Jul 24, 2023 - World

Bibi defends Israel's judicial overhaul law, calls it "a needed democratic step"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded speech on Monday that he is willing to give four months for talks with the opposition on a comprehensive agreement on additional parts of his government's contentious judicial overhaul plan.

Why it matters: Despite mass protests, Netanyahu's coalition earlier Monday unilaterally passed legislation that limits the Supreme Court’s authority to review the government’s decisions and policies. Netanyahu called the law “a needed Democratic step."

  • Netanyahu’s proposal for more talks appeared to be an attempt to calm the public uproar over the passage of the law, and to try and contain the growing crisis inside the Israeli military after thousands of reservists announced they will not report to duty.
  • But the opposition rejected Netanyahu's call, saying his proposal was "empty."

Driving the news: Earlier on Monday, the mediation effort between the government and the opposition led by President Isaac Herzog collapsed after Netanyahu refused to accept the opposition's demand to water down the bill and pass a law that would suspend any further judicial overhaul legislation for a year.

What they're saying: “In the coming days the coalition will reach out to the opposition in order to start a dialogue," Netanyahu said.

  • "We are ready to discuss everything immediately and hold the talks during the Knesset recess in order to reach a comprehensive agreement. If needed we can add time until the end of November. It is enough time to reach a deal," he added.
  • He blamed the opposition for the failure of the talks and attacked the pro-democracy protest movement.

Between the lines: Netanyahu set the end of November as his deadline so that his coalition will still have enough time to move ahead unilaterally in the next Knesset session if the talks don’t materialize.

The other side: Opposition leader Yair Lapid said that Netanyahu’s proposal to return to the talks is “empty” because the prime minister isn’t really in control of his government.

  • “Netanyahu is held hostage by Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Minister of Internal Security Itamar Ben-Gvir. They are taking the decisions and he is doing what they tell him," Lapid said, referring to members of the ruling coalition that threatened to bring down the government is the law wasn't passed.
  • Lapid said the opposition “will not be part of a charade” and stressed Netanyahu’s call for talks is only aimed at stopping the anti-government protests and reassuring the Biden administration, which has repeatedly expressed concerns over the overhaul plan.

What to watch: Levin and several other ministers in the government said the next phase of the judicial overhaul will focus on changing the system of appointing judges and giving politicians full authority over the process without any involvement by judges.

  • Netanyahu said in his speech that "neither side must not be able to take control over the court. It is not going to happen on our watch."

Go deeper: White House calls Israeli Knesset's passage of judicial overhaul bill "unfortunate"

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