PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU SUSPENDS JUDICIAL REFORM FOR RIGHT NOW. Daniel Whyte III, President of Gospel Light Society International, responds with the Word of God from the Hebrew Scripture: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” (Psalm 2:1-4).
Pro, anti-government protests ongoing in Jerusalem • Labor union cancels planned strike after Netanyahu’s announcement
Prime Minister Netanyahu Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday evening that he was temporarily freezing the bill that would alter the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee and was willing to give a “real opportunity to real dialogue” over the government’s judicial reforms, which have thrown the country into turmoil and unprecedented civil unrest.
The statement came after hours of tense negotiations as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened to quit the government if the legislation did not proceed on schedule, and as tens of thousands of judicial reform opponents protested outside the Knesset. Netanyahu ended up ensuring Ben-Gvir’s approval after pledging that the cabinet in its coming meeting on Sunday would approve the transfer of Israel’s National Guard to Ben-Gvir’s ministry.
Netanyahu said that either way, his government would bring a reform that will “return the balance that was lost between the [government] branches,” while “safeguarding and even strengthening individual rights.”
The prime minister criticized an “extreme” minority amongst the opponents of the reforms, likening them to the mother who is willing to sacrifice her child in the well-known biblical story of Solomon’s Trial. Refusal to deploy for reserve duty signals “the end of our country,” and those who support this, or who call for anarchy and violence, are willing to tear the country apart, Netanyahu said.
The prime minister added that the country was on a “dangerous path,” and that he would not allow it to descend into civil war.
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Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul after mass protests
JERUSALEM (AP) — Bending to a wave of mass protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his contentious judicial overhaul plan Monday and said he wanted “to avoid civil war” by making time to seek a compromise with political opponents.
The announcement appeared to calm some of the tensions that have fueled three tumultuous months of unrest. But it failed to address the underlying issues that have polarized the nation, and the anti-government protest movement vowed to intensify its efforts.
In his prime-time address, Netanyahu, who had previously rejected calls to delay the legislation, took a more conciliatory tone than in recent speeches. He acknowledged the deep divisions in the country and said he was hitting the pause button “to prevent a rift in the nation.”
“When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue,” he said. He vowed to reach a “broad consensus” during the summer session of parliament, which begins on April 30.
He spoke after tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside parliament, and the country’s largest labor union launched a nationwide strike in a dramatic escalation of the mass protest movement against his plan.
Netanyahu and his religious and ultranationalist allies presented the overhaul in January just days after forming their government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
The proposal has plunged Israel into its worst domestic crisis in decades. Business leaders, top economists and former security chiefs have all come out against the plan, saying it is pushing the country toward an autocracy. Fighter pilots and military reservists have threatened not to report for duty, and the country’s currency, the shekel, has tumbled in value.
The plan would give Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, and his allies the final say in appointing the nation’s judges. It would also give parliament, which is controlled by his allies, authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit the court’s ability to review laws.
Netanyahu has argued that the overhaul is needed to rein in a liberal and overly interventionist court of unelected judges. But his opponents say the package would damage the country’s system of checks and balances by concentrating power in the hands of Netanyahu’s allies. They also say that he has a conflict of interest as a criminal defendant.
Tens of thousands of people, largely secular, middle-class Israelis, have regularly joined mass protests against the plan.
Those demonstrations ramped up Sunday night after Netanyahu abruptly fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had urged the prime minister to put his plan on hold, citing concerns about damage to the Israeli military.
The firing sparked a spontaneous outburst of anger, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in just one hour.
Chanting “the country is on fire,” they lit bonfires on Tel Aviv’s main highway, closing the thoroughfare and many others throughout the country for hours.