Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/Ohad Zwigenberg / POOL

Netanyahu to push on with unpopular justice reforms despite lack of consensus

Jerusalem, Jun 18 (EFE).- Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that his government, the most right-wing in the country’s history, will move forward with its controversial judicial overhaul.

The move, which is likely to reignite the massive protests that gripped the country for weeks earlier this year, comes after the opposition withdrew Wednesday from negotiations to reach an agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Minister of Justice Yariv Levin attend a weekly cabinet meeting in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/Ohad Zwigenberg / POOL POOL PHOTO

“A majority of the Israeli public understands that changes in the judicial system are needed. That is why we will meet this week and take practical steps, in a moderate and responsible manner, according to the mandate we were given,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting.

The government and opposition began a dialogue in April to reach a consensus on the judicial reforms, after the initial proposal, drawn up by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, was rejected by large swathes of Israeli society, with many viewing the overhaul as a threat to Israel’s democracy and the independence of its judiciary.

The proposals have triggered the largest protests in Israeli history which brought the country to a standstill and led to widespread condemnation, forcing Netanyahu to halt the reforms in April and open discussions with the opposition.

One of the main points of contention is a legal change that, if approved, would hand the government almost complete control over the selection of judges and allow for Supreme Court rulings to be overturned.

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/Ohad Zwigenberg / POOL

After two months of talks, no consensus has been reached and the two main opposition leaders, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, announced on Wednesday that they were pulling out due to what they view as the government’s unwillingness to reach an agreement.

Netanyahu accused the opposition leaders of “playing games”. “It was a smokescreen of pretend-dialogue,” the prime minister said.

“We gave a month and then another, and their representatives did not agree to minimal understandings. Their intention was to waste time and delay every amendment.”

“If Netanyahu moves forward with his coup plan unilaterally, as he claimed, he will learn that he is prime minister of less than half of the people of Israel, supported by less than half of the economy, less than half of the security establishment, and less than half of the Knesset,” Lapid, a former prime minister and opposition leader, said Sunday. EFE