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Israel Justice Minister threatens to resign over state of judiciary reform plan

February 17, 2023 at 8:06 am

Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem [Israeli Parliament/Anadolu Agency]

A heated crisis is reported to have erupted between Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Justice Minister, Yariv Levin, which prompted Levin to threaten with submitting his resignation and dissolving the government, over the state of the judiciary reform plan.

The Israeli Channel 12 indicated that the crisis has erupted with the accumulation of differences between Levin and Netanyahu over the government’s strategy to advance the “reform” plan, pointing out that Levin has threatened to “resign and dissolve the government”, if significant changes are made to the plan.

This comes in light of growing public protests against the plan, described by opponents as “would destroy democratic values, isolate Israel internationally by weakening the courts, granting the executive authority absolute powers, and endangering human rights and civil liberties”.

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According to the report, tension between the two men began a few weeks ago, as Netanyahu sought to soften elements of the sweeping reform plan in response to public protests, while Levin stood by the original plan, refusing to make any concessions.

“Yariv Levin is pushing this to the extreme for political reasons. There is no doubt he will be the chief beneficiary if the Attorney General orders Netanyahu’s recusal [for breaching a conflict of interest agreement]. Netanyahu has lost trust and is trying to lead the reform himself, but the Attorney General is preventing it” Channel 12 quoted one source close to Netanyahu as saying.

The sources said Netanyahu “is very interested in passing the reform, and did not expect that Levin would lead these measures in such a strict manner without creating room for manoeuvre”.

The report said Netanyahu is “ready” to compromise with the opposition on a judicial reform plan, but that he “needs a coalition and does not want Levin to resign”.

The offices of both Netanyahu and Levin have strongly rejected the report.

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Meanwhile, a report from Kan News, on Wednesday, claimed that Netanyahu was in contact with “economists, commentators and business executives” in Britain and the United States, hoping to convince them of the legitimacy of the coalition’s legal reforms.

Citing confidantes of Netanyahu, the report asserted the conversations were a matter of routine for the Prime Minister. “This is nothing new,” it said.

The judicial reform plan gives the government broad powers over judicial appointments, and will weaken the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn laws or issue rulings against the Executive authority.

Three years ago, during Netanyahu’s previous term, he signed an agreement with the government’s Attorney General, committing to refrain from “conflict of interest”, in order to prevent his isolation at the time, in light of his trial in corruption cases.

Last month, the Attorney General confirmed that the agreement was still valid, and prevented Netanyahu from dealing with the judicial reform plan and any changes to the judicial system that would affect his trial.

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