The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Dozens of protesters are rallying outside the home of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Moshav Amikam in northern Israel, hours after he canceled a televised speech in which he was widely reported to call on the coalition to halt its bid to overhaul the judiciary.
The protesters are demanding he gives the address and are chanting “shame” outside the home, Hebrew media reports say.
Gallant called off the address after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who gave an address tonight vowing to move forward next week with a bill that will politicize judicial appointments. Netanyahu also attempted to assuage the opposition’s fears the legal shakeup will turn Israel into a dictatorship, insisting he would intervene in the legislation and ensure it is balanced and does not grant the coalition undue power.
Hebrew media widely reported earlier that, facing growing alarm in the military over the potential disintegration of the military’s reserve forces amid the changes to Israel’s balance of powers, Gallant had decided to issue a public call to stop the process.
Gallant canceled the speech at the premier’s request.
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, a prominent figure in the coalition’s push to overhaul the judiciary as head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, is escorted out of a home in Ramat Hasharon by police after protesters blockaded the residence, Ynet reports.
According to the report, protesters blocked the door out of the residence, where Rothman was having a meeting, preventing him from leaving.
Border Police officers arrived at the scene and escorted Rothman out safely, the report says.
Police arrested 76 anti-government protesters during demonstrations in and around Tel Aviv throughout the day, police say in a statement.
73 of them have been released under restrictive conditions, according to the police. The remaining three detainees will be brought before a judge tomorrow morning, police say.
This evening, police say they arrested nine anti-government protesters on Menachem Begin Boulevard in central Tel Aviv for “disturbing public order,” police say.
Demonstrators waged a “day of national paralysis” throughout the day to protest the Netanyahu government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, politicize the appointment of judges, and restrict the power of the High Court of Justice.
Anti-government protest organizers say demonstrations across Israel against the coalition’s push to dramatically revamp the judiciary will be held on Saturday for the 12th consecutive weekend and that the protests will “intensify.”
“Today we saw a bizarre show of a dictator-in-the-making who, instead of stopping and shelving the legislation, rushes to appoint the judges and engage in a hostile takeover of the Supreme Court,” the organizers say in a statement in response to Netanyahu’s speech this evening, in which he promised to move forward with a key bill to control judicial appointments that is set to come for second and third (final) readings in the Knesset plenum next week.
“He continues to incite against the court and releases spin everywhere. The way to prevent a rift in the nation is to abolish all the laws of the dictatorship. Any calls for negotiations while the legislation advances are illegitimate. We must oppose the dictatorship,” they write.
National Unity’s Gideon Sa’ar says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech tonight “managed to disappoint even those who had no expectations of him.”
Sa’ar, once a Likud stalwart, says the premier not only announced that he would move ahead with legislation that will bring judicial appointments under political control, he also effectively declared that he would trample a 2020 conflict of interest agreement that bars him from directly dealing with the government’s radical plans to overhaul the legal system, as it could affect the outcome of his ongoing corruption trial down the line.
He calls the premier’s speech “another missed opportunity that will widen the rift in the nation,” and adds that the only answer is to carry on protesting.
National Unity leader Benny Gantz, a key member of the opposition, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is failing to “rise to the occasion” and stop the coalition’s push to drastically overhaul the judiciary.
Gantz says it is clear from Netanyahu’s speech tonight, in which he vowed to press ahead with legislation that will bring judicial appointments under political control, that an immediate halt to the process “is the right thing for the State of Israel.”
“But the barrier of silence [in the Likud] began to crack today,” says Gantz, who has been holding talks with coalition MKs in Likud and ultra-Orthodox parties, including with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in a bid to prevent irreversible damage to democracy and civil war, officials in his party said.
Gallant was likely set to call for the coalition to stop the judicial overhaul push, in a televised speech tonight, an address he called off after being summoned to Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem.
“Many Knesset members in the coalition, led by the defense minister, see the rush of legislation we are experiencing as a serious assault on democracy and Israeli society, as well as a historical mistake,” says Gantz.
“Tonight, it is clear beyond any doubt that the [judicial] coup will seriously damage Israeli democracy and society. It will be a direct hit on Israel’s security and a lack of national responsibility of the first order,” he goes on.
Netanyahu must stop the legislative process, he says, and coalition members should shun the expected vote next week to politicize judicial appointments.
Gantz also adds that should the coalition stop its bid to revamp the judiciary, the opposition will gladly engage in dialogue.
“Stop, and we will talk. There are no losers in holding a dialogue, there is only one winner: the State of Israel,” he says.
Opposition member Avigdor Liberman, head of Yisrael Beytenu, criticizes Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for “capitulating” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after he canceled a speech earlier in which he was reported to call for a halt to the judicial overhaul push.
