ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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Business forum declares strike amid some optimism last-minute compromise possible

Biden says ‘don’t rush’; Herzog meets PM, Lapid, makes offer that Lapid backs in principle; Gantz and protesters said to oppose outline, which would see rest of bills frozen

Then-prime minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog (left) at a memorial service marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Then-prime minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog (left) at a memorial service marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Biden: ‘Don’t rush’ to legislate judicial overhaul. ‘Current proposal becoming more divisive, not less’

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and then-US vice president Joe Biden speak in front of media prior to a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and then-US vice president Joe Biden speak in front of media prior to a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

President Biden urges Netanyahu and his coalition not to move ahead with the imminent legislation of the first bill in the planned judicial overhaul.

In a statement to Axios and Walla! journalist Barak Ravid,  Biden says, “It looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less.”

“Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this — the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus,” the president says.

Likud minister prays for ‘father of the nation’ Netanyahu during pro-overhaul rally

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan calls Netanyahu “the father of the nation and the leader of the Jewish people,” in her speech to a right-wing rally in Tel Aviv earlier tonight, in which she also says that the judicial overhaul is “the war of independence” of right-wing populations allegedly disenfranchised by the left.

Distel Atbaryan says that her disenfranchised constituents are from the so-called periphery, shorthand for impoverished municipalities, many of them predominantly-Sephardic, outside the country’s heavily-populated and relatively affluent center.

Unusually, Distel Atbaryan, a writer-turned-journalist whom Netanyahu personally recruited to Likud in recent years, kicks off her speech with a prayer for the health of Netanyahu. He is in hospital, having had a pacemaker installed, following arrhythmia last week, and is due to be discharged tomorrow.

“I want to start with a little prayer: I will say it and you say amen: May the Lord give all necessary strengths to the father of the nation and the leader of the Jewish People, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to lead us through this difficult time, amen,” says Distel Atbaryan, who often attributes these accolades to Netanyahu.

In her speech, Distel Atbaryan says she speaks for “12-, 13- and 14-year-old girls from Yerucham or Sderot who dream of becoming Supreme Court justices” and “combat soldier in Givati or Golani [IDF brigades], and the tank crew member in the armored corps” — mentioning two heavily right-wing municipalities in southern Israel with a sizeable Sephardic population, as well as combat army units with relatively limited prestige.

In her speech, Distel Atbaryan repeatedly mentions socio-economic and ethnic differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, some of whom identify as an underlayer of the ideological divide separating opponents of the overhaul from its supporters.

“You are not guests in this country, this country belongs to you,” she says of her constituents. “You will no longer be erased. And this is your war of independence,” she says, using the term for the bloody 1948 conflict that ended with a sovereign Jewish state and more than 6,000 Jewish casualties. “Independence from the shackles of attorney generals who persecute your elected officials. Independence from judges who appoint themselves and trample ruthlessly over your rights,” Distel Atbaryan adds.

Talk grows of potential compromise, as Lapid backs Herzog proposal in principle

Then-prime minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog (left) at a memorial service marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Then-prime minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog (left) at a memorial service marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

There are growing indications of a potential last-minute compromise agreement between the coalition and the opposition regarding the “reasonableness” bill and the broader judicial overhaul plan, with opposition leader Yair Lapid appearing to throw his support behind a proposal made by President Isaac Herzog.

Herzog has met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lapid, and will meet the National Unity party chief this evening, as he makes a last push to put the brake on an escalating standoff that has caused hundreds of thousands to protest for several days and left more than 10,000 reservists prepared to halt their volunteer duty.

According to the Ynet news site, most details about Herzog’s proposal have generally been accepted, but the sticking point is how far down the road the rest of the overhaul bills would be pushed. Netanyahu’s Likud is willing to wait no more than three months, while Lapid is demanding at least 15 months.

After meeting Herzog, Lapid tweets that “the principles presented to me by the president match the principles I have in mind: safeguarding the gatekeepers, stopping the rupture in society, and a reasonableness doctrine that doesn’t harm our democracy.”

He says that he will do whatever he can to bring about a broadly agreed solution.

However, according to Channel 12 news, Gantz is opposed to Herzog’s proposal, not content with pushing the most sticky subjects down the road and favoring a comprehensive solution. Moreover, protest organizers are vehemently opposed to reaching a compromise with the government.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin has said this evening in a speech to a Tel Aviv pro-overhaul rally that “our hand is stretched out for understandings, and understandings mean a willingness by the opposition to make concessions as well.”

Leading forum of 150 businesses declares strike tomorrow

A leading business forum representing 150 leading businesses announces a strike tomorrow, Channel 12 reports.

It will see some shopping centers and gas stations closed, and some businesses working in a reduced framework, he report says.

This is not coordinated with the Histadrut labor federation, which has not declared a general strike and is expected to only announce its decision tomorrow.

Overhaul architect Levin tells pro-reform rally bill must pass, for democracy’s sake

Speaking to the Tel Aviv pro-government rally via video link from the Knesset, Justice Minister and judicial overhaul architect Yariv Levin declares that it is he and the coalition who are fighting for democracy, decrying IDF reservists who have declared they will stop performing reserve duty if the coalition’s bill to limit the courts’ use of the reasonableness doctrine is passed into law.

The minister, who has been the driving force behind the efforts to remake Israel’s judiciary and legal system, claims it is those refusing to serve in the IDF reserves due to the coalition’s radical legal reforms who are the ones threatening Israeli democracy, not the proponents of the overhaul program itself.

“We are facing one of the most important decisions the country has ever known. Will we be a democracy or will we become a country controlled by a group of officers led by Ehud Barak?” Levin said, referring to the former prime minister, who is a fervid opponent of the current government and the judicial overhaul.

“The merit that we have to take part in the defense of the State of Israel does not put any of us above the people or in place of the people. Refusal [to perform reserve duty] crosses a red line. Surrendering to refusal to serve, that is the real end of democracy,” declares the justice minister.

“We will continue to stand firmly on guard for democracy, on guard for the position of the Knesset and the government. On guard for the choice of the electorate. Passing the law will be the strongest and clearest evidence of this.”

“Our hand is stretched out for understandings,” he adds. But “understandings also require the opposition to make concessions… The situation whereby only one side holds the key roles in the judicial system, that situation will not continue.”

Gantz meets IDF chief, says security situation ‘worrying’; Lapid meets Shin Bet head

File: Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and deputy IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi, in an undated photo published September 4, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
File: Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and deputy IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi, in an undated photo published September 4, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Rare meetings are held between top opposition leaders and security chiefs, with the approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. National Unity party head Benny Gantz meets IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, while Opposition Leader Yair Lapid sits down with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar.

