Defense Minister urges for a stop to "judicial reforms," shocking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Defense Minister urges for a stop to "judicial reforms," shocking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem: Bending to unprecedented protests, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called on the cabinet to halt the contentious judicial overhaul legislation on Saturday, putting his neck out in the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's determination that the planned "reforms" proceed.

"My life's work is to ensure Israel's security. I have dealt with Israel's security on a daily basis for my whole adult life. I have repeatedly put my life at danger while wearing the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces. And right now, for the sake of our nation, I am prepared to bear any cost and accept any danger, Gallant said in a speech that was broadcast on television.

"I say loudly and openly that the legislative process should be halted for the sake of Israel's security and for the sake of our boys and girls," he said, alluding to the apparent decline in army morale that he could detect as harming Israel's security and unity.

In light of the continuing judicial reform process, thousands of soldiers, including those in important army divisions, have asked to cease reporting for reserve service, underlining that it posed a serious threat to Israel's democracy and may convert it into a dictatorship.

The proposed "reforms," which have sparked widespread unrest and drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets for three months now, have been met with reluctance from Likud legislators for fear of retaliation from other party members and the potential political costs of opposing the party leader and its position.

Gallant's forceful appeal, nevertheless, appeared to inspire other responsible party officials, as three more—Yuli Edelstein, David Bitan, and Avi Dichter—came up to make a demand to halt the procedure.

Gallant was hailed by Edelstein, who heads the influential Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Knesset (Israel's parliament), for "following the route I've been leading for weeks."

"The bulk of the population wants and understands the need for reforms in the legal system, but this must be done with patience, conversation, and open debate to create a wide agreement," he said in a statement.

The government won't have the majority needed to enact the plans if the four decide to vote against them.

For 12 weeks straight, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have protested the government's legislative drive to limit the judiciary's authority.

The government's attempts to solidify political control over the appointment of judges and Justice Minister Yariv Levin's proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curtailing the High Court of Justice's judicial review powers have encountered opposition not only domestically but also abroad, with thousands of Jewish diaspora members protesting during Netanyahu's visits to Italy, Germany, and the UK.

Renowned historian Yuval Noah Harari suggested, should Israel experience a constitutional crisis, that the military and public workers should defer to the courts rather than the government while speaking at the major gathering on Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

Harari chided Netanyahu, saying, "You are not an ambassador. You are accountable for everything that is occurring. Without a doubt, you are not an angel. We continue to recall the pharaoh after two thousand years. And we'll keep you in mind. There won't be any airports, streets, or public spaces named after you. But, we'll describe the guy who unsuccessfully attempted to enslave us.

You are surrounded by spineless individuals. Yet we possess a backbone. We refuse to live like serfs. We'll have freedom next year, he said.

The demonstrations have reached a crescendo, and the nation seems to be in a state of partial paralysis as the Knesset prepares to vote on legislation that many claim aims to put the administration in charge of the court and make it serve the government.

Israeli society's internal divisions have also become worse lately, with the nation seeming to be mostly split into two enormous blocs over judicial reform.

The main controversy is the present government coalition's efforts to strengthen political influence over the court, notwithstanding the coalition's support for some contentious pieces of legislation.

Three major proposals are currently being discussed: a move to legislate a "override clause" by which the Knesset can reinstate any law declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; placing judicial appointments under political control rather than the current hybrid political-professional-judicial appointments panel; and dividing the role of the Attorney General as both the head of the state prosecution and the government's legal adviser.

The contentious measures that have been presented, according to analysts, are meant to defend Netanyahu, who is on trial in three distinct instances. Yet, by resolving each party's worries, they ultimately serve the interests of everyone in the coalition.

Being the target of criticism from across the world, including a reprimand from US President Joe Biden, Netanyahu has come seen as confused and weak, but he has been loath to back away from the suggested "reforms" because of concern for losing control of his governing Likud party.