Jerusalem, Mar 23 (EFE).- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he will strive to achieve “the broadest possible consensus” on his right-wing government’s proposed judicial overhaul, which has sparked three months of some of the largest protests in the history of Israel.
“We have one state and we must do everything to protect it from outside threats and from an irreparable rift inside,” the country’s longest-serving prime minister said in a televised speech.
“We can’t let any disagreement, however fierce, endanger our joint future,” Netanyahu said on a day that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets of Israel’s major cities for another round of protests against the ruling coalition’s bid to restrict the power of the Supreme Court and give lawmakers control over judicial selection.
The main elements of the plan put forward by Justice Minister Yariv Levin are a provision allowing a simple majority of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament – to overturn Supreme Court decisions and a change in judicial selection that would increase the power of politicians.
Currently, the high court has the authority to strike down legislation it sees as violating the Basic Laws that make up Israel’s evolving constitution, while judges are chosen by consensus among jurists and lawmakers,
Opponents say the Levin bill would undermine the separation of powers and Israel’s democratic identity.
Netanyahu has called on opposition parties to negotiate the content of the reform, but they are unwilling to talk unless the government suspends consideration of the bill in the Knesset, a condition rejected by the prime minister.
“I believe that it is possible to bring a reform that provides an answer to both sides, a reform to restore the balance between the branches (of government), to protect and enshrine the individual rights of all citizens,” the prime minister said Thursday night.
After insisting that the Knesset will approve the judicial selection provision as written, Netanyahu sought to reassure people concerned about the implications of the reform for civil rights.
“I intend to anchor in law individual rights – we will guarantee the rights – of all Israeli citizens – Jews and non-Jews, secular and Orthodox, women, LGBTQ – all of them, without exception. All legislation will be obligated to those principles. We intend to present detailed legislation to this effect,” he said.
The speech appeared to make little impact on the anti-reform partisans, who resumed protesting in Tel Aviv after Netanyahu spoke, according to the Times of Israel, which said that police used water cannon to disperse demonstrators blocking roads.
Thursday’s rallies followed the Knesset’s passage of a law making it impossible for the Supreme Court to suspend Netanyahu – now on trial for alleged corruption – from office on the basis of conflict of interest.
People set up roadblocks outside the private homes of coalition members such as Shas party chief Aryeh Deri, barred from the Cabinet by the Supreme Court due to his criminal convictions. EFE