Gantz meets Halevi to receive a brief of the situation within the military, which has been rocked by more than 10,000 reservists — including hundreds of fighter pilots — saying they will halt their volunteer duty in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul.

After the meeting, Gantz says: “The security situation is very worrying and necessitates attention and strategic decisions on various fronts. The prime minister must convene a security cabinet meeting to understand the meaning of the [overhaul] legislation for the IDF before the bill passes. This is also true regarding the need to convene the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Tonight’s meeting underlined even more the need to avoid unilateral moves.”

Gantz promises that even if the reasonableness bill ends up passing, “we will cancel it, sooner or later.”

After Lapid’s meeting with Bar, the Yesh Atid party leader says he received a security overview about the threats “from within and from outside,” and stressed his concern about national cohesion.

“We have joint responsibility to safeguard national security and national unity.”

Report: Netanyahu, hospital concealed he felt dizzy, had life-threatening arrhythmia last night

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a video message, explaining that he is going into the hospital to have a pacemaker fitted, early on July 23, 2023. (Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a video message, explaining that he is going into the hospital to have a pacemaker fitted, early on July 23, 2023. (Screenshot)

For the second time in a week, Channel 13 news reports that the publicly available version of events regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hospitalization is concealing crucial details.

Netanyahu got a pacemaker last night, with the premier saying that a heart monitor implanted a week earlier had beeped and prompted him to go to the hospital again.

But according to the report, in fact it was Netanyahu who activated the device to warn his doctors when he felt dizzy, with his doctors fearing his life was in danger.

For 12 seconds, Netanyahu suffered from heart arrhythmia, leading his doctors to believe his life was in immediate danger and leading to the urgent implanting of the cardiac pacing device, Channel 13 reports.

A week ago, after Netanyahu’s first hospitalization, the network reported that he had fainted at home and that doctors considered fitting him with a pacemaker after heart irregularities were observed. That report, not confirmed at the time, proved to be accurate today, with the premier indeed getting a pacemaker implanted and Sheba doctors confirming the other details.

Pro-overhaul demonstrators briefly block Tel Aviv highway; police arrest 1

Several pro-overhaul demonstrators block Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway for a short while before police clear them from the road, arresting one of them.

The road, which has now been reopened, has for months been frequently blocked by protesters against the government plan.

Air force chief says IDF’s key focus is maintaining unity in ranks, military readiness

IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar (right) speaks at a change ceremony at the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, next to the outgoing head of the base, Brig. Gen. Gilad Keinan, July 23, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar (right) speaks at a change ceremony at the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, next to the outgoing head of the base, Brig. Gen. Gilad Keinan, July 23, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Chief of the Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar say the “challenge” of maintaining unity in the military and its readiness for battle is the main task at hand, as protests against the judicial overhaul roil the Israel Defense Forces.

“The challenge of competence and cohesion among our servicemembers is at the core of the occupation [of the IAF], at the core of the IDF’s focus,” Bar says at a change of command ceremony for the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel.

“In recent days, there have been calls toward us, those wearing uniform. On this occasion, I turn to you, my people, remember who we are, remember what we get up for in the morning. Even when it’s difficult, the nation knows who we are, the state knows why we get up in the morning,” he says.

“The challenges ahead of us are significant, together with all the branches of the IDF we will know how to be in every scenario and arena,” Bar says, adding that the IAF is “strong and capable.”

Shaked urges compromise: Are we going to throw Israel away over ‘reasonableness’?

Then-interior minister and head of the Yamina party Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan, on July 27, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
Then-interior minister and head of the Yamina party Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan, on July 27, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked pleads for a compromise on the judicial overhaul, telling Channel 12: “This country is a miracle. Are we going to throw it all away on [an argument over] ‘reasonableness’?”

Shaked notes that Shas leader Aryeh Deri was blocked from serving as a minister in the current coalition not only because the High Court found his appointment “unreasonable,” given his criminal past, but also because of the legal concept of estoppel — since he was adjudged to have misled the courts about leaving public life.

The case of Deri shows that there are numerous other measures beyond reasonableness that the courts can use to guard against untenable government and ministerial decisions, she says.

She also argues that Deri, who is very close to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is uniquely capable of helping to find a way out of the crisis.

Shaked, whose husband is a pilot, stresses that “the IDF has to be sacred,” and must be kept out of the political debate.

She says people in the IAF, some of them 50-year-olds who get up at 5 a.m. once a week to serve in the reserves, “are being torn apart from within” and “it’s heartbreaking.”

“Something more calibrated can be done” regarding the legislation, she says.

She says Justice Minister Yariv Levin “can appoint conservative judges without tearing the country apart,” using the current judicial selection committee. She says she was able to do so during the four years that she served as justice minister.

She says the package of reform legislation, as it was first presented by Levin in early January, “was extreme; it terrified a large part of the public.”

Herzog finishes meeting with Lapid, will hold talks later with Gantz

President Isaac Herzog meets with then-incoming prime minister Yair Lapid, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, June 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets with then-incoming prime minister Yair Lapid, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, June 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog has finished meeting with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, his office says, during an 11th hour push to reach an agreement before the coalition passes the “reasonableness” bill.

Herzog will hold talks later this evening with MK Benny Gantz, head of the opposition National Unity party.

Far-right minister says coalition to push for more judicial change: We demand reform

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu arrives at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu arrives at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu tells the Tel Aviv crowd that the coalition plans to use its Knesset majority to push through judicial changes.

“We have 64 mandates that aren’t willing to give up on the judicial system. We have 64 mandates that demand judicial reform,” he says, referring to the number of seats the coalition holds in the 120-member parliament.

“We say to the High Court of Justice political party… we don’t want your reasonableness,” adds Eliyahu, a member of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

“They’re embarrassed about our origins, but we’re proud of them,” he continues, in theme with the protest’s populist overtones.

“In what democracy in the world do pilots [have the power to stop a government], in what democracy in the world is there a difference between right and left wing protesters?”

Smotrich says coalition will ‘God willing’ approve the ‘reasonableness’ bill tomorrow

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting of his Religious Zionism party at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, July 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting of his Religious Zionism party at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, July 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

At a mass rally of coalition supporters in Tel Aviv, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says the coalition will “God willing” approve the government’s bill to drastically limit the High Court’s use of the reasonableness standard, but adds the government is also “willing to listen” to those who oppose it.

“We are continuing with this legislation because it is the essence of democracy, and, in parallel, we are trying to find a path to dialogue,” Smotrich, who heads the far-right Religious Zionism party, says in a speech that is both conciliatory and also stresses determination to pass sweeping legal changes.

