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Israel PM suspends judicial reform, pledges to approve militia run by Ben-Gvir

March 28, 2023 at 8:28 am

Israeli police officers intervene some protesters as hundreds of Israelis gather to protest against the Israeli government’s plan to introduce judicial changes in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 27, 2023. [Saeed Qaq – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday announced the suspension of legislation on the planned judicial overhaul to avoid “civil war”.

“When there’s an option to avoid civil war through dialogue, I take a time-out for dialogue,”  Netanyahu said in televised remarks.

This came after 12 weeks of mass protests across the country, which have damaged the economy and led to army reservists refusing to respond to calls to duty.

It also came a day after Netanyahu fired his defence minister for proposing the planned overhaul be suspended.

Netanyahu accused the “extremist minority” of “trying to tear our country apart,” but said that the legislation would pass sooner or later.

He said he allowed the “delay” to provide “a real opportunity for real dialogue,” but stressed that “either way”, a reform would be passed to “restore the balance.”

READ: Netanyahu backs down on judicial reform as protests rage Israel

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir withdrew threats to resign.

“I went outside and saw the anarchists’ demonstration and understood that if I resign, it will give them a victory. They will not win,” Ben-Gvir said. Netanyahu has, however, promised to create a “national guard” under Ben-Gvir’s command in exchange for the minister withdrawing his planned resignation.

He also said in a statement: “I agreed to remove the veto to reject the legislation in exchange for a commitment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the legislation would be submitted to the Knesset for approval in the next session.”

“The people want reform, and they will get it, but we also have to look at what’s going on outside. It can’t be ignored,” Levin reportedly added.

Opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz said they’re ready to take part in talks, to be overseen by President Isaac Herzog. Lapid said his goal is to reach an agreement for an Israeli constitution but warned that if Netanyahu tries any “tricks” the protests will resume.

READ: Israel PM fires defence minister over criticism of judicial overhaul