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Lapid extends political backing to planned strike over judicial reforms

“On Monday, we will head to Jerusalem to defend and fight for our country,” said the Israeli opposition leader.

Outgoing Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, Dec. 22, 2022. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Outgoing Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, Dec. 22, 2022. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid extended political backing on Wednesday to a planned general strike next week over the government’s judicial reform plan.

“On Monday, we will head to Jerusalem to defend and fight for our country,” tweeted Lapid in a video message. “Employers need to allow every worker who wants to go to Jerusalem to fight for the country, to fight for our democracy and to say that we will not allow you to destroy our democracy.’”

Lapid last month called the government’s proposed judicial overhaul an “extreme regime change” and vowed to continue fighting in streets across the country in “a war over our home.”

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused his political opponents of “planting the seeds of disaster” by encouraging a public rebellion against a democratically-elected government.

Organizers of mass Saturday-night protests against Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reform plan called for the nationwide strike during a press conference on Tuesday.

“We call on the citizens to notify their workplaces today that they will not work on Monday, and [will instead take to] the streets. This is the most important struggle for the state—the struggle for Israel’s independence as a Jewish and democratic state,” said organizers.

Former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon, one of the protest leaders, also asked employers to allow people to protest on Monday.

“Rule of the majority is not the tyranny of the majority in any democracy,” he said, adding: “That’s why I define them [the coalition] as a criminal and illegal government, with a black flag flying over it.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu on Saturday night harshly criticized what he said was a “growing wave” of threats directed at himself and other officials, after a leader of the anti-government protests appeared to call 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.

Netanyahu’s remarks came after former Israeli Air Force pilot Ze’ev Raz wrote on Facebook on Friday that, “If a prime minister rises and assumes dictatorial powers, he is a dead man, it’s that simple…. There’s an obligation to kill them.”

The judicial reform proposal includes changing the way judges are selected so that the Knesset members will have majority say on the Judicial Selection Committee; passing an “override clause,” a law that would give legislators the power to reverse, or “override,” the Supreme Court when it strikes down laws; abolishing the legal justification of “reasonableness” by which the court can cancel Knesset decisions; and empowering ministers to hire and fire their own legal advisers.

Netanyahu has rejected as “baseless” claims by critics that the reforms would mark the end of the country’s democracy, and vowed to implement them “responsibly.”

“The truth is that the balance between the branches of government has been violated over the past two decades. This unusual phenomenon does not exist anywhere else in the world—not in the United States, not in Western Europe and not during Israel’s first 50 years of existence,” said Netanyahu.

Lawmaker Simcha Rothman, who is chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has expressed his openness to compromise on the proposed legislation.

“I’m eager for a debate, I’m eager for a discussion,” he said.

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