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Netanyahu’s coalition partners push back, ‘stopping legislation may topple the government’

Israel on edge, waiting for Netanyahu to clarify his position

MK Simcha Rotman, יead of the Constitution Committee and Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich hold a joint press conference on the judicial overhaul at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Mar. 21, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planning to halt the judicial reform legislation process this evening, but is facing intense opposition from coalition members, according to local Hebrew media reports.

Earlier today, the Religious Zionism party released a statement saying that “stopping the legislation will be a capitulation to violence, anarchy, rejectionism and the tyranny of the minority and will threaten the election results.” 

Religious Zionism, run by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, is reportedly willing to negotiate for a compromise, but only if the judicial selection bill passes first. Earlier today, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the bill to proceed for its final vote. 

Jewish Power, the party of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, opposes halting the legislation, with Ben Gvir reportedly warning Netanyahu that halting the legislation “may lead to the dissolution of the government.” 

The Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties have announced that, while they support the judicial reforms, they will back Netanyahu in whatever decision he makes. 

Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, chair of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, called on supporters of the judicial reforms to protest as visibly as their opponents. 

“It is forbidden to accept a reality in which there are people whose voice does not count. Go out and bring the voice back to the people,” Rothman said. 

La Familia, a far-right group associated with the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, announced that it would engage in counterprotests. 

“Until now we have stayed quiet; tonight we will arrive at Kaplan,” the group said. 

Knesset Member Avi Maoz, chairperson of the far-right religious Zionist political party Noam, also spoke out against halting the reforms, saying, “Our surrender will be a final confirmation that there is no longer any point in democratic elections in Israel, and in this way, Israel will become a dictatorial state.”

Some coalition members, including members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the coalition must not act in a way that would bring down the government. Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat said the coalition parties should unite behind Netanyahu to keep the government operational.

“I call on all my colleagues in the government, in Likud and the partner parties in the coalition, to unite behind the prime minister and support him in stopping the legislation,” Barkat said. “We must not bring about the overthrow of the right-wing government at our own hands. Our strength is in our unity.”

Earlier this morning, it was announced that the so-called Deri Law would not be brought for a vote, while coalition members have called for passing the judicial selection bill before the end of the winter Knesset session. 

Opposition members have warned that, if the judicial selection bill passes, they will not engage in any negotiations. Nevertheless, opposition leader Benny Gantz released an open letter Sunday, calling on the coalition to pause the judicial reforms until after Passover and several national holidays next month, to allow for negotiations. In his letter, he said that most Israelis agree on the need for judicial reforms. 

“I believe the majority of Israeli citizens, at least 80%, agree on 80% of the issues,” he said, suggesting that negotiations could “reach an agreed-upon reform outline, which will improve the State of Israel, strengthen the separation of authorities, increase governance, and preserve the independence of the judicial system and the gatekeepers.” 

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

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