Likud MK says party’s actions should no longer be determined by ‘one person’

Comments by David Bitan, who says he and others ‘will get involved’ in coming elements of judicial overhaul, widely seen as criticism of Netanyahu and Levin

Likud MK David Bitan leads a hearing at the Knesset Economic Committee in Jerusalem, on July 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Bitan leads a hearing at the Knesset Economic Committee in Jerusalem, on July 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK David Bitan said during a Tisha B’Av event Wednesday night that the party’s future could not continue to be determined by “one person.”

It was not immediately clear if Bitan was referring to party leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who was widely seen as refusing all efforts to moderate or compromise on the reasonableness law, which was passed earlier this week amid fervent opposition.

Speaking at an event in Rishon Lezion alongside other politicians marking the fast day, Bitan said he supported and will continue to support efforts to reach a broad consensus on elements of the government’s judicial overhaul plan.

“I’m in favor of compromise. We will get involved in the upcoming stages,” said Bitan, seemingly referring to other moderate members of Likud who support a compromise. “We won’t allow any longer that in Likud, one person deciding what will happen. And we will get involved — I say this clearly.”

Bitan said that while he was one of the members of Likud who pushed the party to halt the legislative push in March in order to allow for ultimately failed compromise talks at the President’s Residence, he felt the opposition had merely “wasted time” at the negotiating table.

The Likud MK — once a close confidant of Netanyahu who has become more critical of the prime minister in recent months — suggested that the opposition response to the passage of the reasonableness law was an overreaction, saying that the court has and will find other ways to rule on government decisions.

He also said that the need for judicial reform — supported by Likud voters — remains, and should focus on issues relating to prosecutors and police activity, “and not the things that the justice minister started with.”

Bitan has been one of a handful of Likud members to vocally express a desire to compromise on the judicial overhaul and to discard some of its more contentious elements.

In May, Bitan said that “my assessment is that the reform is not coming back. We’ll pass something, but not what we started with… Netanyahu understands the economic, security, and diplomatic consequences. He’s concerned about it, especially with the diplomatic issues.”

A month earlier, the MK, chairman of the Knesset Economic Committee, slammed his own government for not dealing with more pressing issues to the public, including the skyrocketing cost of living.

The coalition is “not doing the job we need to be doing,” he said at the time. “Unfortunately, did you see one Likud MK who was concerned with the issue of the price of milk? Not one member of the faction tweeted about it.”

Bitan added then that “Netanyahu needs to show leadership. He needs to say: ‘There will only be a compromise reform.’ Netanyahu is the leader of Likud, he needs to make decisions. And with all due respect, the justice minister [Yariv Levin] needs to stand with him,” he said, adding that “if Levin doesn’t like it, the door is open to different options.”

Following the passage of the reasonableness law on Monday, many hardline members of the coalition called for the government to press ahead unilaterally with the remaining elements of the judicial overhaul plan. Netanyahu has said he will seek a broad consensus moving forward, but members of the opposition have expressed skepticism.

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