ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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'In the spirit of Hanukkah, we will drive away the darkness'

Protest sounds alarm against emerging coalition: ‘Conversion therapy’ on democracy

Head of Movement for Quality Government in Israel tells Tel Aviv demonstrators that members of expected incoming government are ‘men of malice, convicted criminals’

Israelis protest against the expected incoming government at a demonstration organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022.  (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis protest against the expected incoming government at a demonstration organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Several hundred people gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against the expected incoming government headed by Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that Israel’s democracy was at stake.

The protest, under the title “This is an emergency, Israeli democracy is in danger,” was organized by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a non-profit organization that aims to protect the public interest.

Netanyahu’s bloc — consisting of his Likud party, two ultra-Orthodox factions, and three far-right parties — has been pushing contentious legislation through the Knesset as a political pre-condition for finalizing the hardline government ahead of the Wednesday deadline to declare a coalition.

Movement for Quality Government in Israel chairman Eliad Shraga, addressing the crowd, called members of the incoming government, “men of malice, convicted criminals, and potential convicts.”

He said members of the expected government are attempting “conversion therapy” on Israel’s democracy, a reference to pseudo-scientific, unfounded methods that propose the treatment of homosexuality as a mental illness.

The practice remains accepted in some conservative and religious circles, including the support base of some parties heading into the expected coalition.

Eliad Shraga, lawyer and founder of the Movement for the Quality of Government speaks at a protest against the emerging government organized in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“We will never give up our liberties, rights, and freedoms And we will never, but never, surrender to either corruption or corrupt criminals,” Shraga pledged.

Former defense minister and IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon said Netanyahu sacrificed the interests of the state in favor of his own personal needs, and vowed to work toward the expected incoming government’s early collapse.

“We will work through three channels — we will work through a political channel as opposition in the Knesset, we will work through the legal channel led by the Movement for the Quality of Government, and we will work through the protest channel with citizens who will take to the streets,” Ya’alon said.

“In the spirit of Hanukkah, we will drive away the darkness,” Ya’alon concluded, referring to the Jewish festival set to begin Sunday evening.

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon speaks at a protest against the expected incoming government in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Outgoing Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli praised the demonstration, tweeting: “Against a dark and dangerous wave, you stand with a tremendous beam of light. In the end, the light will prevail and win.”

Legislation planned by the emerging coalition includes a High Court override clause that will curtail the judiciary by allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws that are struck down by the High Court.

Members of the incoming coalition have vowed to pass the override clause, and also to give the governing coalition of the day control over the panel that selects justices.

The legislation, demanded by the Religious Zionism and United Torah Judaism parties as well as numerous Likud MKs, would likely allow the Knesset to re-legislate any such law or enact legislation with immunity from court review from the outset.

Israelis protest against the expected incoming coalition with a picture depicting coalition partners as Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu’s spine, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The proposed judicial changes — particularly the override clause — have been denounced by Netanyahu’s political rivals and prominent legal figures as destructive to Israel’s democratic system, leaving the parliamentary majority of the day with no brakes on its power.

The bloc has also been pushing through legislation demanded by Likud’s far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners that will clear a path for a party leader serving a suspended sentence — Shas’s Aryeh Deri — to helm ministries.

The bill will also enable a member of Religious Zionism, likely party leader Bezalel Smotrich, to become an independent minister in the Defense Ministry in control of West Bank building, giving unprecedented control over the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli protesters demonstrate against the expected incoming government coalition at a protest organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash9)

Other bills in the pipeline will expand the authority of the national security minister, set to be Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir, over the police force, and another will make it harder for rebel MKs to peel off from their parliamentary factions without sanction.

The likely incoming coalition wants the bills to pass into law before the government is sworn in, with Netanyahu having until December 21 to declare he has cobbled together a coalition and a week after that to get the coalition approved by the Knesset.

Last week Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara cautioned that the proposed bills could render Israel a “democracy in name only.” Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut has also spoken out against planned changes relating to the court system.

Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox and far-right partners won 64 of the 120 Knesset seats in the November 1 elections. Netanyahu has been working since then to finalize agreements with his Likud party’s partners. He has until a December 20 deadline to complete the task.

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