The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz speaks with Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset and tells him that if the legislation process of the legal overhaul is halted, he could come as early as tonight for compromise talks with a team from his party.
Hebrew media add that Gantz has also spoken with President Isaac Herzog to discuss the matter, asking the president to advance the proposal as laid out yesterday, which included a legislation halt as a precondition for talks.
Gantz’s stance is thus the same as that voiced earlier by Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.
An Israeli soldier is seen assaulting a Palestinian activist in the West Bank city of Hebron today.
Footage shared by the dovish Breaking the Silence organization shows the activist, Issa Amro, being choked by a soldier who pushes him to the ground, before kicking him.
Another serviceman is seen pulling the soldier who assaulted Amro away.
Amro, who was giving a tour of the West Bank city to journalists from The New Yorker, was not detained, according to Breaking the Silence.
There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces on the incident, and it is unclear what preceded the violence.
An IDF soldier is seen assaulting Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron today. No immediate comment from the military on the incident, and it is unclear what preceded the violence. pic.twitter.com/2IqQYUipUM
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) February 13, 2023
The policeman who was stabbed by a Palestinian teenager and accidentally shot by a colleague at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem earlier this evening has died.
The Border Police officer was taken to the Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in critical condition, where he succumbed to his wounds, police say.
The officer is named as Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed, 22, from the northern Bedouin village of Hussniyya.
The checkpoint leading to the Shuafat Refugee Camp has been closed, while police forces conduct operations in the area, according to law enforcement officials.
In stark contrast to the relative conciliatory tones struck today by other members of the ruling Likud party, MK David Amsalem launches a scathing attack on the protesters decrying the government’s legal overhaul plans.
“The leftists are the most violent, thuggish liars in the country,” Amsalem says from the Knesset podium. “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 to sedition,” he says.
Amsalem leads into claims by some right-wingers that the protest is led by privileged Israelis who want to continue holding the power at the expense of weaker parts of society, who supposedly back the overhaul.
“It’s true that most of us work at 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.”
Prominent US lawyer Alan Dershowitz voices his proposals on the plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary, telling Channel 12 that the two guiding principles that need to form the basis for an agreed compromise are a “non-partisan Supreme Court” and clearly defining that whatever curbs are placed on the top court, it will retain the last word on “basic, core, fundamental issues” of human rights.
“If we can agree on these two principles, we can come together. The rest is commentary,” he says.
Dershowitz says he supports efforts — spearheaded by President Isaac Herzog — to move toward compromise, and advocates public debates on the issues at hand, as commonly happens in the US but rarely in Israel.
“Let the public decide after hearing both sides,” he urges. “Protests don’t produce nuance, debate produces nuance.”
He says that when he discussed the matters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past, the latter “used terms ‘balance’ and ‘reasonableness’ over and over,” arguing that the premier would be willing to accept a balanced proposal.
He expresses hope that meaningful negotiations and debates can be held between the first reading in the Knesset — expected during the coming week — and the final second and third readings.
After last week’s devastating earthquake in southern Turkey, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will pay a solidarity visit to the country in the near future.
He will meet not only his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, but also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ministry sources tell The Times of Israel.
Israel sent rescue teams and a field hospital to the stricken region.
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett says the differences between the coalition and the opposition regarding the conditions under which compromise talks on the government’s judicial overhaul are launched are easily bridgeable, backing President Isaac Herzog’s outline for negotiations.
Speaking with Channel 12, Bennett proposes a one-week break in legislative processes while the sides negotiate, noting that this would be a small concession on the part of the coalition, given that it would likely be a week until the next Knesset vote anyway.
Bennett, in the past a fierce proponent of overhauling the justice system with proposals even more far-reaching than the current government’s, says that, while he supports sweeping changes, they needs to be made when in dialogue together with critics.
A spokesman for the Hamas terror group welcomes today’s Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem as “heroic operations,” and as a reaction to Israel’s decision yesterday to legalize nine outposts in the West Bank.
“Our youth will deal with the occupation’s aggression and the extremist government’s fascism with courage and violence,” says the group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, when it took over in a bloody coup.
Police say the officer wounded during the stabbing attack at a checkpoint at the entrance of the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, was also hit by so-called friendly fire.
The Border Police officer and a civilian security guard working at the checkpoint boarded a bus to question passengers when one suspect pulled out a knife and stabbed the officer, police say.
The civilian guard opened fire, hitting the officer. The Palestinian suspect, 13, was detained.
The officer has been taken to a nearby hospital and is listed in critical condition due to wounds sustained by both the stabbing and gunfire.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin and the head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Simcha Rothman, respond to Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s rejection of their offer for talks at the President’s Residence without preconditions.
Lapid has said a condition to discuss a compromise on President Isaac Herzog’s compromise proposal on the government’s judicial overhaul is an immediate, temporary halt to all legislative efforts to advance it.
