Protesters up pressure on Likud ministers who have signaled concern about overhaul

Rallies held near homes of Yuli Edelstein, Yoav Gallant; some activists berate Nir Barkat at Haifa restaurant, with one warning ‘we won’t give you a minute of rest’

Activists opposed to the judicial overhaul protest Economy Minister Nir Barkat as he gives a speech at a conference in Haifa, March 21, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Activists opposed to the judicial overhaul protest Economy Minister Nir Barkat as he gives a speech at a conference in Haifa, March 21, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Anti-government protesters demonstrated Tuesday against several senior members of the ruling Likud party, as part of rallies against the government’s far-reaching plans to change the judicial system.

Some 300 people rallied near Likud MK Yuli Edelstein’s home in Herzliya, upping the pressure on him to take a stronger stand against the government plan to radically reshape the balance between the executive branch and the judiciary.

Edelstein has previously urged the coalition to pause the legislative process to facilitate negotiations with the opposition, and even skipped several votes on bills, earning himself sanctions from the coalition.

“It is time to topple the dictator,” was written on one of the signs, according to the Ynet news site, with another saying: “Democracy or rebellion.”

Dozens of protesters also rallied outside Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s home in Moshav Amikam in northern Israel, following reports Monday that he warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he could resign if the push to upend the judiciary is not slowed down.

The rally came as a protest group representing reserve soldiers and officers said they would begin to sign reservists on to a declaration of refusal to serve, which would be implemented should the government move ahead with the overhaul.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant seen during a tour near the border with Lebanon, northern Israel, March 16, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Also Tuesday, activists against the judicial overhaul filmed themselves berating Economy Minister Nir Barkat in Haifa, prompting him to quickly leave a restaurant.

“Aren’t you ashamed? We won’t be able to go to the army. Shame!” one activist said, referring to the many IDF reservists who have or are threatening to stop volunteering for reserve duty due to the government plan.

Another person shouted: “Thieves! Criminals! You son of a bitch, filth. We won’t give you a minute of rest.”

They followed Barkat all the way to his car, calling him a “coward” and referencing a series of bills being advanced aimed at personally benefiting Netanyahu and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri.

Meanwhile, a Likud source was quoted by Ynet as saying that Barkat was fully coordinated with Netanyahu when he said earlier Tuesday that he will respect the High Court of Justice’s decision if it overturns a key piece of legislation that is a key part of the judicial shakeup package.

Barkat explained that he would do so to avoid a constitutional crisis, drawing a Likud response decrying the “absurd discussion” of such a prospect and reiterating the party’s position that the High Court has no place intervening in the proposed legislation.

As he spoke, Barkat was heckled by anti-overhaul protesters in the audience.

Economy Minister Nir Barkat speaks during a conference in Haifa, March 21, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

The comment came a day after Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is spearheading the judicial overhaul, said that if the High Court overturns the bill to remake the Judicial Selection Committee, it would “mark the crossing of every red line. We certainly won’t accept it.”

The source reportedly said the timing of Barkat’s remark “wasn’t a coincidence.”

Barkat’s comment was the latest indication that some Likud lawmakers are uncomfortable with the government’s determined rush to enact legislation, part of a plan that will politicize appointments to the judiciary and radically constrain the court’s ability to act as a check against the government’s power. There have been mass protests against the overhaul, which critics warn will destroy Israel’s democratic character.

However, despite growing expressions of uneasiness and calls by some party lawmakers for compromise, they all unanimously voted Monday at the Likud faction meeting to approve swiftly passing the bill to change judicial selection.

Most Popular
read more: