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Levin: ‘US government interfering in reform debate’

The justice minister said the Biden administration was acting in line with its worldview.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin speaks during a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Jan. 11, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin speaks during a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Jan. 11, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin accused the U.S. government of helping opponents of judicial reform, speaking in a video obtained by the Walla! website on Monday.

Speaking to ultra-Orthodox activists at the home of haredi strategist Yossi Rosenbaum, Levin said, “the Americans are working in cooperation with them on [judicial reform] as you can see by the things said by the people from the administration there.”

Levin noted that he didn’t think the U.S. administration was being pushed to take action, but that it was doing it because it fit with its own worldview.

Several members of the Biden administration have spoken out against judicial reform, most notably U.S. President Joe Biden himself, who said in March, “like many strong supporters of Israel, I am very concerned [by the judicial reform plan]. I am concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I have sort of made that clear…. I hope [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] walks away from it.”

The justice minister acknowledged that his side had made errors, but even if it had run a perfect information campaign the results would have been the same given the power differential between the sides.

“The other side has an incredible arsenal of tools and its power was revealed in this case as it has never been revealed before,” he said, listing “complete control of the press,” the courts, the Attorney General’s Office and the country’s entire economic leadership.

Levin said the opposition isn’t agreeing to any part of the reform during the negotiations, which have been taking place under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog since March. “The opposition does not agree to stop. But it’s better to try an experiment and exhaust this move. It will benefit everyone.”

(National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz said on Monday that the sides were not making progress in negotiations. “We will not permit playing for time that will allow the coalition to advance the legislation at a time and place that is convenient to it,” he said, suggesting a lack of trust permeating the talks.)

Levin held his fellow Likud Party members responsible for the reform’s legislative stagnation. “We need to ensure a lining up of the ranks in Likud. You [the haredi interlocutors] have a very important part in this. This is what led to our failure in the previous session and prevented us from finishing the matter.”

“The situation cannot remain as it is. I am making a great effort to create a tightening of ranks within Likud and in the coalition, where I see less of a problem. As soon as they see that we are united, it will affect the other side.” Levin said.

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