“We were very saddened to read to opposition leader’s statement, which signals that his only motivation is to stop the legislation and not to hold genuine dialogue,” Levin and Rothman say in a joint statement.
“We would be happy to meet as early as tonight with any opposition official who’s interested in dialogue,” they add, likely referring to National Unity party chief Benny Gantz, who was mentioned in the invitation and hasn’t yet responded.
Lapid retorts in a statement that Levin and Rothman’s invitation hadn’t been serious, or else “they would have agreed to stop the legislation until the end of the talks, and perhaps would have also made the effort to update the president and me of their proposal ahead of time, instead of us hearing about it through the media.”
Police say a Palestinian assailant attempted to stab Border Police troops who tried to question him on a bus passing through a checkpoint at the entrance to the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem.
The officers boarded the bus to question the passengers in a routine inspection when the suspect pulled out a knife.
Police say an officer opened fire at the suspect — identified 13-year-old Muhammad Basel Fathi Zalbani — who was arrested.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says one officer was stabbed and critically hurt, while other first responders say he may have been hit by his comrade’s gunfire.
Police say the officer was “hurt during the attack,” without elaborating.
The wounded officer is taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid rejects the offer by the architects of the government’s judicial overhaul plan to meet at President Isaac Herzog’s office to weigh a compromise based on the latter’s proposal.
“As the president stressed yesterday and as explained time and again, the necessary condition to start a national dialogue is an immediate halt of all legislation processes for a designated period of time, during which talks will be held with the president’s mediation,” Lapid says in a statement.
“If Minister Levin and MK Rothman agree to this, we would be happy to meet at the President’s Residence tomorrow morning.”
An Israeli man is seriously hurt in a suspected terror attack at a checkpoint near the entrance to the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, medics say.
According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, the alleged assailant was shot by police officers at the scene.
The Israeli victim is semi-conscious, the service says.
It is not immediately clear if the incident is a shooting attack or a stabbing attack, or if the Israeli victim was hit by so-called friendly fire.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin and the head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Simcha Rothman, issue a joint statement inviting opposition leaders to meet — as soon as this evening — at President Isaac Herzog’s official residence in Jerusalem to discuss the latter’s compromise proposal on the judicial overhaul plan.
“It is time,” they say, inviting Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and National Unity party leader Benny Gantz.
It is a significant development that signals an acceptance by the coalition of principles laid out yesterday by Herzog for such talks, although Levin and Rothman say the meeting must be held “without preconditions.” Herzog had urged the government to halt the legislative process during the compromise talks.
Channel 12 news cites sources close to Lapid and Gantz saying they are “weighing” the proposal. Some protest groups have urged them not to accept it.
A ceremony is being held at Ben Gurion Airport for the return of the Israeli military search and rescue team that was sent to Turkey in the wake of a major earthquake that struck the region.
“All of Israel is proud of you, I am proud of you. I salute you. Welcome back home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the delegation of 150 experts from the Home Front Command.
The search and rescue teams managed to rescue 19 Turkish civilians from under the rubble.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF chief Herzi Halevi are also participating in the welcoming ceremony.
Meanwhile, an IDF field hospital in Turkey continues to operate to treat civilians wounded in the quake.
According to Israeli officials, the field hospital has so far treated 412 people. It will continue to operate at least until the end of this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers have approached Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, asking for permission for the premier to make public statements about the judicial overhaul plan, Hebrew media reports, adding that the request was rebuffed after several hours of discussion.
Netanyahu is bound by a conflict of interest agreement that the attorney general has said bars him from dealing in any way with the legal shakeup, since elements of it could directly impact the ongoing corruption trial against him down the road.
Channel 12 news cites sources in Netanyahu’s Likud party assessing that enabling the prime minister to publicly respond to and deal with President Isaac Herzog’s compromise proposal, issued yesterday, is necessary for that initiative to succeed.
As the protest at the Knesset comes to an end, tens of thousands of protesters make their way home from Jerusalem.
In a repeat of the chaos of the morning, hundreds cram onto platforms before squeezing onto overcrowded trains with little ventilation and windows that are sealed shut.
However, the crowds are friendly and self-organized, giving seats older passengers.
While Israel Railways has said it would have extra trains for the demonstrators, the service appears to be woefully inadequate.
According to reports, the Transportation Ministry refused to request bus companies increase their services today.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses opposition heads of “purposely pushing the country to anarchy” in a short video statement published after a turbulent day that has seen some 90,000 people protest in Jerusalem, as well as scuffles and shouting matches in the Knesset.
“The opposition is going wild in the Knesset and its lawmakers are jumping on chairs, [Tel Aviv Mayor] Ron Huldai is expressly inciting violence, and in the left-wing protest they are calling the prime minister a traitor,” he says.
“Get a grip. Show responsibility and leadership,” he tells opposition leaders, adding: “Most citizens of Israel don’t want anarchy. They want discourse that is focused, and in the end, they want unity.”
