Likud MK says Netanyahu won’t bring back overhaul since he knows he ‘made a mistake’

David Bitan claims prime minister fears potential diplomatic fallout from passage of judicial legislation, predicts ‘we’ll pass something, but not what we started with’

David Bitan, chairman of the Knesset Economic Committee, heads a committee hearing, March 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
David Bitan, chairman of the Knesset Economic Committee, heads a committee hearing, March 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Likud MK David Bitan predicted on Sunday that the government’s judicial overhaul legislation will not be passed in its current form, saying the coalition will push through a different package of changes to the judicial system.

Bitan said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understood the potential consequences of passing some of the most far-reaching proposals. Israeli diplomatic allies, business leaders, security officials, and others have all warned of severe fallout if the legislation passes in its current form.

“My estimation is that the reform is not coming back. We’ll pass something, but not what we started with,” Bitan said, during an interview on Channel 12 news. “Netanyahu understands the economic, security, and diplomatic consequences. He’s concerned about it, especially with the diplomatic issues.”

The Likud MK added that: “I don’t believe that Netanyahu will go through with it. Netanyahu understands that he made a mistake. He has postponed the issue for the time being. He doesn’t want the reforms as they were presented, but something with changes.”

Bitan also said that he does not believe Justice Minister Yariv Levin would carry out his threats to quit his position if the judicial overhaul legislation does not end up passing.

“The prime minister’s obligation is to the country, he’ll take the right steps. I don’t think that [Levin] will be in a hurry to go through with his threats,” Bitan said, adding that the justice minister had caused harm with his handling of the issue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The tactics and strategy were not correct and caused damage. Netanyahu is aware of this. People who have made mistakes need to take steps backward if they see there has been damage,” Bitan said.

The Likud MK, the chair of the Knesset Economic Committee, also criticized the new ministerial committee to address rising prices that Netanyahu announced earlier Sunday.

The premier’s announcement came days after the government passed a two-year state budget that critics say is short on measures targeting cost of living, the most pressing issue for voters.

“It’s not enough. The reforms won’t come into effect for another few years,” Bitan said. “We need immediate results. The government needs to budget for this.”

“For immediate results, you need to reach into your pocket. It’s not enough to say, ‘We’ll take apart monopolies,’” Bitan added.

Bitan is a veteran Likud lawmaker who has previously issued public criticism of Netanyahu, the judicial overhaul, and the government’s policy toward cost of living.

Protesters lift flags during a rally protesting the government’s judicial overhaul plans in Tel Aviv on May 27, 2023. (JACK GUEZ/AFP)

The judicial overhaul legislation has been frozen since late March, when Netanyahu said he would halt the plans to allow for talks with the opposition under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog, aimed at finding a broadly accepted compromise for judicial reform.

But months of talks have not produced a breakthrough, and pressure has increased within the coalition to resume the legislative push.

Netanyahu said last week, following the passage of the state budget, that “of course” the overhaul was now back on the government’s agenda. Later that day, however, he added: “We will of course continue with our efforts to arrive at a broad consensus agreement, to the extent possible, on the issue of judicial reform.”

Critics say the overhaul will sap the High Court of Justice of its power to act as a check and balance against parliament, dangerously eroding Israel’s democratic character. Supporters say the legislation is needed to rein in what they see as an over-intrusive court system.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands of people demonstrated nationwide against the judicial overhaul plan for the 21st week.

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