Netanyahu vows to crack down on protesters as military reservists walkout

Jerusalem, Mar 19 (EFE).- Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who have been protesting his coalition government’s judicial reforms for nearly two months of being anarchists after hundreds of military reservists halted their volunteer service on Sunday

“We won’t accept anarchy,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting, a day after around half a million Israelis demonstrated across the country, according to organizers.

The PM said Israel faced “three fights”, Iran’s nuclear threat, Palestinian “terrorism” and the “lawlessness” of demonstrators, who have been wreaking havoc for 11 consecutive weeks.

Netanyahu called on his chief of staff Herzi Halevi to crack down on “insubordination” after hundreds of elite military reservists stopped volunteering earlier on Sunday to protest the hard line coalition government’s judicial reforms, which critics say are a threat to democracy and undermine judicial independence.

Netanyahu urged the leaders of Israel’s security forces to adopt “a tougher stance” against protesters and insisted police commissioner Kobi Shabtai do more to stop protestors from blocking roads after the government’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvit, accused the police of acting with excessive caution.

“There is no place in the public discourse for refusing to serve,” the PM said before adding that the government would not be tolerating “such phenomena.”

Israel’s embattled leader made an appeal to national security agency Shin Bet to crack down on alleged incitement against him and his allies.

Israel has been very polarized and divided since the new Netanyahu government, the most right-wing and religious in the country’s history, took office in late December.

Netanyahu has been steaming ahead with controversial judicial reforms which the opposition and broad sectors of society have fiercely fought against.

On Tuesday, the Israeli parliament approved in an initial hearing a controversial bill that would allow a simple parliamentary majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings, a key element of a broader judicial overhaul that has sparked the country’s largest protests in decades.

The approval of the annulment clause could pave the way for parliament to legislate with a simple majority. It would also make it harder for the Supreme Court to strike down laws by raising the voting threshold from a simple majority to a minimum of 12 of its 15 judges.

Another key element of the reforms would give the coalition government, led by right-wing PM Netanyahu and his hardline religious and far-right allies, five of the nine seats on the Judicial Selection Committee, with just a simple majority needed to appoint judges for all Israeli courts.

President Isaac Herzog proposed alternative changes that were rejected by the far-right government earlier this week.

Amid widespread discontent, Netanyahu said he would hold talks later on Sunday with the leaders of the coalition government to discuss some adjustments to the judicial reform. EFE


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