“Tomorrow, God willing, in the Knesset of Israel, we will pass with a large majority the reasonableness amendment law, which will allow the Israeli government and officials who are elected by the people to implement policies and strengthen the State of Israel, the security of Israel, the economy of Israel, and the Jewish identity of the country,” continues Smotrich.

Addressing the opponents of the judicial overhaul, the finance minister says he empathizes with “your pain, your true fear and fright for the State of Israel,” since, he explained, he felt similar feelings that the government was not listening to him when the Oslo Accords were signed and the disengagement from Gaza was carried out.

“I promise to behave differently, to listen, to speak, to make much effort to ensure we remain one people,” says the ultra-nationalist minister.

“I say to you now about the future, that in order for us to continue to live here together in the State of Israel, we are ready for a true dialogue with an open and willing heart and with a readiness to compromise and concede on all sides so that, at the end of the day, we can calm things down and continue the Zionist effort to protect our country, which we all love and care for, together.”

Histadrut chief calls for ongoing talks on judicial agreement: ‘The gaps aren’t big’

Histadrut chief Arnon Bar-David declares a general strike in protest of the judicial overhaul, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Histadrut chief Arnon Bar-David declares a general strike in protest of the judicial overhaul, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

After a judicial proposal he floated was rejected by the ruling Likud party and protest leaders, Histadrut chief Arnon Bar-David calls for efforts to continue to reach a deal.

“The gaps aren’t big. It’s possible to do this for the people of Israel,” he says in a statement.

He adds that he is in touch with President Isaac Herzog, the Prime Minister’s Office, opposition leaders, and “all relevant figures.”

“I call on everyone to understand the gravity of the hour and remember we have no other country,” the labor leader says.

Bar-David does not mention the possibility of a general strike, which overhaul opponents have been urging him to declare.

Former president Rivlin among speakers at anti-overhaul rally outside Knesset

Anti-overhaul activists seen near the Supreme Court and Knesset, in Jerusalem, on July 23, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Anti-overhaul activists seen near the Supreme Court and Knesset, in Jerusalem, on July 23, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

As protesters in support of the judicial overhaul rally in Tel Aviv, opponents demonstrate outside the Knesset in Jerusalem as lawmakers deliberate the “reasonableness” bill inside ahead of the final votes.

“We didn’t legislate a constitution… [but] we knew we had a Supreme Court that would come and interpret all our laws according to a ‘constitution’ that was once written — the Declaration of Independence,” former president Reuven Rivlin tells the crowd.

Former president Reuven Rivlin addresses an anti-overhaul rally near the Knesset on July 23, 2023 ( Amos Gil)

Other speakers include former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak, who addresses the demonstration remotely.

“This situation will continue to get much worse, until a serious national disaster [befalls] Israel,” Barak says.

Overhaul supporters in Tel Aviv call for ‘protection’ from High Court, bash IDF ‘refusers’

Right-wing Israelis rally in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government plans to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, July 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Right-wing Israelis rally in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government plans to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, July 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Among the pro-reform protesters gathered on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street is Galit, 56, from Jaffa, who carries a sign that reads, “Protect me from the High Court of Justice.”

She explains that “the dictatorship today is 15 unelected people,” referring to the Supreme Court justices, “who decide for me.”

Galit blames the High Court for the 2004 terror attack that claimed the lives of the Hatuel family in the former Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza. Referring to court orders preventing the destruction of homes used by terrorists that a former Likud justice minister tied to the attack, she says: “There are things that the High Court doesn’t need to get involved with.”

Galit declines to share her last name, saying she is afraid of retribution from people who do not agree with her political view.

“I have a business in Tel Aviv to think of,” she says.

Highlighting her point, Galit is interrupted by an older woman passing by who asks her, “Why do you think you need to be protected from the High Court?” in reference to her sign.

The two women then start chanting, “Shame” at each other.

They are quickly drowned out by the broader crowd, which erupts with chants of “The nation demands judicial reform!”

Organizers assert turnout of 200,000. According to Channel 13 news and the Kan public broadcaster, some 50,000 people are rallying there, a similar figure to the number of anti-overhaul protesters demonstrating in Jerusalem, while Channel 12 news says there are 100,000.

Other demonstrators’ signs read: “Bibi, without the reform, there’s no right wing,” and “Protect the IDF — enough with military refusers!”

Right-wing demonstrators hold a protest in support of the judicial overhaul, at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, on July 23, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

“I bet media studios say there are only tens of thousands. We’re used to that fake,” Transportation Minister Miri Regev of the ruling Likud party tells the crowd.

She also claims the judicial overhaul is part of a process to combat discrimination against Mizrahi Jews.

“Cut the bullshit,” she shouts in English.

“Let’s tell the truth: They’re dealing with maintaining their place, their elitism. And we are dealing with diversity,” she says, attacking anti-overhaul critics.

People like former prime minister Ehud Barak, who she says are encouraging refusal to serve and civil revolt, should be arrested. “Why is Barak not under arrest?” Regev demands. “Whoever refuses an order should be in jail. Pilots are no different.”

A large number of protesters are visibly religious, with many saying they were bused into Tel Aviv from West Bank settlements.

A group of yeshiva students sit on Kaplan Street, settling in with cups of coffee they are preparing on camping burners.

Malkieli, 21, from the West Bank settlement of Yakir, says it was important for him to come to the rally to make his perspective heard.

“This whole story began because some people are more equal than others. Because I live in Samaria, my words don’t matter. They can cancel what I think,” Malkieli says, using a biblical term for part of the West Bank.

“We’re here to express that,” he adds, gesturing to the group of fellow yeshiva students who traveled with him on the bus from Kiryat Arba.

Malikieli also declines to share his last name or show his face, saying that he is “afraid.”

“There are some not good voices right now. I’m worried they’ll twist my words.”

Hundreds of anti-overhaul protesters march across New York’s Brooklyn Bridge

Israeli activists opposed to the judicial overhaul march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, July 23, 2023. (Courtesy/UnXeptable)
Israeli activists opposed to the judicial overhaul march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, July 23, 2023. (Courtesy/UnXeptable)

Hundreds of Israeli demonstrators and US supporters march across New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge to protest the government’s judicial overhaul.

The protesters stream across the bridge, an iconic city landmark, bearing Israeli flags and chanting, “Democracy.”

The demonstration is organized by the Israeli ex-pat activist group UnXeptable. Many of the demonstrators wear shirts representing Israeli protest groups.

Organizers say over 1,000 people are demonstrating in support of Israeli protesters, including the march to Jerusalem this week. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, one of the city government’s top Jewish elected officials, is among the demonstrators.

“We see our families and our friends marching in the heat, fighting for Israeli democracy and all of our future and we want to send them strength from here,” says Shany Granot-Lubaton, a leading Israeli protest organizer in New York. “We won’t let this corrupt government tear apart the people of Israel and the Diaspora. Israel will not be a dictatorship.”

