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Political pressure growing on Netanyahu to pause judicial overhaul

An aerial view shows Israelis protesting, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalist coalition government presses on with its judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine, on March 25, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Top lawmakers from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party have backed the regime's minister of military affairs Yoav Gallant’s call to halt the controversial judicial overhaul, fearing that the parliamentary majority could be eroded.

On Sunday, Yuli Edelstein, a Likud lawmaker who chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the cabinet to slow down the legislative push to enable discussion and revisions.

“We don't want to bury the reforms, but bringing it to a vote before it is clear that there is support for it would be adventurism that is best avoided,” Edelstein said.

On Saturday, Gallant called on the regime's far-right cabinet to halt the legislation for several weeks, saying the bitter dispute it has caused is posing a threat to the occupying regime itself.

Gallant said Netanyahu needs to hold talks with the opposition and asked it to wait until after the Jewish Passover holiday, which begins on April 5, before pushing ahead with the judicial changes.

His statement indicated the first crack in Netanyahu’s coalition, the most right-wing cabinet in Israel. A stance that received public support from two other Likud politicians and the reported backing of a third, while others in the party castigated him and National Security Minister, Ben Gvir, demanded that he be fired.

Gallant's statement was welcomed by senior Likud lawmaker David Bitan and also a junior Likud lawmaker, Eli Dalal, who spoke last week in favor of suspending the legislation. But it was not clear if they or others in Likud might abstain in a ratification vote.

“As I already said several weeks ago, the legislation should be stopped and immediate negotiations should be started and broad agreements should be reached. I back the words of my friend the defense minister,” Bitan said.

Earlier Saturday, it was reported that Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter spoke with Netanyahu and other Likud MKs, asking to stop the judicial overhaul bills until after April 26.

With a solid majority of 64 out of 120 in parliament, the coalition would still have enough votes without Gallant and three others, unless more lawmakers back down from the proposed changes.

Moreover, on Thursday, Netanyahu said that he would get personally involved in the controversial package of measures to overhaul the country’s judicial system. He also said it would vote to pass next week the bill to put key Supreme Court appointments, including its presidency, directly in coalition control.

He also vowed that his cabinet remained determined to “responsibly advance the ... reform that will restore the proper balance between the authorities.”

Netanyahu, who returned early on Sunday from a visit to London, did not immediately comment on the dissent in his party.

Mass protests have gripped the Zionist regime since it announced its proposed judicial reforms in January. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have faced off against police in the streets weekly.

The latest protest against the plan saw tens of thousands rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Local media estimated 200,000 people turned out for the demonstration.

The Israeli regime has been pushing for changes that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers to rule against the legislative and executive branches of government and give coalition lawmakers more power in appointing judges.

Critics say the changes will weaken the courts and hand unbridled power to the regime, endangering rights and liberties with catastrophic effects on the economy. They also fear Netanyahu wants to leverage the judicial push to freeze or void his trial on corruption charges, which he denies.

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