As protests across Israel still continue over the controversial judicial overhaul plan, Netanyahu again had to retreat and announce that he won’t pursue the entire original proposal.
This Sunday night, and as a result of months of non-stop protests across Irael, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally succumbed to the will of Israeli people and said that he won’t pursue the entire judicial overhaul originally planned by his government.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television in Jerusalem on Sunday, Netanyahu explained that the plan would only go so far as to change the makeup of the judge selection committee and no other aspect of it would be put to vote in the Knesset.
“That’s basically what’s left — because other things I think we should not legislate,” Netanyahu said, adding that his next move “would probably be about the composition of the committee that elects judges.”
In an effort to project an image of himself as a leader who remains above the political fray, Netanyahu said he wanted to avoid extremes, “either the most activist judicial court on the planet or a legislature that can just knock out any decision that the court makes,” and that “there has to be a balance. That’s what we’re trying to restore”.
The new announcement out of Netanyahu’s mouth was also an effort to calm down the fury of Israelis who have formed the largest anti-governmental protest movement in the Israel’s history.
What pros and cons of the judicial overhaul plan say?
Judges in Israel are selected by a committee of nine that includes three members of the Supreme Court, two members of the organized bar and four politicians, one of whom is traditionally from the opposition.
Netanyahu and his supporters, who consider the court to be a bastion of liberal activism, say that this system has allowed judges to play too big a role in choosing their successors. Instead, they want to increase the role of politicians and limit that of the justices and bar association.
But opponents say that the plan, if completely materialized and turned into law, would give Netanyahu’s government greater power to handpick judges, including those presiding over his corruption trial, in which he is charged in three cases and faces potential prison time. This is true in the sense that as the legislature is controlled by the executive in Israel, the judiciary is the only real check on their policies.
Netanyahu’s retreatment, second since March
Netanyahu’s Sunday interview, in which he announced his pulled-back from the extreme original version of the judicial overhaul plan, was indeed the repetition of a similar move he made a few months ago in march.
Back then, and again due to the mounting pressure from protestors across Israel, Netanyahu announced that he would delay his government’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.
“Out of national responsibility, from a desire to prevent the nation from being torn apart, I am calling to suspend the legislation,” said Netanyahu, adding that he reached the decision with the agreement of the majority of his coalition members. “When there is a possibility to prevent a civil war through negotiations, I will give a timeout for negotiations.”
Netanyahu also noted in his Sunday interview that his government wants to negotiate with the opposition during the next two months when the Knesset is in recess.
But what matters for Israelis is that Netanyahu’s decision to back away from the rest of the judicial package is something that he’s not stated explicitly before and is therefore a good concession that could be a significant victory for those who have been in streets across Israel for months.