The activists in New York and other cities in the US and elsewhere have held regular rallies since the government announced its judicial overhaul package in January. A few weeks ago the protesters staged a demonstration at the Statue of Liberty, and other events have taken place outside the Israeli consulate and at appearances by Israeli ministers in the region.

Herzog wraps up meeting with Netanyahu, will hold talks with Lapid later tonight

Then-prime minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog (left) at a memorial service marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Then-prime minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog (left) at a memorial service marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog has finished meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, his office says.

Herzog will meet later this evening with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, according to a statement from the President’s Office.

Gantz says won’t work to overturn judicial changes if passed by agreement

National Unity head Benny Gantz speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on June July 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
National Unity head Benny Gantz speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on June July 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issues an appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return to judicial reform talks mediated by President Isaac Herzog.

In a video statement, Gantz says he is committed to reaching an agreement on curbing the judiciary’s powers to scrutinize the “reasonableness” of government decisions and the rest of the coalition’s proposed overhaul. He pledges that any legislation passed in this Knesset will be in effect after the next elections, implying he will not seek to overturn it in the future.

“[But] if we don’t reach agreements, during the next Knesset this legislation will become a temporary stain in Israel’s history,” he adds.

Tens of thousands of overhaul supporters rally in Tel Aviv, call for legislation to go ahead

A TV split screen shows a major demonstration in favor of the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv (left) alongside a major anti-overhaul demonstration taking place simultaneously near the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot)
A TV split screen shows a major demonstration in favor of the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv (left) alongside a major anti-overhaul demonstration taking place simultaneously near the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Tens of thousands of government supporters rally at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, calling for the passage of judicial overhaul legislation despite growing pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to allow the approval of any bills without broad agreement.

The pro-overhaul protest is taking place at the same time as an anti-overhaul protest near the Knesset in Jerusalem. “The right-wing has invaded Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem has been invaded by the anti-overhaul protesters,” a Channel 12 news reporter notes ironically, as the TV station shows the two demonstrations on a split screen.

Matan Peleg, one of the organizers of the pro-overhaul rally, says supporters of the reform “have exercised historic restraint.”

“You can’t crash an entire camp,” he tells Channel 12.

Matan Peleg, one of the organizers of a pro-overhaul rally in Tel Aviv, speaking to Channel 12, July 23, 2023. (Channel 12 screenshot)

He laments that most of the initial overhaul package has been halted.

“The only thing they’re talking about now is limiting reasonableness… If they don’t even give that to the national camp, we’ll enter a spiral that everyone will be very sorry about. Nobody wants that,” Peleg continues.

If the bill does not go through, it will reflect “the tyranny of the minority,” including wealthy tycoons, he says, “overruling the majority.”

‘Time of emergency’: Herzog meets Netanyahu in hospital to discuss judicial overhaul

President Isaac Herzog, right, grants Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu the mandate to form a new government, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog, right, grants Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu the mandate to form a new government, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog is now huddling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the hospital, for what his office describes as an “urgent meeting” to discuss reaching agreement with the opposition on the coalition’s judicial overhaul package.

“This is a time of emergency. An agreement must be reached,” Herzog is quoted saying in a statement from the President’s Residence.

Business leaders to meet as they weigh declaring strike to protest judicial overhaul

The heads of major businesses will meet later this evening as they deliberate declaring a strike to protest the judicial overhaul, Hebrew media outlets report.

The business leaders are holding off on announcement so they can determine the Histadrut labor federation’s stance, according to Channel 12 news.

Herzog heads to meet Netanyahu at hospital, as he pushes for agreement on judicial changes

Illustrative: Isaac Herzog after being chosen as president with then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Isaac Herzog after being chosen as president with then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After landing in Israel, President Isaac Herzog makes his way to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is recuperating after having a pacemaker installed overnight.

Herzog earlier said he was making a last-ditch push to promote negotiations between the coalition and opposition, with the aim of forging a consensus judicial reform package.

Overhaul supporters begin gathering in Tel Aviv for right-wing rally

Right-wing demonstrators begin gathering in Tel Aviv for a rally tonight in support of the government’s judicial overhaul.

The demonstration is being held on the coastal city’s Kaplan Street, which has been the main locus of weekly protests against the proposed judicial shakeup.

Opposition chiefs to discuss coordinating next moves as Knesset debates overhaul bill

Incoming opposition party leaders (from left) Mansour Abbas, Yair Lapid, Merav Michaeli, Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman meet in the Knesset on December 26, 2022. (Courtesy)
Incoming opposition party leaders (from left) Mansour Abbas, Yair Lapid, Merav Michaeli, Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman meet in the Knesset on December 26, 2022. (Courtesy)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid will convene a meeting with fellow opposition party chiefs to coordinate their next moves, according to a spokesman for Lapid, as debate continues on the first piece of legislation in the government’s judicial overhaul.

Former US envoy likens overhaul tensions to ‘infighting that caused Second Temple’s destruction’

Then-US ambassador to Israel David Friedman during a visit in the Jewish settlement of Efrat, in Gush Etzion, February 20, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Then-US ambassador to Israel David Friedman during a visit in the Jewish settlement of Efrat, in Gush Etzion, February 20, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Former US President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel David Friedman laments the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to pass the first piece of legislation from the judicial overhaul on the week of the Tisha B’Av fast day.

“Given the striking parallels between Israel’s current internal rift and the infighting that caused the destruction of the Second Temple 2000 years ago, why would the Israeli Government proceed with its Judicial Reform bill on the eve of Tisha B’Av? Very bad timing,” he tweets.

Friedman has in the past defended the government’s desire to overhaul the judiciary but has also criticized certain parts of the package as too extreme.

Anti-overhaul protesters march to Knesset ahead of tonight’s rally

Anti-overhaul protesters march in Jerusalem on July 23, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Anti-overhaul protesters march in Jerusalem on July 23, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Masses of protesters against the judicial overhaul have begun marching through Jerusalem to the Knesset, where they will rally this evening as lawmakers deliberate the “reasonableness” bill before the expected final votes.

Among those marching are demonstrators who slept overnight at nearby Gan Sacher, a large public park where they’ve set up a “tent city.”

Anti-overhaul protesters near the Knesset in Jerusalem look at ‘In Vain,’ an installation by more than 100 bereaved families, comprising citations and medals, which also bears the message, “In their memory we must uphold democracy.” July 23, 2023. (Aviv Hassidov)

Herzog arrives back in Israel from US, says working to help broker judicial agreement

President Isaac Herzog addresses a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, July 19, 2023. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
President Isaac Herzog addresses a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, July 19, 2023. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

President Isaac Herzog has arrived back in Israel after visiting Washington and New York, landing at Ben Gurion Airport as the Knesset votes on the coalition’s “reasonableness” bill and mass protests are held against it.