“You can say that he committed a political ‘hara-kiri,'” says Liberman, using a term that means a form of Japanese ritualistic suicide.
“Gallant, who went out this morning determined to say everything he knows, everything he hears in the assessments of the situation, intended to say these things to the nation, but in the end, he capitulated and became a doormat,” says Liberman.
Netanyahu: Law to change judicial selection will pass next week; I also intend to legislate to protect individual rights
The following is a summary of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech tonight.
Netanyahu begins his address by saying that, after his election in November, he promised to be “the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel. I meant it then and I mean it today. We have one state and we must do everything to protect it from outside threats and from an irreparable rift inside,” he says. “We can’t let any disagreement, however fierce, endanger our joint future.”
Opponents of the coalition’s sweeping judicial reform “aren’t traitors,” and supporters “aren’t fascists,” he says. “Most Israeli citizens, across the political spectrum, love our state and want to protect our democracy.”
But supporters of reform, he says, “say we don’t have real democracy here, and that what endangers it is an all-powerful Supreme Court that in practice runs the country.”
Meanwhile, opponents of the reform believe that democracy is endangered by “a Knesset and a government acting without brakes, and that will harm individual rights.”
A proper democratic regime “must ensure the rule of the majority and at the same time protect individual rights,” he says.
“To avoid a rift in the people, each side must take seriously the claims and concerns of the other,” he goes on.
Backers of the reform complain that the balance between the branches of government has been breached — including because “the court intervened without justification in security considerations in the fight against terror, prevented the deportation of migrants, intervened in [the terms of Israel’s] gas [extraction] deals” — hurting all citizens financially, he says.
“Without the right to do so, it struck down laws, prevented appointments and intervened in many areas where it did not have the right to do so,” he adds.
“And many complain that the court behaves like a ‘closed club’ — where judges bring in their friends. The judges have a veto [in the selection committee] — and in practice they appoint themselves,” he claims. (In fact, the political majority also has a veto, so judges are currently chosen by consensus.) “Many people feel this needs correcting.”
But, he goes on, there are also those who think the democratic reform as presented will go too far and will allow the government and the Knesset to take control of the Court, to override all rulings, to enact any law.
“They fear a theocracy, a non-liberal state, laws against LGBTQs, secular, women, minorities.”
In light of those fears, Netanyahu says, “I believe that it is possible to bring a reform that provides an answer to both sides — a reform to restore the balance between the branches [of government], to protect and enshrine the individual rights of all citizens.”
Says Netanyahu: “We didn’t come to crush and destroy. We came to balance and to fix.
“We are determined to advance the democratic reform that will restore the appropriate balance between the branches.
“The best way to achieve the balanced reform and to prevent the rift in the people is via discussion, to achieve the broadest possible consensus,” he says.
“To my sorrow, thus far the heads of the opposition have refused to enter this discussion. We have wasted almost three months because of that refusal. I hope that will change within days,” says the prime minister. “I am acting to find a solution.” (The opposition has refused to negotiate with Netanyahu because the coalition has declined to pause the legislation.)
Netanyahu says: “We already made changes in the law regarding the Judicial Selection Committee to meet those concerns.”
He then makes clear that the law will pass in its current form next week. “The law that will pass next week in the Knesset is a law that does not control the court — it balances and diversifies it. It opens the doors of the court to views and publics and vast sectors that hitherto were excluded from it.”
“We don’t want a court controlled [by the political majority]; we want a balanced court — a court of the people — and a court like this will win the public’s support,” he says. “It’s not the end of democracy; it’s strengthening democracy.”
He cites the US, New Zealand and Canada as countries where justices are politically appointed, without noting the various protections and systemic differences in those countries.
He goes on to discuss the planned override clause in legislation also advancing through the Knesset, whereby the coalition can preemptively prevent judicial intervention and relegislate laws struck down by the High Court.
“I know there is a central fear raised by the other side of an unlimited override clause, whereby every small Knesset majority can block every ruling of the court. That won’t happen. Quite the opposite. I intend to anchor in law individual rights — we will guarantee the rights — of all Israeli citizens — Jews and non-Jews, secular and Orthodox, women, LGBTQ — all of them, without exception. All legislation will be obligated to those principles. We intend to present detailed legislation to this effect,” he says.
“Until today my hands were tied [until last night’s passage of the law preventing his recusal except for health reasons]. So tonight I announce to you, no further.” He says he is “putting all other issues aside… I will do everything I can to find a solution for the sake of our people, our state.”
He says he just met several ministers, “including the defense minister. I heard his concerns about the implications of the situation on our national security. I am taking it all into account.”