The latter part could be understood as a nod to President Isaac Herzog’s call yesterday for dialogue on a potential compromise on the government’s deeply controversial judicial overhaul plan.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee establishes a subcommittee, to meet tomorrow, to discuss whether secrecy rules for the state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company should be extended for another five years, as proposed by the cabinet.
The subcommittee will consist of five Knesset members – three from the coalition and two from the opposition — and will be headed by the committee chairman, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein.
The decision follows opposition to the extension voiced at the committee by Ze’ev Elkin of National Union and Yesh Atid’s Meir Cohen and Orna Barbivai.
The cabinet voted at the end of January to extend the secrecy rules, which date back to a time when the company’s predecessor transported oil from the shah’s Iran from the Eilat port on the Red Sea to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast, from where it could be shipped to Europe.
If the decision is approved, the law will continue to ban the publication of information about the EAPC or any of the three companies associated with the original Israel-Iran deal. The prohibited information includes the identity of shareholders, details about oil deals, company worth and management issues.
The few subjects that can be made public include the environment, planning and building, business registration, safety measures, permits, licenses and orders given by state bodies, supervision and enforcement carried out by bodies such as the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and violations and malfunctions.
Police say the stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City was a terror attack.
The alleged stabber, a 14-year-old boy from the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, was detained after he fled onto the Temple Mount.
The knife used in the attack is found by officers in the area.
The victim, a 17-year-old Israeli boy, has been taken to a hospital with light injuries.
The US strongly condemns the alleged killing of a Palestinian by an Israeli settler over the weekend in the northern West Bank and calls for an investigation into the incident.
“We strongly condemn the shooting of Methkal Rayyan by an Israeli settler from the illegal Havat Yair outpost in Salfit,” the US Office of Palestinian Affairs tweets, making a point of highlighting the suspect’s residence in an illegal outpost.
“We have seen reports that the Israeli police are investigating the incident, and note that Israel has responsibility for security in the areas it controls,” the office adds.
“We urge a thorough and transparent investigation of the shooting that leads to accountability and prevents future settler violence,” the statement continues. The Biden administration has increasingly taken issue with the lack of accountability for incidents of settler violence, with suspects rarely arrested and even more rarely prosecuted.
“As Secretary Antony Blinken said last month, all sides must take steps to prevent further escalation in violence and restore calm,” the US office adds.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party says it has filed a police complaint against Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, accusing him of inciting to violence and to civil disobedience.
Earlier today, Huldai told Channel 13 news that “dictatorships only become democratic again with bloodshed. That is the history of the world.”
Huldai later tweeted that he had intended to warn of bloodshed, not encourage it: “In the interview, I spoke about a painful historic truth. The responsibility for preventing bloodshed lies with those who make decisions in the Knesset and are turning Israel into a dictatorship.”
An Israeli teenager has been stabbed at the Chain Gate entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, medics say.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says its medics are treating the 17-year-old near the Western Wall, after he claimed to have been stabbed at the Chain Gate.
MDA says he is listed in good condition, and is being taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in the capital.
Police say officers have arrested the alleged stabber, who initially fled the scene.
The background of the incident is not immediately clear, according to police.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky says the approval by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of judicial overhaul legislation for a first reading in the Knesset plenum amounts to an open threat against the opposition and insists that compromise negotiations under such circumstances are impossible.
“They have put a loaded gun on the table. Can you negotiate in such a situation?” she asked, speaking with The Times of Israel.
The opposition lawmaker also points out that after the votes on the legislation changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, the head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Simcha Rothman, continued hearings on legislation dealing with other aspects of the government’s overhaul of the judiciary, specifically the override clause allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws struck down by the High Court of Justice.
Malinovsky insists that until the coalition halts its legislative process, there can be no negotiation on any compromise solution.
Despite bowing out from joining most of the other opposition party leaders in a joint press conference, Islamist Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas says that he is “united” against the government’s judicial reform plan.
“We are all united against the government’s intentions and actions to collapse the rule of law and justice, and to control the judicial system,” Abbas says in a statement distributed by Ra’am.
“We will not lend a hand to the promotion of this initiative, and we will act wisely to allow the success of the protest against the initiative to control the judicial system. The harm belongs to all the citizens of the country including and especially the Arab citizens,” Abbas continues.
Yesh Atid sources confirm that Abbas was invited to join the opposition party leaders’ joint appearance, but Hadash-Ta’al leader Ayman Odeh was not.
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli says proposals for negotiations with the coalition to change the contours of its judicial overhaul plan are a “trap.”
“Unfortunately, the word ‘negotiation’ is a trap,” Michaeli says at a joint press conference held by Zionist opposition party leaders. Michaeli accuses the coalition of “trying to cause us to silence the thousands” who are protesting the reform plan, “by using the word ‘negotiation'” as a false enticement.