A statement from his office says that both now and during the trip, Herzog and his team have been working “to fully explore negotiation efforts in order to reach an agreement between the sides.”

Lapid says was ready ‘to deliberate’ Histadrut proposal before Likud rejected it

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a protest against the judicial overhaul, in Modiin, July 22, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a protest against the judicial overhaul, in Modiin, July 22, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid slams the ruling Likud party for rejecting the Histadrut’s proposed “reasonableness” bill and legislative pause to allow for judicial reform talks.

“The opposition was prepared to deliberate [the proposal] but the coalition immediately rejected it out of hand,” Lapid says in a statement. “It’s not clear who decided to say ‘no’ in their name, but it’s clearer than ever that the extremists in the government decided to push the State of Israel into the abyss.”

Former Supreme Court chief predicts ‘sadder days’ to come if ‘reasonableness’ bill passes

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak at an event held by the Hebrew University, March 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak at an event held by the Hebrew University, March 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak, whose activist approach has been decried by proponents of the judicial overhaul, laments the expected passage of the “reasonableness” bill in the next day.

“I think this is a sad day,” Barak says in an interview with Channel 12 news, which will be aired in full tonight. “There will be sadder days… We’ve only begun.”

Barak warns the bill could allow the government to fire the attorney general and the legal advisers of government ministers, while suggesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could later seek to pass legislation preventing the High Court from overturning legislation — despite the premier insisting such a proposal won’t be advanced.

“[The bill] threatens to undermine the rule of law and fundamental rights of everyone in Israel,” Barak says.

Iran bans film festival over promotional poster of actress without hijab

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian authorities have banned a film festival that put out a publicity poster featuring an actress who was not wearing a hijab headscarf, state media reports.

The ban comes after the Iranian Short Film Association (ISFA) released a poster for its upcoming Short Film Festival featuring Iranian actress Susan Taslimi in the 1982 film “The Death of Yazdguerd.”

“The culture minister has personally issued an order to ban the 13th edition of the ISFA Film Festival, after using a photo of a woman without a hijab on its poster in violation of the law,” state news agency IRNA reports.

The festival had been scheduled to be held in September.

Wearing a hijab, covering the head and the neck, has been compulsory for women in Iran since 1983, shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

However, Iranian women have increasingly flouted the strict dress code since mass protests began last September calling for an end to compulsory hijab.

The months-long protests were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the morality police for allegedly breaching the strict Islamic dress code.

Earlier this month, police said patrols have been relaunched to catch the increasing number of women ignoring the law.

After getting pacemaker, PM says he’ll attend vote on ‘reasonableness’ bill tomorrow morning

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a video from Sheba Medical Center on July 23, 2023, after having a pacemaker installed. (Screen capture)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a video from Sheba Medical Center on July 23, 2023, after having a pacemaker installed. (Screen capture)

In his first remarks since having a pacemaker fitted overnight and after doctors revealed he’d had a potentially life-threatening “transient heart block,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts out a statement thanking well-wishers and doctors at Sheba Medical Center.

“As you can see, I’m doing great,” he says in a video from the hospital.

He also refers to the deliberations on the coalition’s contentious “reasonableness” bill, ahead of the expected final votes in the next day.

“We are continuing with the efforts to complete the legislation — and the effort to do so with agreement,” he says.

“In any case, I want you to know that tomorrow morning I’ll join my friends at the Knesset,” Netanyahu adds, without specifying if he’ll leave the hospital tonight or tomorrow.

Likud says no dice to Histadrut proposition: ‘Completely neuters’ the ‘reasonableness’ bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves his Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves his Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party comes out against the Histadrut’s proposal, claiming it amounts to a “unilateral acceptance” of the opposition’s stance.

“The proposal completely neuters the amendment on the issue of reasonableness and requires total concession on all the other elements of the reform,” the party says in a statement. “We are continuing to make every effort for a real compromise.”

The framework put forward by the Histadrut and a group of businesses calls for curtailing the scope of the “reasonableness” bill in its current form, and for an 18-month pause on advancing judicial legislation without broad agreement to allow for compromise talks.

Labor’s Michaeli rejects Histadrut proposal: ‘No compromising on democracy’

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli attends a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on July 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli attends a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on July 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli issues a statement rejecting the Histadrut labor federation’s proposal for changing the “reasonableness” bill and resuming talks on the coalition’s judicial overhaul plans.

“There is no compromising on democracy,” she says.

Michaeli warns that the compromise proposed by Histadrut chief Arnon Bar-David and business sector representative Dubi Amitai would be “a tremendous opening for corruption, politicization of the judicial system and increased risk of harm to human rights.”

Iran mocks Israel: ‘Crisis at heart of Zionist regime deeper than the crisis in PM’s heart’

In this photo released on Thursday, August 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)
In this photo released on Thursday, August 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Iran seizes on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overnight operation to have a pacemaker installed to mock its arch-nemesis Israel over the judicial overhaul protests roiling the country.

“It is clear that the crisis at the heart of the Zionist regime is deeper than the crisis in the heart of its prime minister,” says ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani.

Protest leaders dismiss Histadrut proposal: Would make Israel ‘a dictatorship’

Tens of thousands of demonstrators protests against the government's judicial overhaul legislation in Tel Aviv, July 22, 2023 (Gilad Furst)
Tens of thousands of demonstrators protests against the government's judicial overhaul legislation in Tel Aviv, July 22, 2023 (Gilad Furst)

Leaders of the protest movement against the judicial overhaul dismiss the Histadrut’s proposal that would see the coalition soften the “reasonableness” bill and agree not to pass any other related legislation for 18 months without the backing of 75 Knesset members, as talks are held with the opposition.

In a statement, the heads of the “Kaplan” protests reiterate their demand that the judicial shakeup legislation be scrapped altogether.

“Compromises in which Israel ultimately turns into a dictatorship are even worse than a decision,” they charge.

Doctors union declares labor dispute to protest judicial overhaul

Health workers gather at Jerusalem's ICC to protest the coalition's judicial overhaul plans, July 23, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Health workers gather at Jerusalem's ICC to protest the coalition's judicial overhaul plans, July 23, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

At a protest of healthcare workers in Jerusalem, the head of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) Zion Hagay takes the podium, many in the crowd call for a strike and do so throughout his speech.

“This is not a political move and it was done with much deliberation and legal advice. We did this the moment we realized that our patients would be negatively impacted,” Hagay says of the unanimous decision by IMA leaders to oppose the “reasonableness” bill, stressing other labor federations have not done so.

