bow your head a little so that later we can raise it and succeed in reaching the goal,” he said. 

While Deri said he was make a compromise agreement, he believes the coalition has the ability to move forward without one. 

“If we come to an understanding, good; surely, we will all be happy to reach understanding and agreement,” he said. “If not – if they disrupt the negotiations – we will move forward without them.” 

He also warned the opposition, “If anyone tries to take advantage of our goodwill and our sense of responsibility, they will find a united coalition that will act wisely to move all the changes forward, step by step.” 

Negotiations should continue in the meantime, Deri said. 

“We should give an opportunity during the next month for talks,” he said. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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