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Israel: Gantz accuses Netanyahu of 'coup d'état' and pushing towards 'civil war'

Outgoing Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, on January 20, 2022 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, on January 20, 2022 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

The leader of the Israeli opposition centre-right National Unity party, Benny Gantz, called on Sunday for citizens to take to the streets in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed judicial overhaul. Gantz, the former Defence Minister, argued that the majority of Israelis oppose what he described as Netanyahu's "coup d'etat".

Speaking at a party meeting in parliament, Gantz said that Netanyahu's judicial reform plan will lead to "civil war" and stressed that, "It's time to go out en masse and demonstrate; it's time to make the country tremble."

However, Netanyahu told his party that he is trying to "return Israel to the correct balance" between political and judicial authorities, similar to that in the US and EU countries. Moreover, he argued that his government "got a clear mandate from the public to execute" plans that his coalition previewed during elections, including judicial reform. "We are not afraid of the one-sided media campaign against us," he added.

Gantz warned Netanyahu that if he continues on this path, he will be responsible for "civil war" in Israel. "The plan will have a fatal impact on national security, both in the sense of the resilience of citizens in all segments of society, and in the ability of the High Court of Justice and the legal system to be our legal 'Iron Dome' vis-à-vis the world."

READ: Israel Netanyahu accused of 'eliminating democracy' amid judicial reform row

Referring to Netanyahu's corruption charges, Gantz added: "If you [Netanyahu] believe that a legal injustice has been done to you, do not correct it with injustice to the State of Israel and to Israeli society. This is an anti-patriotic and anti-Zionist act."

Any protests being staged, insisted the former minister, are not against Netanyahu or against the government. "They are against the demolition of democracy and this unbridled, destructive move."

In response, Netanyahu accused Gantz of "planting the seeds of disaster" by calling the public out to the streets, adding that he was "shocked" as he saw Gantz calling for "sedition from within the Knesset."

At the same time, extreme far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, said: "We also saw great harm to democracy, incitement against [Justice] Minister Yariv Levin blocking roads." Levin presented the judicial reforms that will, according to the Israeli opposition, paralyse the High Court of Justice. "I am in favour of protests," added Ben-Gvir, "but anyone who blocks roads and who gets wild needs to be arrested."

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