He says if that legislation passes, the doctors union will file an appeal to the High Court of Justice. Hagay adds that the IMA will declare a labor dispute and inform the courts today.

“We will discuss among the IMA secretariat the possibility of a strike and make a decision,” he says. In response, a large part of the crowd chants “today!” and “enough talking, time for action!”

Histadrut chief, business sector head release ‘balanced compromise proposal’ they sent to PM

Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut, speaks at a press conference attended by heads from the Israeli commerce sector at the Histadrut Union in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut, speaks at a press conference attended by heads from the Israeli commerce sector at the Histadrut Union in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Histadrut chief Arnnon-Bar David and businesses sector representative Dubi Amitai reveal the details of a proposal they sent to Prime Minister Benjamin over the weekend that would curb the scope of the coalition’s “reasonableness” bill

“We call on everyone to immediately stand behind this balanced compromise proposal for the future of the country and saving Israeli society,” the two say in a statement.

Under the proposal, courts will not be able to strike down government decisions on grounds of “reasonableness” if they relate to “matters of policy” and were approved by the entire cabinet. Judges will also be barred from exercising the judicial standard to review the appointments of ministers and deputy ministers.

“All other decisions by ministers… will continue to be subject to judicial review, including per the reasonableness standard,” the statement says, while adding the changes won’t take effect until a government is formed after the next elections.

The proposal also calls for resuming talks between coalition and opposition representatives to reach agreement “on the rest of the issues,” with the government agreeing not to move forward with any further legislation in the next 18 months unless backed by at least 75 Knesset members.

Gantz pleads to halt today’s legislation and proceed only via agreement and consensus

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz speaks in the debate before the vote on the 'reasonableness' bill in the Knesset, July 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz speaks in the debate before the vote on the 'reasonableness' bill in the Knesset, July 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Here’s more of what National Unity party leader Benny Gantz said a short while ago in the Knesset, urging the coalition to halt today’s legislation and advance only via consensus and agreement.

Pleading for a return to negotiations on consensual judicial reform, Gantz says: “Partial agreement on ‘reasonableness'” would not solve the crisis if this bill is only the first stage of a wider revolution in the way Israel is governed.

He says he knows there are some coalition lawmakers who have told the prime minister that any further legislation must be advanced by consensus. “That is precisely the correct framework to use right now,” he says. “It’s possible to stop, to reach agreement on the ‘reasonableness’ measure, and to continue in a framework of full agreement.”

“We must stop, agree, and continue together.

“I again call on the prime minister and the coalition members who have a sense of responsibility. This framework [of consensus] is right for the State of Israel.”

He tells Netanyahu that halting the process now would not be “surrender” but rather a display of “national responsibility.”

He adds: “I understand the imperative to pass legislation in some form. I don’t want to crush you. But you cannot be allowed to crush the State of Israel, to take us into an unprecedented abyss.

“Agreement in exchange for agreement — that’s the formula. Any suggestion that does not prevent the downhill slide is a trap for the State of Israel and Israeli society.”

“This is the time to show leadership,” he urges the coalition. “We are facing a clear and present danger.”

Veterans of elite units say NCOs considering halting service to protest overhaul

Illustrative: IDF reserve soldiers take part in a drill at the Baf Lachish army base in southern Israel, December 22, 2016. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)
Illustrative: IDF reserve soldiers take part in a drill at the Baf Lachish army base in southern Israel, December 22, 2016. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

Veterans of several elite units warn that the tensions over the judicial overhaul has already spilled over from the reserves to non-commissioned officers serving in the military, roiling their ranks.

“We’ve heard from our units in recent weeks and days about a growing and concrete desire among (at least) dozens of active noncommissioned officers to stop (or at least not extend) their contracts,” they say in a statement quoted by Hebrew media. “The numbers are growing every day. “The decision by these NCOs to remain or continue serving is voluntary.”

The reservists behind the letter hail from top Military Intelligence units such as Special Operations Division and 8200, the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit and medical corps, among others.

“They situation is far graver than what the heads of the military are describing,” they charge. “A dramatic split like this cannot remain behind closed doors.”

Public health workers protest overhaul in Jerusalem

Health workers gather at Jerusalem's ICC to protest the coalition's judicial overhaul plans, July 23, 2023. (Renee Ghert-Zand/The Times of Israel)
Health workers gather at Jerusalem's ICC to protest the coalition's judicial overhaul plans, July 23, 2023. (Renee Ghert-Zand/The Times of Israel)

Thousands of public health workers arrive at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, after a march from the entrance of the city against the coalition’s judicial overhaul.

The main floor of the more than 3,000-seat auditorium has been filled, while the balcony is about half full.

Prof. Hagai Levine, a leader of the White Coats – Healthcare Professionals for Democracy and head of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, leads chanting in the hall.

Speeches have been delayed as busloads of doctors come from all over the country.

TV report: Coalition officials open to softening reasonableness bill, won’t delay vote

Unnamed senior coalition officials are quoted saying they are “open to compromise” on the bill currently being debated in the Knesset to bar judicial oversight of the “reasonableness” of government and ministerial decisions.

Channel 12 stresses that no such compromise has been reached, and that there is no official confirmation of the reports.

It suggests that some opposition reservations about the bill might be incorporated into the final text — either unilaterally by the coalition, or via agreement.

The unnamed sources are quoted saying the coalition won’t delay this week’s vote and won’t agree to postpone other planned overhaul legislation for 18 months, but Channel 12 suggests a six-month freeze in further legislation might be possible.

It says officials involved in the now-collapsed compromise talks that took place at the President’s Residence in the spring are involved in exploring a possible compromise, as are several academics.

Army Radio quotes unnamed Likud sources saying Prime Minister Netanyahu is more inclined to seek a compromise than he was before his hospitalization, though not at any price.

Gantz: National rift seeping into IDF, ‘part of the damage is already irreparable’

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz says from the Knesset rostrum that he is concerned that social divisions tied to the coalition’s plan to sap the judiciary of power are spilling over into the Israel Defense Forces, as 10,000 reservists say they will not show up for voluntary duty in protest.

While Israeli politics generally endeavors to “keep the IDF outside of disagreements,” Gantz says that “my fear is that’s not the case today.”

Politicizing the military “is a national mistake and it’s a very grave leadership failure,” says Gantz, while clarifying that “those serving in the IDF aren’t the ones creating the problem, they’re the ones affected by the problem.”

Gantz calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop his coalition’s judicial overhaul, saying it would not be giving in to opposition and protester pressure, but rather a show of responsibility.

“Part of the damage is already irreparable,” Gantz claims, insisting on urgency.