Last night, President Isaac Herzog called for discussion and negotiation between the coalition and the opposition, although Justice Minister Yariv Levin has rebuffed requests to halt the legislative blitz during these talks.
Other opposition members, including Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, have said they would be for meaningful negotiation, with a legislative pause as a precondition.
“There’s an alternative to the trap they’re setting for us… we’ll increase protest until they come to justice,” Michaeli says, adding that “we won’t let them take our democracy.”
Several anti-government protesters disrupt the Shas party’s faction meeting, shouting during party leader Aryeh Deri’s remarks.
“Shame on you! More than half the nation says: We won’t let you destroy democracy,” says one of them before being grabbed and thrown out of the room by security staff.
After expressing his condolences to victims of Friday’s Palestinian terror attack, Deri moves on to his disqualification as a minister by the High Court last month.
Deri cites comments aired yesterday made by former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, who conceded that legal proceedings against Deri were too drawn out, that the justice system “didn’t excel” in that case, and that the plea bargain was “proper” and didn’t include a promise by Deri to quit politics, as the judges at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court and the High Court had understood.
The comments “confirm what I said the whole time — I didn’t get any lenient deal, maybe the opposite.”
It is at that point that the first heckler interrupts him.
After another sentence, a different protester shouts: “That’s nonsense,” and “we will fight for democracy until the end.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman charges that the coalition’s ongoing judicial reform bid is part of a century-long debate between Zionism and ultra-Orthodox Judaism.
A vocal critic of the Haredi leadership’s grip on Jewish life and state funding while the community largely eschews military service and is underrepresented in the workforce, Liberman says that the ongoing judicial reform fight is part of a larger battle over sharing the burden.
“The fight that has continued about 100 years between the Zionist movement and Haredi” Jewry is one of the key parts of the judicial overhaul plan, Liberman says alongside fellow opposition party leaders in side-by-side statements at the Knesset.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader points to the expected override clause, which coupled with the coalition’s stated intention to pass a new Basic Law: Torah Study will enshrine military exemptions for full-time yeshiva study — an issue over which Liberman previously brought down a government.
Liberman says enabling the coalition and its Haredi partners to run roughshod over military conscription “is a hard blow to equality in sharing the [security] burden,” and “this country is not able to carry it.”
“If we can’t solve this issue, we can’t survive – so this is a life or death fight,” he adds.
Former defense minister and senior opposition MK Benny Gantz slams the coalition for focusing on divisive judicial overhaul plans while Israel is at a critical security juncture.
The National Unity party leader says that “we are on a security powder keg” but the coalition “is ‘concentrating efforts’ on dividing the people and destroying democracy,” in a statement delivered alongside other opposition party leaders at the Knesset.
Gantz, who has long called for cross-Knesset participation instead of unilateral judicial reform, says that the government’s plan to increase political power over the judiciary harms Israel’s ability to defeat terror.
“In order to defeat terrorism, two things must be done: immediately stop the predatory legislation… and create order in the defense establishment,” Gantz says, pointing to confusion over the division of authorities in the Defense Ministry and “generator of chaos” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
Addressing comments to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz says that “the experiment failed, and if it continues, it can set the area on fire,” urging the premier to fire Ben Gvir and replace him with “an experienced and responsible figure, such as former Shin Bet director Avi Dichter,” currently Likud’s agriculture minister.
Attacking Netanyahu for prioritizing passing the override clause — which would enable his Haredi partners to evade military conscription and could give Likud influence over laws or judge appointments affecting Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial — Gantz says that “at this time, saving lives from bloodthirsty and brainwashed terrorists, and uniting the entire Israeli public, supersedes the political whims of repealing the conscription law or appointing judges to hear the appeal at your trial.”
Standing alongside other opposition party heads, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says that the government’s judicial reform plan “threatens to destroy the country at breakneck speed.”
“What the government wants to bring to the Knesset is not a first reading” of the bill, now expected on Wednesday or next Monday, “but rather a tearing apart of the people of Israel, of Israeli democracy, of coexistence. If this legislation passes, the democratic chapter in the life of the state will end,” Lapid says at a Knesset press conference.
Highlighting the security and economic consequences raised by critics of the shakeup — but dismissed by its supporters — Lapid adds: “If this legislation passes, the Israeli economy will be fatally damaged, the most successful companies will get out of here, the defense establishment will be harmed, IDF soldiers will be put at legal risk, the close alliance with the United States will end.”
The Yesh Atid leader, who has previously said he wanted to pick off Likud lawmakers who were uncomfortable with the direction of the government’s controversial plan, names seven Likud MKs in an attempt to pressure them to rebel, telling them “you can’t sign” this legislation.
