Netanyahu bows to pressing demands to shelve judicial reform until summer

After a tense 10-hour delay, PM Binyamin Netanyahu finally agreed Monday night, March 27, to hold back the contentious judicial reform bill until the next Knesset session. He was mum on his widely condemned dismissal of Yoav Galant as defense minister. The anti-reform protesters called off their “day of disruption” due on Tuesday. The general strike declared by the Histadrut trade unions was cancelled.

In his broadcast address, Netanyahu announced that he had put on hold the second and third readings of the Judges Appointments bill due for enactment that day out of a sense of national responsibility, a will to avert a split in the country and the need to seize the opportunity for broad consensus. He denounced the refusal by military reservists to serve as intolerable and must be stopped.
“I am not willing to rend the country to shreds,” Netanyahu said. “We must remember that we are not facing enemies but brethren. Israel society has entered on a collision course, a dangerous crisis that undermines our fundamental unity. He welcomed opposition leader Benny Gantz’s standing offer of dialogue.

Replying to the prime minister, Benny Ganz welcomed his action as a first step towards averting civil war – ”Better late than never” he commented – and agreed to present himself at the president’s residence to discuss the formulation of a basic law representing broad consent. The aim must be to strengthen democracy and civil rights as well as repairing agreed-upon flaws in the judicial system.

DEBKAfile reported on Monday morning.

With PM Binyamin Netanyahu apparently poised to halt his government’s judicial reform legislation, the meeting of coalition leaders Monday morning, March 27 broke up in wild disorder forcing him to postpone his statement. Meanwhile, spurred by his dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Galant Sunday night, the HIstadrut Trade Unions Federation declared a general strike, shutting down public services – excepting the health services that went on emergency footing – shopping malls, schools Takeoffs were cancelled at Ben Gurion airport stranding 72,000 travelers. Mayors and local council leaders declared a hunger strike in support of Galant’s pressing demand Sunday night to halt the legislation, the cause of his dismissal.
At the other extreme, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, backed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, author of the reform plan, threatened to bring the government down if the prime minister reversed his decision sack the defense minister. An NGO petitioned the HIgh Court to overrule this decision as unlawful and jeopardizing national secrurity.

The minister’s dismissal Sunday night further energized the popular outcry against the reform plan, claiming that it undermined democratic rule by vesting in the government too much control of the judiciary. Galant was impelled to demand a halt on the process out of grave concern over the extent to which the popular anti-reform storm of dissent was infecting the armed forces and affecting their combat readiness – initially drawing in cause reservists of combat units and pilots and latterly conscripts – at a time of grave multiple threats to national security.  
As the minister spoke, some anti-reform demonstrations spilled over into over violence. Opposition Labor member and former security minister Bar Lev called on the government for urgent action to assume control of the popular disaffection movement which was deteriorating into “a civil uprising.”

Monday morning, opposition leader, Yair Lapid said: “This is madness. The government has lost its way. Reverse Galant’s dismissal and let’s talk.”
The heads of the coalition parties were called into session early Monday when a key element of the reform program The Basic Law on the Judges Appointment panel’s composition, was scheduled to go before the Knesset for its second and third readings. Netanyahu now appears poised to shelve legislation at least until after the national holidays next month and possibly reverse Galant’s dismissal, in response to the clamorous demands at all hands. He must then fight back against the threat of some members of  his own party and fellow-coalition members to bring his government down.

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