Ex-ambassadors call on Netanyahu to stop overhaul

Dozens of former ambassadors pen a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to halt his coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul as the Knesset debates a bill to rein in court oversight, the Walla news site reports.

“We, many dozens of ambassadors, watch with anxiety at processes in Israel that are leading to the undermining of its international standing and gnaw at its vital connections in the world. We are especially disturbed by the visible gap that has been created with the best of our friends, the United States,” the former ambassadors’ letter reads, referencing recent tensions with the Biden administration.

US President Joe Biden has come out against the coalition’s ambition to pass a broader judicial overhaul and has urged Netanyahu to slow the process down and achieve broad consensus before passing meaningful constitutional changes.

The letter calls on the premier to halt the legislation before the country falls into an “evil abyss.”

Lapid meets with union chief in Tel Aviv, amid protesters’ pressure for strike

Opposition leader Yair Lapid is meeting with Histadrut labor federation chair Arnon Bar-David in the latter’s office in Tel Aviv.

Bar-David has come under pressure from anti-overhaul protesters to call a strike over the coalition’s bill to curb the authority of the courts.

Opposition MK slams moderate Likud MKs for standing by amid dangers to country

Opposition lawmaker Yoav Segalovitz attacks moderate Likud ministers for sitting on the sidelines while the government advances problematic legislation.

“You formed a racist, homophobic, extremist government,” the Yesh Atid lawmaker says from the Knesset rostrum.

Naming a handful of Likud ministers, including Nir Barkat, Avi Dichter, and Israel Katz, Segalovitz says they are staying silent in the face of dangers to Israel’s security, international standing, and cohesion.

“I don’t know what he thinks, but I know what he does. He does nothing,” Segalovitz says of Dichter.

An opposition member of the Knesset committee that prepared the “reasonableness” bill, Segalovitz says that the panel failed to consider several security consequences of pursuing a policy that weakens judicial checks on political power.

“The real Iron Dome [that protects Israel] on the international stage” is the principle of complementarity, whereby international courts decline to prosecute Israeli soldiers for alleged war crimes because Israel has a strong, independent court system that can be trusted to exercise necessary oversight.

“None of this [necessary] conversation [about the consequences of destroying the court’s independence] happened in the Constitution Committee,” Segalovitz says.

IDF chief: Military ‘cohesion has been harmed’; we must ‘prevent the cracks from widening’

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi in a written statement to troops says the unity of the Israel Defense Forces has been harmed amid calls by reservists to end their volunteer duty in protest of the government’s controversial plans to overhaul the judiciary.

“We have acted to keep [the IDF] out of the debate, but due to its intensity in Israeli society, we were pulled into it, and the cohesion [of the military] has been harmed,” Chief of Staff Halevi writes. “It is our duty to prevent these cracks from widening.”

Halevi says he won’t discuss the debate on the overhaul, but that the IDF’s role is to “protect the country, including to allow debate in safe conditions.”

He goes on to say that the “cracks” in the military’s unity “are dangerous.”

“A ground troop may mistakenly think a pilot in the Air Force won’t assist them because of the debate; and a pilot may mistakenly think they do not need to prepare and remain battle-ready, when in reality, they may be needed soon,” Halevi says.

“Even if there is a debate, cohesion is of utmost importance,” he continues.

Halevi says serving in the IDF is “an obligation which is a great privilege” for both standing and reserve forces.

“None of the service members have the right to say that they are not serving anymore, and they have no right to not show up for duty or refuse an order,” he says.

Halevi says the IDF “is strong because of its people… We have no other nation and we have no other IDF.”

He says it’s not too late to fix the harm caused to the IDF’s unity. “This is the only way we will be able to maintain the IDF’s role in defending the country and ensuring its existence.”

National Unity MK tears up as she blasts government: ‘You’ve destroyed the country’

Orit Farkash Hacohen speaks during the Knesset debate on the reasonableness bill, July 23, 2022 (Knesset channel screenshot)
Orit Farkash Hacohen speaks during the Knesset debate on the reasonableness bill, July 23, 2022 (Knesset channel screenshot)

Opposition lawmaker Orit Farkash-Hacohen breaks into tears at the Knesset rostrum, charging that the coalition is ruining Israel.

“Our country is on fire. You’ve destroyed the country, you’ve destroyed society,” Farkash-Hacohen declares, saying that the government’s hard-right policies have turned Israel from “the high-tech nation into an international leper… I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I can’t believe it.”

In the week of Tisha B’Av, when the Jews mourn the destruction of the two ancient Temples as a consequence of internal feuding and intolerance, she warns “we will destroy the third home [the modern state of Israel] because of internal hatred.”

The National Unity lawmaker served as science and technology minister until she returned to the opposition benches in December.

This is a “government of anarchists,” she says. “You think in the name of democracy you are entitled to unlimited power.”

Farkash-Hacohen says that the coalition’s policies reflect what she says are its priorities: “Power, money, and honor.”

“Like in a bad movie,” she says, “this government is passing another corrupt piece of legislation.” Farkash-Hacohen goes through a list of coalition and cabinet initiatives that she says hurt the economy, women, election integrity, social cohesion, and security.

“We’ve never had such a government that embarrasses us a million times a day,” Farkash-Hacohen says, adding: “There’s no end to the low points.”

Netanyahu postpones state visits to Cyprus, Turkey due to surgery

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delays his trips to Cyprus and Turkey, scheduled for this week, after being hospitalized overnight to have a pacemaker fitted, Hebrew media reports.

“After Netanyahu underwent a medical procedure, a follow-up of several weeks became necessary. The state visits have been delayed,” the Prime Minister’s Office said, according to the Walla news site.

‘Unity march’ draws large crowd, with only handful of overhaul supporters

Pro and anti-overhaul demonstrators hold a "unity march," in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. (Charlie Summers/The Times of Israel)
Pro and anti-overhaul demonstrators hold a "unity march," in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. (Charlie Summers/The Times of Israel)

A “unity march” held by both opponents and supporters of the judicial overhaul is ongoing in Jerusalem, and on its way from the Western Wall to the Knesset by way of the Israel Museum.

The first bill of the judicial overhaul package has been sent to the Knesset with debate on it starting this morning and a vote expected tomorrow, and protesters of various political stripes are now marching from the Old City, after a joint prayer service at the Western Wall.

Although the vast majority of marchers appear to be opposed to the overhaul, many wearing shirts of popular protest organizations, a handful of overhaul supporters are participating in the demonstration.

Elad Adar, who supports the overhaul, came a long way from Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in the Beit She’an Valley to express his support for national unity.

He held a sign that read: “The nation is the true sovereign, take responsibility for unity.”

“We need to guard the borders of our people,” Adar said. “If we conduct ourselves irresponsibly, there won’t be anything to reform in the first place.”