He directed his comments at former security officials MK Avi Dichter and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, investor Economy Minister Nir Barkat, former Soviet dissident MK Yuli Edelstein, and senior Likud lawmakers who have pushed back against Netanyahu — Israel Katz, former UN ambassador Danny Danon and David Bitan.
“You know that something crooked and terrible is happening here and you are being asked to sign it. You can’t sign it,” says the opposition leader and former prime minister.
An Israeli citizen who crossed the border into Lebanon on January 30 has been returned to Israel by UN peacekeeping forces and the Red Cross, the military says.
The civilian, reportedly an Arab Israeli man in his 30s, was returned by UNIFIL and the International Committee of the Red Cross through the rarely used Rosh Hanikra Crossing a short while ago.
He is to be questioned by the Shin Bet security agency over the incident.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces is working to release another Israeli civilian who crossed into Lebanon on February 7. The man is thought to be held by the Lebanese army.
Troops foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel from Egypt overnight, the Israel Defense Forces says.
According to the IDF, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted four suspects near the border, allegedly involved in the smuggling.
Troops dispatched to the scene arrest the four and seize some 90 kilograms (200 pounds) of hashish, estimated to be worth NIS 2.3 million ($650,000 million).
The IDF publishes footage of the arrest.
The drugs and suspects are handed over to police for further investigation.
החשודים שנעצרו, הסמים שהוחרמו והאמצעים ששימשו את המבריחים הועברו להמשך טיפול משטרת ישראל pic.twitter.com/jqnHjkrgqX
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) February 13, 2023
The legislation for changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, which was approved earlier today by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for its first reading in the parliament’s plenum, will be brought for its first vote there on Wednesday or next Monday, not today as some had expected.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s office claims the intention was never to bring the bill for a vote today, saying there is no intention of delaying the first reading despite President Isaac Herzog’s call for a halt in legislative proceedings in order to deliberate on the compromise proposals he made last night.
Once approved in its first reading, the legislation — an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary — will return to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for preparation for its second and third readings in the plenum, which would formally pass the bill into law.
Rothman and Levin indicated after Herzog’s speech that they would be open to dialogue and even some compromise, but would not delay the legislation for that purpose.
The bill gives the government full control over the selection of all judges, including on the Supreme Court, and prohibits the High Court of Justice from exercising judicial review over Basic Laws. It is the first part of a sweeping plan to overhaul the judiciary.
Organizers estimate that 100,000 people are protesting against the judicial overhaul in Jerusalem.
Independent estimates put the number at around 70,000-80,000.
כבר עכשיו ניתן להכריז על הצלחה אדירה.
מתקרבים ל-100,000 איש באיזור הכנסת.
כוח עצום של התנגדות אזרחית מול ההפיכה המשטרית. ברגע האמת עם ישראל קם לעצור את הסכנה לדמוקרטיה הישראלית.
מראות שלא נראו כמותם בעבר.
תמונות רחפן: חומי פוזנר pic.twitter.com/3Qn33I45Vs
— מהפך ישראלי (@MahapachIsraeli) February 13, 2023
חמי פוזנר/יאיר פלטי. צילומי רחפן. pic.twitter.com/rc6g5ev004
— Tal Schneider טל שניידר تال شنايدر (@talschneider) February 13, 2023
Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo tells The Times of Israel that he fears the government’s judicial overhaul plan would turn Israel into “a country that I wouldn’t want to live in.”
While clarifying that he will not leave Israel nor does he encourage others to emigrate, Pardo says that he thinks the sweeping reform package would move Israel toward “dictatorship.”
“We are betraying our basic values” as outlined by the Declaration of Independence, the former spy chief says. Defending these values has “cost a lot of blood, a lot of soldiers,” he adds.
National Union party chief Benny Gantz hails today’s mass protest in Jerusalem, telling the assembled demonstrators: “I want to thank you for everything you’ve given the state to this point,” adding that “these are fateful days for Israeli democracy.”
Addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz says: “Just because you have the majority, you don’t have the authority to do whatever you want. Just like if you were a bus driver, you can’t write the rules of the road.
“We are not ready to compromise on Israeli democracy and there will be no such compromise,” he says. “We are calling for discussion… [but] there will not be discussion until this crazy process stops,” referring to the legislative blitz, which the coalition has vowed to continue even if compromise talks are launched.
“We’re not ready for the politicization of the judicial system. This is what protects the citizens and their civil rights. We must not let it be harmed in any way,” Gantz says, adding that he has heard there are more than 100,000 protesters outside the Knesset.
“Don’t get exhausted. Continue, continue, continue. We have no other choice and no other country.”
As tens of thousands of people protest in Jerusalem, holding up flags, chanting and singing, a protester against the judicial overhaul alleges Israel is “experiencing the biggest threat since the Yom Kippur war” in 1973.
“I have been to a number of protests on Saturdays in Jerusalem and today I feel Tel Aviv has come to Jerusalem,” says David, 73, a family therapist from Jerusalem who has been in Israel for 50 years, originally from Cincinnati in the US.
