(CNN) Benjamin Netanyahu He resisted calls to bring down controversial reform of Israel’s judiciary in a fiery televised address Thursday, hours after his government passed a law critics condemned as an attempt to protect his position.
Israeli opposition politicians earlier denounced the new law, which would limit the ways in which the incumbent prime minister can be declared unfit for office, describing it as a means of protection. Netanyahuwho is facing an ongoing corruption trial.
By a vote of 61 to 47 final votes, the Knesset approved the bill stating that only the prime minister himself or the cabinet, by a two-thirds majority, can declare the leader unfit. After that, the Cabinet vote must be approved by a supermajority in Parliament.
Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the move a “disgraceful and corrupt personal law” and said that Netanyahu was “only looking out for himself”.
Later Netanyahu doubled down on his controversial plans to weaken Israel’s judiciary, despite longstanding protests and interventions by international leaders – as well as concerns from Israel’s security and military establishment.
“I’m working on a solution and I’m attentive to the other side’s concerns. We’ve already made changes,” he said, pointing to a watering down of the bill that would give the government power to appoint judges — a partial reversal announced Monday that critics dismiss as insufficient.
Israeli media reported earlier Thursday afternoon that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, will announce that he believes judicial reform needs to be halted because of the damage it is doing to the Israeli military. Hundreds of Israeli reservists, including specially trained Air Force personnel, have declared that they will decline calls to service if the overhaul passes, because they will no longer feel like they will serve a democratic government.
But Gallant was summoned to Netanyahu’s office for a meeting and announced that he would delay his statement.
“Instead of halting the legislation and calming the situation, Netanyahu has once again played the role of the victim and continued to spread outrageous lies against the justice system that are baseless,” Lapid said in a statement Thursday evening.
“Instead of blaming everyone and blaming the patriotic Israelis who are fighting for their children’s future, take responsibility for once,” he told Netanyahu.
The law strengthens Netanyahu’s position
A Knesset statement Thursday said the law passed Thursday states that “the power to declare a prime minister incapacitated will belong solely to the government or the Knesset and will only occur due to physical or mental incapacity.”
The bill also prevents the Supreme Court from considering the “request to declare the prime minister incapacitated.”
“Given that the current prime minister derives his power and authority from the people through their representatives, this proposal reflects the current concept according to which the removal of the leader against his will is determined by the people’s representatives alone without the participation of an unelected arm,” the statement said.
This came a day after Israel’s ambassador to the United States was summoned to a vote in the Knesset on Tuesday to repeal 2005 legislation that previously ordered the evacuation of four Israeli settlements built in the northern West Bank.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office later confirmed that no new settlements would be established in areas previously vacated under the 2005 Disengagement Law, despite the cancellations.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that the House of Representatives’ decision “to cancel parts of the separation law puts an end to a discriminatory and humiliating law that prohibits Jews from living in areas north of Samaria, which is part of our historic homeland,” using a biblical name for part of the West Bank.
But the government does not intend to establish new settlements in these areas.
The IDF, which treats the area as a closed military zone barring entry to Israeli civilians, said it was still “learning the meanings of the bill and will act according to the law”. No changes will be implemented in the area without the approval of the IDF.
Under international law, it is considered the West Bank occupied lands The settlements there are illegal, which Israel opposes.
In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson on Wednesday, Labor leader Michaeli said, “I think the protests should be a warning sign and the signals coming from Washington should be a red light for Benjamin Netanyahu and for him to stop what he is.” In order to save not only Israeli democracy and the State of Israel, but also relations with the United States.
“I can only hope that my Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will work together as soon as possible and not allow US-Israel relations to reach a point that is dangerous for Israel, and that is not good for the region,” she said. I continued.
Michaeli said she opposed the legislation, calling it a “very harmful and dangerous decision”. “One of the drivers of this judicial coup that they are now trying to bypass is the settlers who have wanted to overthrow the Supreme Court of Israel for many years because they want to be able to do anything in the West Bank that they want to do.”
The Israeli opposition leader affirmed her party’s historic support for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, referring to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She said that the Labor Party knows how closely the conflict in the West Bank is linked to judicial reform.
The opposition condemns the legislation
Opposition figures have announced plans to challenge the law that limits the ways a sitting prime minister can be declared unfit in the Supreme Court.
“Like thieves in the night, the coalition just passed a disgraceful and corrupt personal law in response to an unfounded rumor about stepping down. Every citizen of Israel should know — days before Passover, while the cost of living is rising, Netanyahu is once again eyeing up,” Lapid said. Thursday.
Michaeli said the law passed is a “shameful and disgraceful law whose entire purpose is to prevent Netanyahu from going to prison”.
“This is all that the coalition and this government do with personal legislation and a regime coup,” she said. “They sacrifice the State of Israel in order to settle themselves under a corrupt government.”
Netanyahu’s new far-right government has embarked on controversial plans to reform the country’s judicial system by undermining the Supreme Court and weakening judicial oversight over policymaking.
Netanyahu, the first sitting Israeli prime minister to appear in court as a defendant, is being tried on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.
As part of a deal with the court to fill in as prime minister even though his trial continues, Netanyahu agreed to declare a conflict of interest. The attorney general then decided that the announcement meant that Netanyahu could not participate in judicial reform policymaking. A petition is currently before the Israeli Supreme Court to declare Netanyahu unfit for office on the grounds that he has violated this declaration of conflict of interest.
For months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets regularly to protest the sweeping reform, saying it will harm Israeli democracy. They were joined by prominent figures in the fields of security, high technology, finance and academia in Israel.
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