The march is continuing on past Paris Square, with many participants singing traditional Jewish songs as they head to the Knesset.

Lapid tells coalition: ‘If you still have any sense of fairness, stop’

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks during a Knesset debate ahead of a vote on the 'reasonableness' bill, July 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks during a Knesset debate ahead of a vote on the 'reasonableness' bill, July 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says that 29 weeks of ongoing protest against the government’s broad plan to sap the judiciary of its power show the strength of Israel’s democratic spirit.

“Israel was born democratic and we have a democratic instinct,” Lapid says, addressing the Knesset floor.

He adds that the bill to cancel judicial oversight over the “reasonableness” of senior political decisions “wants to turn us into Poland and Hungary, but we are not them.”

Pointing to the tens of thousands of Israelis who marched on a major highway into Jerusalem on Saturday to protest today’s vote on the reasonableness bill, Lapid says that Israelis are unwilling to accept the government’s judicial overhaul, of which its reasonableness bill is only the first salvo.

“Three generations marched yesterday and sang ‘You landed on the wrong generation.'”

Alluding to opposition warnings that Israel may be on the brink of a civil war, inspired by longstanding social tensions stirred up by the judicial overhaul debate, Lapid says that: “We didn’t march yesterday to declare war, but to prevent one. To tell the government, if you still have any sense of fairness, stop.”

Lapid says that it is still possible to achieve a compromise, and said that if the coalition stops its unilateral push to change judicial power, he would return to talks hosted at the President’s Residence.

“If you stop [the advance of the legislation], we’re here [to negotiate]. We talked at the President’s Residence. The doors there are open, waiting for us all. Waiting for us to come back and talk to prevent a disaster. To prevent disintegration. To prevent an extreme minority from seizing control of the lives of the Israeli majority,” he says.

Addressing the cabinet directly, Lapid says: “We don’t want to defeat you on this, because then we all lose. The truth is everyone wants a compromise, but nobody knows how to reach one or what it’ll look like.”

“There’s only one way to find out: to keep trying. To stop the legislation. To go to the President’s Residence. Our legs will pray the whole way there. We need to go there and argue, fight, and speak again and again and not stop trying because Israel’s fate depends on it,” he adds.

Doctors say Netanyahu’s EKG test last week was irregular, despite official announcement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a video message, explaining that he is going into the hospital to have a pacemaker fitted, early on July 23, 2023. (Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a video message, explaining that he is going into the hospital to have a pacemaker fitted, early on July 23, 2023. (Screenshot)

Prof. Roi Beinert and Prof. Eyal Nof, doctors who implanted a heart monitor for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, tell Channel 12 that there was an irregularity in the premier’s EKG test when he was in the hospital.

Official results released by the hospital and the Prime Minister’s Office at the time listed dehydration as the cause of his hospitalization.

Netanyahu underwent pacemaker surgery overnight last night at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, a night before a dramatic debate in the Knesset over a bill to curtail the authority of the judiciary.

Doctors tell Channel 12 that the monitor was set off on Saturday, and he was urgently admitted for a pacemaker implant.

“The disturbance was only for a few seconds. If the disturbance had not passed and the heart rate not recovered, we would have reached a slow heart rate to the point of loss of consciousness and, God forbid, cardiac arrest,” doctors say.

The hospital says the surgery was a success, and shortly before the surgery prime minister said he “felt excellent.”

“The prime minister feels good and will stay at Sheba Medical Center for supervision. He is expected to be released during the day,” the Prime Minister’s Office says.

MK Rothman: Reasonableness law meant to return democracy to the State of Israel

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman speaks during a debate on the "reasonableness" bill, in the Knesset, Jerusalem on July 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman speaks during a debate on the "reasonableness" bill, in the Knesset, Jerusalem on July 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Simcha Rothman, who shepherded the bill to cancel court oversight over the “reasonableness” of government and minister decisions, says it will return authority to elected officials by removing court opinions from administrative decrees.

Charging that the reasonableness test has been wielded by the court to exercise liberal political control over right-wing policy, Rothman says sarcastically: “Whenever we decide, it becomes not reasonable.”

The bill “is meant to return democracy to the State of Israel,” Rothman continues, introducing the bill his Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee sponsored, at coalition orders.

The Constitution Committee chair cites a number of legal scholars, including law professor Yoav Dotan, to argue for the longstanding need to amend the court test.

Earlier this month, Dotan testified to the Constitution Committee that its proposal went beyond his recommendations and was akin to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

“The reasonableness test is something that has deserved criticism for more than 40 years,” Rothman says.

“The only reason it’s raising emotions… is because of one reason: they lost the election and they went out to the street against the election results and the mandate of the people, not against amendments to the reasonableness doctrine,” Rothman says.

Knesset begins crucial debate on controversial ‘reasonableness’ bill

Knesset floor debate begins on the coalition’s controversial bill to outlaw judicial scrutiny over the “reasonableness” of government and ministerial decisions, with the bill expected to pass into law on Monday evening.

The bill will amend Basic Law: The Judiciary to block courts from invalidating, or even discussing, the “reasonableness” of cabinet or minister decisions, including appointments and the decision to refrain from activating authorities.

The opposition arranged a 26-hour filibuster, to stretch out debate from the plenum’s 10 a.m. Sunday opening until Monday at noon.

Following the end of the opposition’s allotted speaking time, government ministers and coalition lawmakers instrumental to advancing the bill will speak for about another two hours.

Voting on the bill’s second reading is expected to begin by 2 p.m. on Monday, including votes on 140 of the 27,640 reservations rejected by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which prepared the bill. The Knesset House Committee, under coalition control, limited voting to only 140 reservations, chosen by the opposition.

If any of the reservations are accepted by the Knesset, they will become part of the bill.

Voting on the bill’s third reading, its final one, is expected to immediately follow the second reading, beginning around 6 p.m. on Monday.

The bill is expected to pass on coalition-opposition lines, with the coalition’s majority of 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset able to push it through over fierce civil society and professional objection.

Pro- and anti-overhaul activists hold joint prayers at Western Wall

Supporters and opponents of the coalition’s judicial overhaul hold joint prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem before the Knesset begins a final debate on the first bill in its overhaul package.

Anti-overhaul demonstrators have set up a tent city in the capital’s Gan Sacher Park, and plan to rally outside the Knesset as the parliament debates a bill to cancel judicial oversight of government and ministerial decisions based on their “reasonableness.”

Benny Gantz, chair of the opposition National Unity party, tells Channel 12: “There is a rift in the nation, and in this situation it needs to be taken care of. Netanyahu needs to halt the legislation.”

Major traffic disruptions can be expected in Jerusalem due to the protests.

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