“Enough or a lot of pressure will be needed from the local population and from overseas and the high tech sector to change what is emerging. As a first, it would be good if everyone accepted [President Isaac Herzog’s] proposals.
“I’m worried about general corruption, civil rights in Israel and the democratic system,” he adds. “What country are we leaving for our grandchildren? We didn’t come to Israel for this.”
At a section of the general protest branded the “high-tech protest,” tech employees chant “Without money there is no high-tech,” a reference to several companies that have pulled their financial activities out of Israel citing an economic threat stemming from the legal shakeup.
“Today is a strike, we are here to protect our country,” says one sign. Others include: “In Poland, Turkey is there high-tech? No”; “This is the time to wake up, Israel is not a dictatorship”; “No freedom? No high tech”; and “Bibi, Sara we are not in Hungary here,” addressing the prime minister and his wife.
At least 60,000 protesters are demonstrating against the contentious judicial overhaul plan outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.
The crowds have stretched from the Knesset, past the Supreme Court and all along Yoel Zusman Street.
Many of the main traffic routes into Jerusalem are snarled up as convoys of vehicles carrying thousands more protesters continue to make their way to the capital, Channel 12 reports.
Thousands more have rallied in other cities and towns around the country.
The Jerusalem crowd has heard addresses from Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, National Unity head Benny Gantz and Labor leader Merav Michaeli.
“We will not stay quiet,” Lapid says. “We will not stay quiet as they destroy everything that is precious and sacred to us.”
The government is advancing legislation that would overhaul the legal system, significantly curbing the High Court of Justice’s power to exercise judicial review, allowing lawmakers to overrule court rulings with a bare majority and allowing government ministers to appoint their own legal advisers.
Earlier, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved for its first reading in the Knesset plenum the first part of the plan, which would give the government full control over the Judicial Selection Committee.
Eliad Shraga, who heads the Movement for Quality Government watchdog, tells The Times of Israel that he does not expect change to come from the Knesset. Rather he hopes that the protest he helped bring to the Knesset’s doors today will end up in the Supreme Court.
“From the Knesset I don’t expect anything,” Shraga says before taking the protest stage, saying the legislation will pass its Knesset readings to become a law.
“The only help will come from the heroes in the Supreme Court,” he adds, nodding his head across the Rose Garden to the court’s Jerusalem home.
Shraga says that despite the tremendous public outcry, he does not think the coalition will stop its legislative process, calling it “the danger of dictatorship.”
Shraga similarly dismissed President Isaac Herzog’s principles for compromise, saying “I don’t think his proposal is realistic, especially with everything connected to the selection of judges and reasonableness.” The leader of the good governance watchdog also slammed Herzog for “his readiness to cede the override clause without knowing” the full conditions under which it would operate.
“The first thing we want is a constitution, then a bill of rights,” Shraga says, arguing that other reforms should only follow that.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid addresses the tens of thousands who have gathered outside the Knesset to protest the judicial overhaul.
“We will not stay quiet,” Lapid says. “We will not stay quiet as they destroy everything that is precious and sacred to us.”
“They hear us, and suddenly discover that we’re not ready to play the game the way they planned it. We’re not here just to pay taxes,” Lapid says.
“If they continue this craziness, don’t talk to us about unity. There’s no unity when only one side makes the rules,” says the opposition leader.
“What they hear here from this place isn’t the voice of exhaustion, it’s the voice of hope… it’s what makes our voice clear and loud,” he says, his own voice straining.
“People of Israel, we will fight in the streets, we’ll fight until we win,” he says.
Slight damage has been caused to cars in Sderot by falling shrapnel from anti-aircraft missiles launched from the Gaza Strip that exploded mid-air early this morning, the municipality says.
The Israel Defense Forces says following airstrikes in the Strip early this morning in response to a rocket attack on Saturday, Palestinians fired four anti-aircraft missiles into the air.
Three of the missiles exploded mid-air and one landed in an open field in Israel, the IDF says.
The Sderot municipality says several cars were damaged by shrapnel from the launches.
Tens of thousands of protesters have now gathered outside the Knesset to demonstrate against the government’s contentious judicial overhaul.
The area around the Knesset is packed with people who have joined a nationwide strike, many of them carrying placards and with thousands of Israeli flags.
Traffic into Jerusalem is at a crawl as convoys of vehicles head for the capital.
The government is currently advancing legislation that would overhaul the legal system, significantly curbing the High Court of Justice’s power to exercise judicial review, giving the government an automatic majority on the judicial selection committee, allowing lawmakers to overrule court rulings with a bare majority and allowing government ministers to appoint their own legal advisers.
Former defense minister and protest leader Moshe Ya’alon says he found President Isaac Herzog’s compromise proposal “disappointing.”