He concludes by saying “there is no place for refusal” to serve in the IDF. “It endangers our national and personal security. Refusal is unjustified.”
“I will do everything to calm the tempers and prevent the rift in the people,” he says. “Because we are all brothers.”
Protests resume in Tel Aviv after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives an address to the nation where he vows to push ahead with key components of the contentious judicial overhaul program.
Demonstrators block roads, chanting slogans against the government. Police use water cannons to disperse protesters.
“Police forces at the scene are keeping order,” police say in a statement.
תמונת מצב שעה 21:00 – מכת״זית הופעלה על מפגינים באזור יצחק שדה pic.twitter.com/VrZYccRLpi
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) March 23, 2023
Opposition leader Yair Lapid slams the speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that he was continuing to spread lies.
Lapid says Netanyahu has lost control and that Justice Minister Yariv Levin is pulling the strings.
“The voice is Netanyahu, but the hands are the hands of Levin,” Laid says.
Lapid says Netanyahu’s decision to push ahead with legislation to choose judges next week proves that he is not serious about his call for dialogue.
“It’s all a bluff,” Lapid says.
In a statement to the nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will get deeply involved in the judicial overhaul despite a conflict of interest agreement that bars him from involvement. While promising to take the opposition’s concerns into account, he also vows to press ahead with the legislation to choose judges — saying it will pass in its present form in the Knesset next week.
Netanyahu’s speech comes a day after the Knesset passes a law that explicitly blocks the top court from ordering a prime minister to take a leave of absence — a law that is widely seen as a protection against fears that the High Court of Justice could force Netanyahu to step down, due to the potential conflict of interest created by him overseeing his coalition’s bid to dramatically overhaul the judiciary while he is himself on trial for multiple corruption charges.
“Until now, my hands were bound, now I am getting involved,” Netanyahu says.
The prime minister says he is attentive to the concerns of his opponents, but vowes to press ahead with legislation to give the coalition control of appointing judges will be passed as planned next week, which is seen as the core of the overhaul.
Netanyahu also promises to anchor civil rights in law.
After being summoned to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant calls off plans to give a statement.
Gallant had been expected to call for a halt to the judicial overhaul legislation.
“Defense Minister Yoav Galant met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this evening and presented him with the impact of the legislative processes on the IDF and the defense establishment,” Gallant’s office says in a statement after the meeting.
“At the prime minister’s request and in light of his planned statement this evening, the minister of defense is delaying his statement at this stage,” the statement says.
The Degel Hatorah faction — part of the United Torah Judaism party — says it will back any decision Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes regarding the judicial overhaul.
The party says that while it supports the judicial overhaul, it would also back efforts to reach a national consensus.
“Degel Torah, as a party that has conducted itself with public responsibility since its founding, will not be an obstacle to the Prime Minister carrying out the necessary actions to reach understandings and agreements as extensively as possible, which will lower the height of the flames and prevent the continuation of the rift in the nation,” the statement says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Justice Minister Yariv Levin amid speculation he could call a pause to the judicial overhaul legislation.
Levin, the main architect of the reform, has been rallying other Likud members to support him and warning “If the reform is halted, there will be consequences,” Channel 12 reports.
The meetings come as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant planned a statement in which he was expected to call for a halt to proceedings.
Gallant briefly met with Netanyahu after being summoned to Jerusalem and has been inundated with calls to quit from his coalition colleagues.
The report says Levin has been making calls throughout the day to ensure that no other Likud members waver.
Channel 12 quotes an unnamed senior Likud source, in what it calls a combination of threat and analysis: “If Netanyahu stops the legislation and capitulates, he’ll discover he doesn’t have a government.”
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warned him that Israel is heading into a very dangerous place, Hebrew media reports.
“The combination of the security threats and the social situation in the context of the [judicial overhaul] legislation are taking Israel to a dangerous place,” Channel 12 quotes Bar as saying.
The Ynet news site says Bar presented Netanyahu “with a very dark” picture of the consequences of the reform.
Police are dispersing a large protest outside a hotel in Petah Tikva where Religious Zionism party members were holding an event.
Hundreds gather outside the site, many holding LGBTQ flags.
Party leader Bezalel Smotrich has openly espoused homophobic views.
הפגנה גדולה בפתח תקווה מול הרמת כוסית של הציונות הדתית. לפי מה שהבנתי המפגינים הגיעו למתחם בהליכה מן השדות הסמוכים. יש שם אלפים ורעש רב, לא ברור אם הח״כים של הציונות הדתית הצליחו להגיע לאירוע והמשטרה מבצעת שם מעצרים pic.twitter.com/Tr4sRWLb83
— Tal Schneider טל שניידר تال شنايدر (@talschneider) March 23, 2023
A statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushed back until 8:40 p.m. amid a meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, his office says.
