Netanyahu vows to press ahead with judicial changes despite reports of resistance from the defense minister.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned his defense chief after reports that the minister wanted to halt the far-right government’s overhaul plans as cracks appeared in the ruling coalition over the bitterly disputed project.
A planned statement from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who Israeli media said wanted to halt plans in the name of maintaining order in the military ranks, was suspended after being summoned by the prime minister’s office on Thursday.
Netanyahu showed no sign of budging when he gave a televised address promising to rein in the judiciary. While he said he wanted to find a compromise with the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets for months over the plans, Netanyahu gave no details on how to resolve their differences.
The apparent willingness of Gallant, a senior member of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, to break ranks drew criticism from Jewish Power, one of the most extreme parties in Netanyahu’s coalition.
Gallant, it said, “has moved away from the right-wing camp”.
Gallant has previously expressed concerns about a surge of Israelis who have pledged not to heed calls for military reserve service if reforms go ahead, saying the phenomenon could weaken war readiness and national cohesion.
He reiterated this in a briefing to Netanyahu on Thursday after being summoned by the prime minister, the defense ministry said.
The judicial overhaul has also raised concerns abroad about Israel’s democratic health. Senior Treasury officials this week warned of an economic downturn. A shaken shekel rallied on Gallant’s reports of dissent.
Netanyahu: ‘Enough is enough’
“Enough is enough,” Netanyahu said in the statement acknowledging the concerns of both sides of the constitutional feud.
“I set aside all other considerations and will do whatever is necessary in the interest of our nation to reach a resolution.”
He sounded determined to move forward with what he called “responsible judicial reform,” including a bill due for ratification next week that would curtail some of the Supreme Court’s powers and tighten political control over the appointment of judges.
But he also assured that individual rights would be protected by law. A proposal to allow parliament to override some Supreme Court rulings by a slim majority of lawmakers “will not happen,” Netanyahu said without elaborating.
Protesters took to the streets again on Thursday.
Police trying to clear a highway fired a water cannon and dispersed some demonstrators. Protesters harassed a cabinet minister and unfurled a huge replica of the country’s declaration of independence on a wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.
“We are fighting together for our lives as a Jewish people in the state we have built for 75 years,” said Avidan Friedman, wearing a Jewish prayer shawl over his head.
“We are fighting because we feel that what is happening now is tearing us apart and we are calling on the government to stop.”
Critics fear Netanyahu is trying to subordinate the judiciary to the legislature and executive. Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges he denies, insists the review aims to balance the branches of government.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid dismissed the prime minister’s comments as “lies” and seized on the apparent division within Likud.
“I call on responsible people in Likud: stop the attempt to make us a non-democratic country. Listen to the hundreds of patriotic loyalists who have taken to the streets,” he tweeted.