Environment minister heckled off the stage at climate confab

Idit Silman ends speech at Ben Gurion University after protesters chant ‘Shame’ and ‘There is no climate without democracy’

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman speaks at the Environment 2050 conference in Tel Aviv, January 17, 2023. (Liat Mandel)
Illustrative: Envsronmental Protection Minister Idit Silman speaks at the Environment 2050 conference in Tel Aviv, January 17, 2023. (Liat Mandel)

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman was heckled on Tuesday by anti-government protesters at a climate conference in the southern city of Beersheba and forced to end her speech.

Protesters interrupted Silman’s speech with chants of “Shame,” “A corrupt government can’t help the climate” and “There is no climate without democracy,” linking the government’s planned judicial overhaul to its ability to tackle climate change.

The minister attempted to restore quiet, requesting that the crowd allow her to speak, but eventually abandoned her efforts and prematurely ended her speech.

“The funniest thing is that you are yelling about democracy and not letting me speak,” she told the crowd at the event, co-hosted by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Haaretz daily.

The incident occurred a day after some 90,000 people protested in Jerusalem against the government’s planned shakeup of the judicial system, warning it poses a threat to Israel’s democratic character.

Meanwhile, legislation to give the government an automatic majority on the Judicial Selection Committee and render quasi-constitutional Basic Laws immune from judicial oversight was approved in committee for its first reading in the Knesset plenum, likely to be held next Monday.

On Tuesday, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee convened to discuss another part of the plan, which would stipulate that the High Court of Justice can only strike down legislation with a full panel of 15 judges ruling unanimously, and only if the law in question clearly contravenes one of the country’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws. It would also bar the court from striking down changes to Basic Laws.

In a statement, the university apologized for its failure to properly manage the event.

“Along with a complete understanding of the public’s concerns and avenues of protest, we believe we must strengthen the ability to live, listen, and foster dialogue even in the face of substantial differences of opinion,” it said.

The statement vowed to ensure freedom of expression for all, within the framework of respectful dialogue.

Silman, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, took over the Environmental Protection Ministry at the beginning of the year after the new government was sworn in at the end of December.

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