Netanyahu summoned Gallant after he announced his own statement in which he was expected to call for the halt of the judicial overhaul.
It’s not clear if Gallant will still speak.
Carrying a giant mock-up of the Declaration of Independence, anti-judicial overhaul protesters in Bnei Brak chant “dem-oc-racy!,” blow horns, and block major thoroughfares as they make their way through the Haredi city of Bnei Brak.
Counter-protests include ad-hoc groups of locals, a banner welcoming “Tel Avivians” to Bnei Brak, and a Chabad “mobile unit for spreading Judaism,” complete with loudspeakers blasting religious-themed music.
In addition to supporting liberal democratic values, many protesters also highlight cultural divides with their Haredi neighbors.
Amid fears of escalated violence in Bnei Brak, protester organizers distributed construction helmets to several participants.
“They’re in case they throw stuff at us again, like eggs, stones,” says Roni Golan, 63.
Mostly secular anti-judicial reform protesters demonstrate in the Haredi enclave of Bnei Brak
Carrying a giant mock up of Israel’s Decl. Of Independence, wearing hard hats “incase they throw things at us.”
Protesters tell me this is as much a judicial statement as cultural pic.twitter.com/hDadsAwf8w
— Carrie Keller-Lynn (@cjkeller8) March 23, 2023
Golan made the short trip from Tel Aviv to protest against the government’s judicial overhaul, but also to send a message about what he describes as grievances against Haredi citizens.
He says he came to Bnei Brak “to explain to the religious that their leadership is keeping them poor, keeping them from being education to join the workforce.”
Haredi leaders last summer cut a deal with now-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to increase funding to their separate education system without adding core secular subjects required for workforce integration, such as English, math, and science.
An Israeli soldier in the Military Intelligence Directorate has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for leaking classified information, the Israel Defense Forces says.
The soldier, who was detained last year, is accused of passing top secret information he was exposed to as part of his position in the army, to a civilian who would publish it on social media.
The IDF says that in some of the cases, the information that was released to the public caused damage to state security.
Under a plea deal, the soldier is sentenced to 27 months, and is also handed a suspended sentence.
Two civilians arrested as part of the investigation are under house arrest pending a trial.
Many details relating to the case are barred from publication due to security concerns.
Despite several rabbis asking youth to refrain from entering protest zones, several Haredi youths are gathered on the fringes of this evening’s anti-judicial shakeup protest in Bnei Brak.
Avraham, 16, says that despite not being versed in the technical details of the debate, he came to counter-protest as part of a social statement.
“I don’t understand the reform, I just know they came here because they’re against us,” he says, pointing at the abutting mass of hundreds of protesters.
“One of them told me that I eat for free here,” he says, saying a demonstrator used a common trope that Israel’s Haredi community does not shoulder its fair share of the state’s economic and security burden.
When asked how that made him feel, he said, “why do they think that way?”
His friend Yisrael, also 16, says he supports the protesters’ right to demonstrate in their community, but says, “just like they come to us, we can come to them.”
“That’s the equality they talk about, right?”
Reports say it is unlikely Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will give his much-anticipated statement, and certainly not at 19:30 as planned, in which he was expected to call for a halt to judicial overhaul legislation.
Gallant was due to give his statement in Tel Aviv, but has now traveled to Jerusalem after being summoned for a meeting by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 12 reports.
In the hours after Gallant’s plan to speak was announced, he has come under widespread criticism from coalition members, including calls for his resignation.
The far-right Otzma Yehudit party launches a scathing attack on Defense Minister Yoav Gallant amid reports he plans to call for the government to halt its judicial overhaul legislation.
“Galant removed himself from the right-wing camp. This is a minister elected by the votes of the right-wing, but in practice manages a different policy,” the party says in a statement.
“Gallant is responsible for the lack of response in Gaza, for the appeasement policy towards terror, for administrative detentions against right-wing activists, and today it turns out that he also stands by those who would stop the government’s activities and prevent the right wing from implementing its policies,” the statement says.
“The public elected a right-wing government to implement right-wing policies and we must continue with the legal reform.”
Protesters seeking to pressure the government’s ultra-Orthodox members against the coalition’s plans to upend the judiciary have started their demonstration heading into the religious enclave of Bnei Brak, home to senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni.
Several ultra-Orthodox rabbis have issued orders to yeshiva and religious students to stay away from the protest area, in an effort to prevent altercations with the largely secular protesters.
Last week, ultra-Orthodox counter-protesters pelted demonstrators outside Gafni’s home with eggs. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog have made calls to lower tensions, ahead of this evening’s Bnei Brak protest.