Moments before stepping onto stage to address the crowds of thousands assembled outside of Jerusalem’s Knesset, Ya’alon tells The Times of Israel that Herzog’s Sunday evening address failed to anchor the conversation in the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
“It was disappointing. I think the president, as someone who represents stateliness, needs to say that our guiding principle is the Declaration of Independence,” one of the state’s founding documents though it lacks enforceability.
Ya’alon also said he was “against negotiating” with the coalition, which he said “brushed them [opposition leaders] off.”
Government ministers and coalition MKs condemn the behavior of opposition MKs in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee who protested wildly against the approval for passage to the Knesset plenum of the first part of the government’s judicial overhaul legislation.
“Dialogue is important and we will do everything to engage in it,” tweets Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
“But sadly, the opposition proves again and again that it it is not interested in dialogue, but rather violent and unacceptable belligerence. I congratulate my colleague, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chair MK Simcha Rothman, for not surrendering to violence and running the committee hearings with professionalism,” adds Smotrich.
Likud MK Danny Danon says in a similar vein that he supports “open dialogue” to reach compromise, but says opposition MKs “have behaved disgracefully” and that their actions cast doubt on their willingness to enter into such dialogue.
“I remind the members of the opposition – you lost the elections. Just like we managed to accept the judgment of the electorate in the expulsion from Gush Katif [the Israeli settlements in Gaza], so too you are expected to accept the democratic determination.”
Labor MK Gilad Kariv of the opposition denounces Rothman for praising President Isaac Herzog’s speech last night calling for compromise but rejecting his direct appeal to halt the overhaul and deliberate on the president’s proposals before approving the legislation for a first reading.
Kariv also accuses Rothman of failing to allow opposition MKs to speak before the votes on the legislation in committee, and of violating several procedural rules.
“Your behavior screams out one thing: ‘You [the opposition] don’t interest me’… There is one side who said from the outset that it is interested in dialogue and put no end of suggestions on the table, and another side that simply paid lip service to dialogue and behaved in a tyrannical manner.”
A group of religious and secular protesters meet at the Western Wall for a short prayer service before walking the four kilometers to the Knesset.
The few dozen demonstrators recite prayers — including the prayer for the State of Israel — and sing songs while waving Israeli flags and pride flags.
Among the protesters were former Knesset member and IDF major general Yair Golan, activist Yishai Hadas and journalist Or-ly Barlev.
הכותל. לפני פחות משעה.
הפיצו תקווה ???????? pic.twitter.com/DkZbbOHBAn
— Tikva – תקווה (@YallaTikva) February 13, 2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, who expresses his condolences over the string of deadly terror attacks in Jerusalem and congratulates Netanyahu on returning to the premiership.
The two leaders discuss expanding security and economic cooperation, according to Netanyahu’s office. Japan and Israel marked 70 years of ties in 2022, and Japanese investors have shown a marked interest in Israeli high-tech companies in recent years.
Netanyahu also invites Kishida to Israel.
The two met multiple times when Kishida was Japan’s foreign minister under former prime minister Shinzo Abe. Abe was assassinated in July on the campaign trail.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai says that if Israel turns into a dictatorship, it will only become a democracy again after blood is shed.
“States can turn from a democracy into a dictatorship, as is happening here. Dictatorships only become democratic again with bloodshed. That is the history of the world,” Huldai tells Channel 13 news.
“[Politicians] are not interested in the president’s plea. I am appealing to all serious people who know the State of Israel — you have to understand that there is no right or left here; there are bad guys versus good guys,” Huldai says, referring to President Isaac Herzog’s call for compromise a day earlier.
Huldai is one of tens of thousands of protesters who have gathered at the Knesset in Jerusalem to protest against the government’s judicial overhaul.
The proposed changes will impose sweeping changes on the legal and judicial systems, almost entirely eradicate the High Court of Justice’s power of judicial review, and give the government an automatic majority on the Judicial Selection Committee.
In an address to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday morning, National Unity leader MK Benny Gantz calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt his government’s judicial overhaul legislation and create a bipartisan working group to formulate legal and judicial reforms.
Gantz says, “If we do not find a way to preserve the law in the State of Israel and let the rule of law be what guides our life in the State of Israel – then we will not be a democratic state.”
The former defense minister says the current system of selecting judges in which all branches of government have a weighty influence over the process led to appointments by agreement.
“What this new legislation does is to dismantle this system and in its place establishes a tyranny of the majority, and this is not democracy,” says Gantz.
Concern from academic: ‘If there’s a dictatorship, you can’t say anything that doesn’t fit their agenda’
Among the various protest groups are university faculty members, who express concern that the government’s judicial reform plan will have spillovers affecting academic freedom.
Tali Bitan, a psychology professor from University of Haifa, says she expects eight buses from her institution to head to the capital as part of today’s protest.
