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Netanyahu: The opposition has gone off the rails over judicial reforms

The Israeli premier scolded Yesh Atid lawmaker Ram Ben-Barak for comparing the government to Nazi Germany and denounced protesters for harassing coalition members outside their homes.

A protester in Tel Aviv waves a placard comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the late Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar, Feb. 4, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari /Flash90.
A protester in Tel Aviv waves a placard comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the late Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar, Feb. 4, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari /Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized the opposition on Monday night, just before the Knesset passed in first reading of one of the key bills in the government’s judicial reform package.

“The opposition has gone off the rails: [MK] Ram Ben-Barak shamefully and scandalously compared the Israeli government to the Nazis; protest leaders tried to confine coalition members in their homes; and members of the opposition dishonored the Israeli flag in the Knesset plenum,” tweeted Netanyahu.

“But we continue!” he added.

After the bills were approved by the plenum, Netanyahu wrote: “Big day and big night!”

The first bill approved by the Knesset amends Basic Law: The Judiciary so that the Supreme Court can’t invalidate basic laws, which are considered to have quasi-constitutional status in Israel. The second bill changes the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee to give elected officials a majority in choosing judges both for the Supreme Court and lower courts.

Throughout the evening, opposition and coalition MKs traded barbs as they mounted the Knesset podium. Some opposition MKs draped themselves in Israeli flags while heckling members of the government.

Lawmaker Ben-Barak, from opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, invoked the rise of the Nazis during the debate.

“This is worse than all the regimes that we don’t want to be like,” said Ben-Barak. “Not the Turks, Hungarians or Poles, and yes, I will say from this podium, Nazi Germany. They rose to power democratically.”

Earlier in the day, protesters harassed several Israeli coalition lawmakers outside their homes in a bid to block them from reaching the Knesset.

In one instance, members of the Ahim L’Neshek (Brothers in Arms) group blocked the car of Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) in the town of Pnei Kedem, located in the Gush Etzion region just south of Jerusalem.

Concurrently, demonstrators from the Block the Revolution organization surrounded the apartment of MK Tally Gotliv (Likud) in Givat Shmuel, linking arms to prevent her from exiting.

Police were called to the scene and dispersed the protesters.

“These are predators,” said Gotliv after finally arriving at parliament. “You can’t come to a person’s home and tell them they can’t leave—that’s anarchy. You will not harm the right to privacy in the name of a demonstration,” she said, adding, “Had it come to violence I cannot defend myself.”

Protesters also surrounded the home in Ashkelon of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter (Likud) as well as the Ramat Gan home of Education Minister Yoav Kisch (Likud).

Eight people were arrested for harassing Gotliv and Kisch.

Protest organizers declared Monday a “national day of struggle,” and held a large rally outside the Knesset along with marches in several cities.

Israeli Minister of Justice Yariv Levin on Monday night denounced the protesters while addressing the Knesset plenum.

“I hear the false claims about the end of democracy. You know deep down that what we’re doing is to restore democracy and return Israel to the family of democratic nations,” he said.

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