על רחוב ז'בוטינסקי ברמת גן גבול בני ברק כבר צעדה ספונטנית
הצעדה המרכזית תצא מקניון איילון בשבע
אני בדרך לשם ותיכף אפתח לייב pic.twitter.com/0G8IKMsm3P
— Or-ly Barlev ~ אור-לי ברלב (@orlybarlev) March 23, 2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summons Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to a meeting at his office.
Gallant is to give a statement later in the evening where he is expected to call for a halt to the judicial overhaul legislation.
Netanyahu will give a statement after that.
News of Gallant’s plans sparked a backlash in Likud with several ministers calling on him to quit.
Hebrew media reports say Netanyahu is expected to urge Gallant not to publicly oppose the judicial overhaul.
Officials in the office of the opposition National Unity party leader Benny Gantz say that he has been holding talks with coalition MKs in the Likud and ultra-Orthodox parties, including with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
The talks have not been about the specifics of the judicial overhaul, but have been aimed at preventing fatal damage to democracy and civil war, and maintaining the security of the country and its economy, the official says.
Gantz informed them that halting the overhaul legislation was key to bringing this crisis to an end.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi comes out against any possible compromise or halt to the judicial overhaul legislation.
In a statement, Karhi says he is “firmly opposed” to any halt to the legislation.
“Such a shameful withdrawal from our commitments will lead to the intensification of the protest, to the halting of any further initiatives that we would like to promote in any field, and in the end, God forbid, to the dissolution of the government and the rise of a new disaster government that would be the worst we have ever seen,” he says.
The agreement signed yesterday between Poland and Israel over the return of Israeli youth Holocaust trips has two parts, an Israeli diplomat tells The Times of Israel.
The first details security arrangements for the trips, some of which will remain classified even after the Knesset approves the pact.
The second section contains compromises on the content of the trips. Poland backed down on many of their demands, says the diplomat. What remains is an emphasis on encounters between Polish and Israeli youth, and an Israel commitment to include visits that give visitors an appreciation of Poland’s history and culture, not just Holocaust sites.
There will be a list of relevant sites in Poland, some of which will be Jewish sites, including the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
There will be no mandatory sites that Israeli students will have to visit, says the diplomat.
Some of the youth encounters will include visits by Polish students to Israel.
Full details of the agreement will be released once it is approved by the Knesset
Israeli stock indices close higher and the shekel gains after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced they will make statements tonight.
Gallant is expected to call for a halt to the judicial overhaul legislation.
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s benchmark TA-125 index rises 2.1% and the TA-35 index of blue-chip companies adds 1.8% at the close, according to TASE data.
The TA-Bank index, which tracks the five largest banks, jumps 3.6%.
The shekel appreciated more than 2% against the US dollar. That’s after the local currency weakened more than 6% in February amid growing investor concern that the government is determined to press ahead with contested changes to weaken the judicial system.
Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan calls on any Likud colleagues who support halting the judicial overhaul legislation to quit.
Her comments come amid reports that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will make such a call in a statement later this evening. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak after him.
“All Likud MKs who are planning to stop the legislation are invited to resign. Preferably today, even better if it is right now,” she tweets.
Distel Atbaryan says to support halting the overhaul would betray the mandate Likud got from its voters.
The Shas party issues a statement saying it will back whatever decision Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes.
The statement says that party leader Aryeh Deri has consulted with Shas spiritual leaders and “it was decided that Shas will support any decision” by Netanyahu and the Likud party.
The statement comes with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant set to give statements to the nation tonight, with Gallant expected to call for a halt to judicial overhaul legislation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara issues a rare public statement in which she calls for all parties to “calm the waters and work together for a broad agreement among the people of Israel.”
Her statement recounts what she calls “the violent siege at the Tel Aviv hair salon” when she was trapped for several hours at the beginning of the month after hundreds of protesters against the government gathered outside. Police were called to the scene to keep demonstrators away.
Netanyahu claims that since then there has been mounting violence and incitement against government figures.
“I call on the leaders of the opposition, most of whom refrained from condemning the serious incident in Tel Aviv against me, to denounce the violence against me and public figures before it is too late,” she says.
She also calls on law enforcement to act with “all means” against those who break the law, although she notes that “a small element of violent anarchists” does not represent all the anti-government protesters.
She says most Israelis, including herself, want “dialogue, unity, and compromise.”
Sara Netanyahu is widely seen as wielding influence over her husband, who is set to give a statement to the nation at 8 p.m.
The High Court of Justice demands that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the attorney general, as the representative of the government, submit a response to a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government (MQG) in Israel against legislation passed last night that will prevent the court from being able to order Netanyahu to be removed from office.
The court does not, however, issue an interim order freezing implementation of the law, meaning it will go into effect immediately.
