Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the Conference of Presidents that, while Israel is “in the midst of a little debate on judicial reform” and he would like to discuss it at length and tell his audience “why you shouldn’t worry,” he cannot elaborate.
He is prevented from doing so “because I’ve been given a gag order,” he tells the US group’s annual mission event in Jerusalem. “I’m not making this up…. After all, who am I? I’m just the prime minister of Israel — what have I got to say about this thing that is gripping the nation?”
He calls the order — a reference to the 2020 conflict of interest agreement that allows him to continue to serve as prime minister while on trial, but not to deal with matters that might affect the trial — “patently ridiculous.” And he says he and colleagues, including President Isaac Herzog, are “working on it.”
He says there are three key points he will make, however.
One, “Israel is a democracy and will remain a democracy, with majority rule and proper safeguards for civil liberties.”
Two, “All democracies should respect the will of other free peoples, just as we respect their democratic decisions.” The comments follow the remark by US Ambassador Tom Nides yesterday that Israel should “pump the brakes” on its contentious plan — a call Nides has just repeated to the conference.
And three, “There’s been a lot of rhetoric that is frankly reckless and dangerous, including calls for bloodshed in the streets and calls for civil war.” This is a reference to rhetoric voiced during the widespread protests against the judicial shakeup, which the coalition says constitutes incitement to political violence.
He says this has encouraged Hezbollah and other enemies “to believe this nonsense.”
He says Israel’s enemies will be disappointed. “Israel’s enemies, if you are waiting for civil war — there will be no bloodshed, I hope, none at all.”
Israel has heated debates and is a rambunctious democracy, he says. But “we are one people, with one destiny, with one country, one faith,” he says, vowing to continue to build the one and only Jewish state.
“We will continue to work to secure that homeland for generations to come.”