Judicial revolution to be implemented 'by hook or by crook'

Likud’s Amsalem, Cartier on wrist, accuses ‘elitist’ protesters of wearing Rolexes

MK labels leftists the ‘most violent, thuggish liars’ in Israel, calls them out for 2005 Gaza Disengagement, which was implemented under then-Likud PM Ariel Sharon

Likud lawmaker David Amsalem speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Likud lawmaker David Amsalem speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Firebrand Likud MK David Amsalem berated protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul plans as privileged elites, claiming they drive Mercedes cars and wear expensive Rolex watches, while wearing his own Cartier watch during a passionate speech in the Knesset.

“The leftists are the most violent, thuggish liars in the country,” Amsalem said from the podium on Monday. “We will go with the [judicial] revolution until the end, by hook or by crook, and those who break the law will go to jail.”

“Look what anarchy you’re causing, you bunch of thugs inciting sedition,” he said. “This struggle isn’t about laws, it’s about whether an elite and the nobility continue to run the country, and we remain the vassals.”

The speech came after the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee approved for a first plenum reading a bill to cement political control over judicial appointments, as well as to block Supreme Court review of quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.

The stormy committee session took place against a backdrop of nationwide mass protests and workers’ strikes over the government’s plans.

Amsalem echoed claims by some right-wingers that the protests were being led by privileged Israelis, who want to continue to wield power at the expense of the weaker segments of society that supposedly back the overhaul.

Israelis wave flags during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, Feb. 13, 2023 (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

“It’s true that most of us work in your houses and clean your gardens. I saw at the protest many shiny things, I later understood it was the Rolex watches of the protesters there. Look how many Mercedes cars there are there,” he said.

Social media users pointed out that Amsalem was wearing a Cartier watch worth NIS 25,000 ($7,000). Sources close to the lawmaker told the Ynet news site the watch was a gift from his brother before he passed away.

“When you expelled 8,000 families, you arrested 8,000 people. You handed out 700 indictments, including against 16-year-old girls,” he said, ostensibly blaming the left for the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. The pullout was orchestrated by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, who led the right-wing Likud party at the time.

Amsalem also called out prominent figures opposed to the coalition’s proposals, including David Hodek, a lawyer and Yom Kippur War veteran who said earlier this month he “would not hesitate to use live fire” if the government pursued its plans.

“Who do you want to shoot? Me? My children?” Amsalem said.

The firebrand lawmaker went on to brand former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz as the “most failed chief of staff in the history of the State of Israel.” Halutz was among 1,000 former senior Israeli Air Force officers who warned the country’s top jurists in December that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s incoming right-religious government would “destroy” the democratic country they had fought for.

Former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, speaks during a conference on July 14, 2016. (Flash90)

Halutz resigned as military chief in 2007, taking responsibility for the army’s lackluster performance in the Second Lebanon War. He also faced criticism after he admitted to selling stocks right before the conflict.

“He should be investigated just over those papers,” Amsalem said, referring to Halutz’s stock portfolio.

Amsalem charged that the High Court of Justice does not operate according to the law, accusing it of overstepping its authority by using the test of reasonableness. The principle, which is used by the court to examine government and administrative decisions, is also on the coalition’s chopping block.

“They violate the law every day. By the way, if they want the test of reasonableness, why do we need laws?” said Amsalem, who is slated to be appointed a minister in the Justice Ministry. “Bring a judge, and he can judge the reasonableness of everything.”

Labor MK Naama Lazimi called Amsalem a liar in response to his claims that protesters wore Rolexes and drove Mercedes.

“Show me where they parked. People who love Israel came on trains and buses to demonstrate for democracy,” she said, referring to scenes of protesters crammed on public transportation on Monday to get to protests.

“In contrast to the demonstrators, I know those who have no shortage of money in their pockets. For example [Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak] Goldknopf and his Louis Vuitton bags, [Defense Minister Yoav] Gallant who built illegally, [Shas chairman Aryeh] Deri and his vacation home, and Netanyahu and his house in Caesarea that we pay for,” she said.

President Isaac Herzog delivers a message to the nation from his office in Jerusalem, February 12, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

On Sunday, President Isaac Herzog pushed a five-point proposal for a compromise agreement on the agreement.

The chief architects of the judicial overhaul, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman, said Monday they were willing to meet the opposition without preconditions but would not heed the president’s call to pause the legislative efforts while talks were held.

Opposition leaders rejected their proposal, saying it was disingenuous to propose talks while moving full steam ahead with a process they see as ruinous to Israel’s democratic character.

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