The legislation was passed due to concerns that arose within the coalition that petitions to the court may lead it to order the attorney general to instruct the prime minister to recuse himself for violating a conflict of interest agreement.
That agreement, updated in January, ordered Netanyahu not to involve himself in the judicial overhaul legislation due to his ongoing criminal trial on corruption charges and the conflict of interest he has in that regard.
MQG argues in its petition that the law, an amendment to Basic Law: The Government, is designed for the benefit of one individual, Netanyahu, and “undermines Israel’s system of government where the judiciary balances and checks the executive and legislature” and will lead to “dictatorship.”
Netanyahu and the attorney general have until April 24 to respond to the petition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant both announce they will make statements tonight.
Netanyahu will speak at 8 p.m from the prime minister’s office.
The announcement comes minutes after Gallant said he would be making a statement.
Channel 12 reports that Gallant is expected to call for an immediate halt to legislation on the judicial overhaul that has sparked widespread demonstrations against the government.
Earlier, Ynet reported that Gallant has been warning Netanyahu that the overhaul was seriously undermining the IDF and Israel’s military deterrence, along with ties to key allies, including the US.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to depart Israel for London at 4 a.m. on Friday morning, his office says.
The prime minister is likely to therefore land with little time to spare before heading to scheduled meetings with UK officials, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
His office says that Netanyahu is departing late due to a long schedule of votes and legislative activity in the Knesset today.
He is expected to return to Israel early Sunday morning.
Thousands of bone fragments, which may include the remains of victims of Nazi crimes, are buried today after they were found on a Berlin university campus where an institute for anthropology and eugenics was once located.
Some 16,000 fragments were found on the campus of the Free University in excavations that started in 2015 after human and animal bones were discovered during restoration work. The site was once home to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, which operated from 1927 until 1945.
The university says that the recovered fragments are from “victims of crime contexts,” including colonial-era killings, and some could belong to the victims of Nazi crimes. Researchers determined that the bones belonged to people of all age groups, male and female.
But the university says that, following non-invasive examinations of the fragments and historical research. it wasn’t possible to identify individual victims or to link the finds to specific colonized regions or to “clear Nazi contexts.”
Organizations representing groups that may have been among those the bones belonged to — including Jews, Sinti, Roma and people with physical and mental disabilities killed by the Nazis, as well as the Herero people of Namibia, many of whom were killed in a colonial-era massacre — agreed that further research shouldn’t be carried out. They said the bones should be buried “without religious appropriation or eurocentric symbolism,” the university says.
The public burial with about 230 guests takes place at the Waldfriedhof cemetery in the Berlin suburb of Dahlem, near the site where the remains were found. Five simple caskets were lowered into the ground by pallbearers.
Police say they have arrested 42 people for disturbing the peace as they clear protesters from the Ayalon highway.
Demonstrators blocked the main road for more than 2 hours before police used force to remove them.
A group of Jewish Democratic lawmakers held an intense meeting with Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog during which they expressed their concerns over the government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary, Axios reports.
The lawmakers in the room are to the right of much of their party on Israel and have long been the Jewish state’s most ardent defenders, demonstrating the extent of discomfort in the US with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans.
Twenty lawmakers were present for the meeting, including Rep. Jake Auchincloss and Rep. Brad Schneider, who helped organize the meeting.
One member present called the conversation “frank and candid,” albeit “not argumentative.”
Schneider characterized the meeting as “emotional.”
“We did raise the specter that some of the changes being discussed, if taken to their extreme, could have an adverse impact on Israeli democracy,” Schneider told Axios. “There is a special aspect to Israel as the democratic Jewish state. And that has always had a special place in the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Schneider clarified that the members of Congress did not issue threats to the Israeli envoy but made clear that if the overhaul is implemented “it will be harder “to talk about Israel in the same way.”
Auchincloss told Herzog that he’s heard concern over the overhaul from every corner of the Jewish community that he represents.
One lawmaker told Axios that the group raised concern that the effort to restrict the Supreme Court’s power could lead to harm to minority protections.
Herzog listened to the lawmakers concerns and promised to pass them along to Netanyahu, a lawmaker present told Axios.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the report.
In recent talks, Israel has told the US and several European countries that if Iran significantly enriches uranium above 60% it could trigger an Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities, the Axios news site reports.
The report comes after the discovery in February that Iran had enriched some uranium to almost 84% purity, just shy of the 90% needed for weapons-grade material.
Citing a senior Israeli official, the report says that Israel did not view that as a cause for attack because it was just a small amount. However, if there was significant enrichment above 60% that would be a different story.
The report cites a second official as saying that Israel believes the message has been passed to Iran.
“The Iranians totally internalized our position and they know what our [red] line is,” the official is quoted as saying.
The report also notes that Israel is pressing the US to speed up the delivery of four KC-46 refueling tankers that Jerusalem purchased last year, which would be needed for a strike.
A large police force, including mounted police, water cannons and Border Police officers, manages to clear Tel Aviv’s Ayalon highway of demonstrators after they shut the major highways for more than two hours.
However, after five minutes demonstrators return to the road and block the highway’s southbound lanes.
Northbound traffic remains open.
Police drag dozens of protesters off the road, detaining several of them.
“Before we were patient, now less so,” a senior officer tells Channel 12 ahead of the effort to clear the Ayalon.
President Isaac Herzog says he has been holding talks to “prevent violence and lower the flames” ahead of a planned large anti-government demonstration in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.
Herzog says he is speaking to a wide range of people on all sides.
“There is no disputing the importance of the right to demonstrate and protest, being a basic and necessary democratic element,” a statement from Herzog says, adding that he “implores everyone to show responsibility and avoid any aspect that may incite baseless hatred and deepen the severe rift we are in.”
Protests are planned for the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb, home to several coalition Knesset members, sparking fears that the demonstrations could ignite conflict with locals, many of whom back the coalition parties pushing the controversial judicial legislation.
Earlier, dozens of Haredi men and boys gathered to dance in front of protesters who were demonstrating outside the Jerusalem home of Shas leader Aryeh Deri.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has been urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the legislation of the judicial overhaul, the Ynet news site reports.
Gallan tells Netanyahu that one-sided legislation will tear the army apart, the report says, describing the talks as “tough.” Gallant also warns that ties with the US are being harmed, as is the country’s military deterrence.
The unsourced report says Netanyahu is refusing to budge.
Despite Gallant’s position, he will not vote against the laws when they come up in the Knesset, the report says.
Mounted police and a water cannon are sent in to try and clear the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv.
Police warn the hundreds of demonstrators who have closed down the major thoroughfare in both directions that they will use force if they do not disperse.
The demonstrators are waving flags, chanting, and refusing to leave.
Riders are trying to corral protesters while jets of high-pressure water are used to try to push others back up an off-ramp.
"גשם" בנתיבי איילון pic.twitter.com/tyqzVAOw0f
— לוחמי כיפור (@lochamei) March 23, 2023
A protest leader is injured after being hit by a car in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak. The incident is being investigated, but police say they believe it was an accident
Professor Moshe Hadani, a leading neurosurgeon and a member of a protest group, was taking part in a dialogue with local residents when he was hit.
The dialogue was halted and he was taken to the hospital in good condition.
פרופ משה הדני ממוביל מאבק החלוקים הלבנים נדרס בבני ברק. נסיבות המקרה בבדיקה. pic.twitter.com/IuAg4FHC83
— Roee Neuman????️⚧️????????????️???? (@NeumanRoee) March 23, 2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a call to the Haredi community not to confront a planned anti-government protest in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs to talk with the heads of ultra-Orthodox parties, leaders and influencers, calling on the public not to go to areas where there’s friction and not to be dragged into provocations,” says a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
“The prime minister praised the call of Rabbi Edelstein and the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community who urged their followers to behave with tolerance and patience,” the statement says.
Protests are planned for the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, home to several coalition Knesset members, sparking fears that the demonstrations could ignite conflict with locals, many of whom back the coalition parties pushing the controversial judicial legislation.
Earlier, dozens of Haredi men and boys gathered to dance in front of the protesters who were demonstrating outside the Jerusalem home of Shas leader Aryeh Deri.
Police say they have arrested a woman who was filmed hitting Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter with a flag on what appeared to be a thin wooden pole.
The minister, who was walking to his car, was not hurt.
Two other demonstrators who were at the scene are also detained.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for police and prosecutors to take stronger action against violent protests after a demonstrator hit Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter with a flag on what appeared to be a thin wooden pole. Dichter was not hurt and continued walking to his car.
“I strongly condemn the attack on Minister Dichter by a left-wing activist and demand that the leaders of the opposition immediately stop the anarchy, violence and incitement toward elected officials,” Netanyahu tweets.
“I demand that the police and the prosecutor’s office take immediate and firm action against anyone who lays hands on elected officials before it is too late,” he says.
מפגינת שמאל מכה את השר דיכטר בראשו עם דגל ישראל.
לפיד בתגובה: החזרנו את הדגל
ציון נאנוס: מחאה מרגשת pic.twitter.com/wheHEKsFHD
— ינון מגל (@YinonMagal) March 23, 2023
Police use water cannons against anti-overhaul protesters blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv
There are no immediate reports of injuries.
