Olmert calls on world leaders to shun Netanyahu for ‘destroying’ Israel’s democracy

Former prime minister says government is ‘anti-Israel’ and country isn’t represented by current PM, state leaders should ‘scorn’ him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Ehud Olmert in 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Ehud Olmert in 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday urged world leaders to shun Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and instead show that they “scorn” him due to the government’s plans to drastically overhaul the judiciary.

“Any leader who defines themselves as a friend of Israel should come out against the Israeli government,” Olmert told Channel 12 news in an interview. “The Israeli government is anti-Israeli and I urge you to scorn the prime minister.”

Olmer asserted that Israel “is not represented by the person who is going to destroy the democratic foundations of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu’s coalition, a collection of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, has barreled ahead with legislation that aims to weaken the High Court of Justice, give the government control over the appointment of judges, and allow the parliament to shield laws from judicial oversight.

The coalition says the plan is a long-overdue measure to curb what they see as an overpowered, overreaching court. But critics say the plan will destroy Israel’s fragile system of checks and balances by concentrating power in the hands of the parliamentary majority. They also say it is an attempt by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, to escape justice.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets over the past two months to protest the sweeping overhaul.

High-tech leaders, Nobel-winning economists and prominent security officials have spoken out against it, military reservists have threatened to stop reporting for duty and even some of Israel’s closest allies, including the US, have urged Netanyahu to slow down. Repeated efforts by President Isaac Herzog to broker a compromise have not yielded fruit. Herzog on Wednesday unveiled his own compromise proposal, which was swiftly dismissed by Netanyahu and coalition members.

Olmert said that he backs Herzog’s proposal. He also speculated that, based on his assessments of Netanyahu’s recent appearances, the premier is heading for “a nervous breakdown.”

Olmert has had an extraordinarily bitter relationship with Netanyahu. In 2022, a court ruled in favor of a defamation lawsuit filed by the Netanyahu family against Olmert, who had to pay the family a total of NIS 97,500 ($28,000) for having asserted in two interviews in April 2021 that Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and son Yair, were “irreparably” mentally ill.

Olmert has joined protests against the overhaul, and last month Netanyahu’s Likud party filed a police complaint for alleged incitement after he told a Tel Aviv rally that “what is needed is to go onto the next stage, the stage of war, and war is not carried out with speeches, war is carried out face to face.”

Olmert preceded Netanyahu as prime minister, ending his term before being formally indicted on corruption charges. He was convicted of fraud in 2014 and served 16 months in prison.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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