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Netanyahu on "Meet the Press" explains need for ‘time out’ to reach consensus on judicial reforms

Israel ‘will remain a vibrant democracy,’ says prime minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd (Photo: Screenshot)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed by NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday morning’s program, “Meet the Press,” where he explained the ongoing judicial reform debate in Israel and other current events related to the Jewish state. 

Highlighting the topic of the judicial reforms in Israel, which have been the focus of both the Israeli public and international political commentators, Todd asked Netanyahu about several recent negative developments that have resulted from recent debates. 

Todd raised the issue of Israel Defense Forces reservists who have refused to report for duty, as well as a recent public poll which showed a large disapproval rating for Netanyahu. He also brought up the decision by Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade Israel’s credit outlook.

After Todd asked Netanyahu if he has “decided to rethink and pull back” on some of the reform ideas, the prime minister responded that “every democracy, including your own, has a continuous tension between the judiciary and the executive or the legislative.” 

He described it as “a natural tension of trying to keep the balance between the three branches of government” and, returning to a common theme, said his government is attempting to restore “a proper balance.” 

Netanyahu noted, at the same time, that he understands the concerns of many in the protest movement.

“I don’t want the parliament overruling automatically every decision of the Supreme Court,” he said.   

Netanyahu indicated that the temporary halt to reform legislation is proof that he is working towards a consensus between the reform proponents and the opposition.

“I’ve decided to take time out, try to get a balance between the opposing views, and there are strongly opposing views in both sides of our society, and I hope to reach this by consensus,” he said. 

Todd accused Netanyahu of attempting “a radical transformation” with “a very divisive ideological majority,” saying that this majority “isn’t reflective of the public right now.” The interviewer then asked how Netanyahu plans to find a consensus, given the divisions in Israel. 

Responding to the issue of the popularity polls, Netanyahu said, “We’ve just had a poll three months ago, and it’s called an election.” 

He said he is seeking consensus so the judicial reforms “will hold,” adding, "because otherwise the next government will change it again.” 

Netanyahu also referred to his U.S. education, which covered many of the foundational thinkers of the American democratic republic, such as Locke, Montesquieu, Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson, and said he is trying to implement those principles “right here in Israel.” 

Netanyahu immediately denied Todd's accusations of standing to benefit from the reforms his coalition is pursuing.

“It’s important to understand the judges in my case have already been chosen,” Netanyahu said. “The reform will not affect any judge who today or tomorrow in the future has to deal with my case.” 

When Todd raised the recent passing of the “incapacity law,” which states that only the Knesset can declare the prime minister to be unfit for office, and only in cases of physical or mental incapacity, Netanyahu told Todd the bill was meant to prevent the state’s attorney general from declaring him unfit due to charges against him.

According to Netanyahu, Israeli law already requires the removal of a prime minister who is convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude” and the recent Knesset bill does not change that law. 

Answering a critique from Todd that Netanyahu, himself, had argued for term limits, the prime minister said that “the people of Israel think I still have many things to do.” 

Netanyahu stated that the public trusts him to deal with the threat of a nuclear Iran, as well as to expand the Abraham Accords and improve the nation's economic situation because of his previous track record. 

The prime minister dismissed claims that Israel’s internal judicial reform debate is harming U.S.-Israel relations. 

“When I compare the degree of coordination between Israel and America on security matters, on intel, on cyber economic cooperation, I mean, there’s just no comparison to where this was 27 years ago,” he said. 

Netanyahu noted that the U.S. is an indispensable ally for Israel and that the U.S. doesn’t “have a better ally in the world than Israel.” 

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

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