Mounted police are also brought in as part of attempts to clear the thoroughfare.
Earlier, water cannons were deployed in the northern city of Haifa. Police say they used the measure to clear a road blocked by protesters.
The controversial crowd-control measure has been used on a number of occasions against people protesting the government’s legislative package that will — among other things — allow the Knesset to override court decisions with the barest majority, preemptively shield laws from judicial oversight, and put the selection of judges in the hands of coalition politicians.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 23, 2023
Shikma Bressler, one of the leaders of the protest movement against the government’s judicial overhaul legislation, is arrested and later released by the police at a demonstration at Binyamina Junction leading to accusations by opposition leaders of “political arrests.”
Video footage of Bressler’s arrest shows her being led away by police to a police patrol vehicle amid shouts of “Shame” by protesters.
Bressler and others, including workers from the Rafael defense technology company, were protesting at the junction and blocked it for almost an hour.
She was released a short while after being detained, and tells a crowd of supporters outside the Zevulun Police Station in Haifa that “our task is to ensure that Israel remains a democracy.”
Bressler,a physicist and researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science, has been a prominent voice in the anti-government protests.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak tweets that her arrest was an example of “dictatorship in action.”
And Labor leader MK Merav Michaeli tweets, “In a normal country Shikma Bressler would be given the Israel Prize. In the state of Netanyahu and Ben Gvir she is arrested as a common criminal. [This is] Hungary and Poland on steroids. A government of disgrace, democracy will prevail over you.”
מעצר של ד״ר שקמה ברסלר שוורצמן ממובילות המחאה, בהפגנת עובדי רפאל בצפון pic.twitter.com/NXbUDQ04Ss
— Tal Schneider טל שניידר تال شنايدر (@talschneider) March 23, 2023
Police say they have detained or arrested 26 people for public disturbances in Tel Aviv.
In addition, they say that around 30 demonstrators are blocking the Ayalon Highway close to the Yehudit Bridge.
A number of people were detained earlier in the day during protests at the Kfar Hayarok interchange and near Ra’anana.
Police use water cannons against anti-overhaul protesters in the northern city of Haifa.
It is unclear why they were deployed. There are no immediate reports of injuries.
Police say they used the cannon to clear a road which was blocked by protesters. Twelve people were detained.
A news crew from the Kan public broadcaster was on air as the water cannons were used.
The controversial crowd-control measure has been used on a number of occasions against protesters against the government’s legislative package that will — among other things — allow the Knesset to override court decisions with the barest majority, preemptively shield laws from judicial oversight, and put the selection of judges in the hands of coalition politicians.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 23, 2023
An Israeli truck driver came under fire near the West Bank town of Shufa, medics say.
According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, the man is unharmed.
He reached the nearby settlement of Avnei Hefetz, where forces identified several bullet holes in his truck, the service adds.
There is no immediate comment from the military on the incident.
Lapid refuses Regev’s demand that Independence Day remain protest-free: ‘Can’t pretend we’re celebrating together’
Opposition leader Yair Lapid refuses to issue a joint statement with Transportation Minister Miri Regev calling for Israel’s Independence Day to be free of protests.
“We will not pretend that we are celebrating together and that everything is fine while the government is tearing apart the people of Israel and erasing democracy, and we will not sit back and watch another embarrassing show of flattery for the Netanyahu family,” Lapid says in a statement.
Opposition MK Chili Tropper called yesterday for coalition lawmakers to agree that Israel’s Memorial Day, the day before Independence Day, should be free of protests.
According to the Walla news site, MK Benny Gantz’s National Unity party signed onto the agreement and Economy Minister Nir Barkat was recruiting signatories from the Likud party.
However, Regev, who is in charge of the country’s central Independence Day ceremony, refused unless the agreement was extended to that day also.
Memorial Day, set to begin the evening of April 24, sees large swaths of the Israeli public visiting the graves of loved ones who have been killed. Many of the ceremonies around the country feature speeches by ministers.
There are minor scuffles between police and demonstrators in Tel Aviv. It is unclear how the confrontations began on Yigal Alon Street.
Police say they prevented dozens of protesters from blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv at the Arlozorov interchange.
Dozens of large gatherings around the country are expected to draw as many as half a million people to the streets in major cities, on highways and outside coalition members’ homes for a “day of paralysis” to protest the judicial overhaul.
Dozens of members of bereaved military families demonstrate outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
Gavriella Zimmerman, whose son Amir was killed in 2004, says that she felt she had no choice other than to protest.
“As a bereaved mother it’s hard to wave the flag, but I feel like I am on the edge of the abyss — one small push and we will fall in and won’t come back again,” she tells the Walla news site.
“This is not what Amir died for, a ruined country,” she says.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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