Knesset member Moti Yogev from the right-wing party Jewish Home on Thursday backtracked on comments made Wednesday that seemed to call for the destruction of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem.
In the wake of a High Court of Justice ruling Wednesday morning upholding the court’s own demolition order against two illegal buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, Yogev, a vocal advocate of the settlement movement, railed against the decision, saying: “We have to take the blade of a D-9 [bulldozer] to the High Court of Justice.”
In an interview with Israel Radio Thursday, Yogev said his comments were unnecessary and that it’s possible he shouldn’t have made them.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum slammed the far-right MK Wednesday for his comment.
“Israel is a law-abiding democracy that respects the court’s decision,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “That’s how it always was, and how it will be.”
The prime minister “categorically rejects the statements against the Supreme Court,” the statement said.
“The Supreme Court is an important and eminent institution. I don’t always agree with its rulings, but they must be respected,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from Yogev’s own party, said in an address to the Knesset plenum on Wednesday afternoon. “Of course I disavow” Yogev’s comments, she said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, told Israel Radio Wednesday that he had reprimanded the lawmaker in a private conversation.
Other lawmakers called for disciplinary and legal action against Yogev.
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) filed an official complaint with the parliament’s Ethics Committee over what he said amounted a call for violence by Yogev.
“In light of his statements, I demand that every statutory tool possible be used against him,” he told the committee.
Added Hasson, “MK Yogev is attempting to harm democracy with his wild and unambiguous incitement. Instead of calming the storm and calling for the protesters to respect the rule of law, MK Yogev is calling for out-and-out violence.”
Bulldozers began tearing down the buildings in Beit El at midday Wednesday, after the High Court turned down a 11th-hour petition against the demolition, ruling the buildings were situated on private Palestinian land that was seized by the IDF in the 1970s. There were reports of clashes between settlers and security forces at the site.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said she had “turned to the attorney general asking him to file an urgent indictment on suspicion that Yogev’s statements go beyond the framework of his immunity as a member of Knesset.”
Yogev’s comment, Rozin charged, amounts to “sedition against the state.”
Yogev responded to the outpouring of criticism in a Facebook post, saying his statement was meant as “a metaphor.”
The judiciary, he charged, was “aggressive in its judicial activism, and has unilaterally claimed the mantle of leadership and decision making, deciding where the tractor’s blade is used to destroy Jewish settlement, and on the other hand where illegal construction in the Arab sector can be authorized.”
Yogev’s explanation did nothing to stop the deluge of criticism.
“How dare they call themselves the ‘national camp’ and attack the rule of law and the court?” demanded Yesh Atid party leader MK Yair Lapid.
“I call on my Knesset colleagues to show restraint in their public statements and respect for the Supreme Court,” Kulanu MK Michael Oren said. “The images of violent protests against the court’s decision regarding Beit El are liable to divert world opinion from the Iranian nuclear deal — Israel’s most pressing issue — and the efforts to resist it in the United States.”
“MK Moti Yogev exposes the real face of Jewish Home, a party that wants to destroy not only the High Court, but democracy in Israel,” charged Meretz’s MK Issawi Frej.