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Lapid, Gantz call for public unrest amid ‘brewing civil war’

Denouncing the government’s planned judicial reforms, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid vows to continue fighting on streets across the country in a “war over our home.”

Then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid on Monday called the government’s proposed judicial reforms an “extreme regime change” and vowed to continue fighting in streets across the country in “a war over our home.”

His comments were echoed by National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, who said: “If you [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] continue the way you are going, the responsibility for the civil war that is brewing in Israeli society will be on you.”

“This is the time to go out en masse to demonstrate, the time to make the country tremble,” Gantz added.

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

“What we are trying to do is return Israel to the correct balance…. We got a clear mandate from the public to execute the [judicial reform] plans… [This] is not the destruction of democracy, but the strengthening of democracy,” said Netanyahu.

Netanyahu on Sunday rejected as “baseless” claims by critics that the proposals would mark the end of the country’s democracy, and vowed to implement the plan “responsibly.”

“The truth is that the balance between the branches of government has been violated over the past two decades,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “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.”

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced on Wednesday a far-reaching program for judicial reform, with an emphasis on reining in the Supreme Court.

Levin’s plan 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.

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