“If there’s no freedom, there won’t be academic freedom. Once there is a dictatorship, you can’t say, teach anything that doesn’t connect to their agenda,” Bitan says.
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves a second, technical aspect of the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary determining how one coalition MK and one opposition MK will be selected to sit on the Judicial Selection Committee.
The legislation is approved nine votes to seven.
The vote takes place amid further chaos and fierce protest from opposition MKs, who chant “Shame” at committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman.
Rothman orders several MKs to be ejected from the room and they are manhandled out of the committee by Knesset orderlies.
Under the legislation, there will be nine members of the committee: five ministers and MKs from the government and coalition; one MK from the opposition; the Supreme Court president; and two retired judges to be appointed by the justice minister, who serves as committee chair, in agreement with the Supreme Court president.
Passing motorists stop to heckle protesters on their way to the Knesset.
“Go home, no one wants you!,” shouts a motorcyclist, while a taxi driver takes advantage of a red light to call the protesters, many of them traveling in from outside of Jerusalem, “human garbage.”
Tens of thousands of people are heading toward the Knesset to rally against the government’s contentious judicial overhaul as a Knesset panel gives its approval to the first stage of the sweeping changes.
Hundreds of people crowd train platforms in Tel Aviv, with many trains not stopping as they are already full.
People waiting on the platform cheer and clap as every train rolls into the station.
Two women who preferred not to be named say they work as researchers at Ichilov Medical Center.
“We were allowed and even encouraged to go the strike in Jerusalem. We decided to take the train while others from the hospital were supposed to get to Jerusalem on buses. We hope to make a change to stop this madness. We are scared of the proposed legislation,” one says.
As the train was rolling into the next train station hordes of people were waiting at the platform, unable to get in.
“This is really scary, someone may fall. But it is really important that we are here and we made it,” says the other woman.
As the train doors opened, people could be heard chanting “democracy” as they wait for more trains to arrive.
Cheering “Democracy!” hundreds of protesters spill off a train arriving in Jerusalem. Looking at the packed escalators above them, a number congratulate themselves with a cheer of “Kol hakavod!” or “Way to go.”
“I am worried for the future of my three grandchildren. It will be a dictatorship like Hungary or Poland,” says Etty Pass, 74, from Ramat Gan, who arrived alone. “This isn’t like it was when I was younger,” she adds, sweeping her hand to gesture at the assembled crowd.
“I don’t have vacation days from work, but it was important for me to come,” says Tahel, a working mother from Herzliya. Accompanied by her two young children and husband, Tahel joins countless others who chose to pull their children out of school in order to protest in Jerusalem.
They join the crowd of thousands marching toward the Knesset, accompanied by cheers, Israeli flags, and drumbeats.
A number of key thoroughfares in Tel Aviv remain blocked by protesters demonstrating against the judicial overhaul.
Blocked roads include Namir, Yehuda Hamaccabi, Pinkas, Jabotinsky, Arlozorov, and part of Menachem Begin.
Heavy congestion is reported at train stations across the country, and public transportation is packed with protesters heading for a demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.
Trains heading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem are so packed that several have been unable to take on passengers at stops during their routes as they make their way to the capital.
Thousands of cars and buses are driving in convoys toward the capital, the Walla news site reports.
Tens of thousands of people are participating in a nationwide strike to protest the government’s contentious judicial overhaul.
Demonstrators are gathering outside the parliament, where a Knesset committee is holding a session on advancing parts of the legislation.
Tens of thousands of Israelis on their way to Jerusalem to protest the government’s judicial reform platform. I’ve never before seen people left on the platform
Knesset expected to vote on legislation today pic.twitter.com/JbWK2ueCxT
— Carrie Keller-Lynn (@cjkeller8) February 13, 2023
Amid chaotic scenes and furious denunciations by opposition MKs, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves for its first reading in the Knesset plenum the first part of the government’s radical overhaul of the judiciary giving the government full control over the Judicial Selection Committee.
The legislation is being passed as an amendment to the Basic Law: Judiciary. It will give the coalition five of the panel’s nine members, with a simple majority needed to appoint judges to all courts in Israel.
Several opposition MKs remonstrate ferociously with committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman over the bill. MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu gets up on the committee table. MK Vladimir Beliak sits on the committee floor in front of Rothman.
As the vote is held, Labor’s Gilad Kariv accuses Rothman of showing contempt for the president, and for the committee.
“You’ve prevented MKs from speaking today,” Kariv shouts at Rothman. “You shame this House.”
Some 20 MKs are ejected during the uproar, mostly from the opposition.
And chaos reigns outside the committee room as well. Kariv yells at Knesset orderlies for ejecting a parliamentary aide from the building and physically hauls her back inside.
The bill is approved by nine votes to seven for passage to the Knesset plenum for its first reading. If and when it is approved in the plenum, the legislation would return to the committee for preparation for its second and third readings and passage into law.
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