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Former Israeli PM Olmert calls for ‘war’ to stop judicial reform

“War is not waged with speeches. War is waged in a face-to-face battle, head-to-head and hand-to-hand, and that is what will happen here,” said Ehud Olmert.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday called for the protest movement against the government’s judicial reform proposal to move to the next stage, one fueled by violent confrontation.

“What is needed is to move to the next stage, the stage of war, and war is not waged with speeches. War is waged in a face-to-face battle, head-to-head and hand-to-hand, and that is what will happen here,” he said in an interview with DemocraTV, according to Israel National News.

“It’s good to see 100,000 people, but that’s not what will lead the real fight. The real fight will break through these fences and enter into a real war,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party announced on Tuesday that it had filed a police complaint over Olmert’s “dangerous incitement.”

Olmert’s comments came after Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the Israeli government on Monday at a mass rally against the reform plan outside the Knesset.

“Millions of Israelis are watching us, seeing how a corrupt, extremist government wants to destroy the country at record speed,” said Lapid. “They’re trembling as rulers have always trembled when they discovered that there were people facing them who were not ready to give up. We will fight in the streets, we’ll fight until we win,” he added.

Those comments, in turn, came after Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai warned of “bloodshed.”

“This is the history of the world. Countries become dictatorships through the use of democratic tools…. Countries do not become democratic again except with bloodshed,” he said.

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee earlier on Monday voted to send the first bill in the government’s judicial reform package for its first reading in the full plenum, which is likely to take place next week.

The bill has been formulated as an amendment to Basic Law: Judiciary and would give the government control over the Judicial Selection Committee with five of the panel’s nine members, and only a simple majority needed to appoint judges.

Opponents of this particular change argue that it would give the coalition too much power, whereas proponents have pointed to the U.S. Senate, which approves Supreme Court justices by simple majority, often along partisan lines.

Before the committee vote, opposition lawmakers shouted down members of the coalition, with some having to be physically restrained. Many parliamentarians were ejected from the meeting.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman on Monday evening called on leaders of the opposition to meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem to discuss the government’s judicial reform program.

Lapid rejected the overture, saying he would only agree to meet if the proposed legislation was paused.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak earlier this month likened efforts by President Isaac Herzog to mediate between the coalition and opposition over the government’s proposed judicial reform to the West’s appeasement of Nazi Germany.

Barak shared on social media an image of Herzog’s head superimposed on the body of former British premier Neville Chamberlain, best remembered for forging the Munich Agreement that allowed Adolf Hitler to annex parts of then-Czechoslovakia in exchange for a “peace in our time” that never materialized but instead fueled the Nazi death machine.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has harshly criticized what he said was a “growing wave” of threats directed at himself and other officials, after another leader of the anti-government protests called for his assassination.

“It seemed that all boundaries had been crossed by threats against elected officials and myself, but this is not the case, because we have now heard and seen an explicit threat to murder the prime minister of Israel,” said Netanyahu in a statement.

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