Benny Gantz .
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening Israeli democracy, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz warned in his inaugural speech to the Knesset on Monday.
Gantz mentioned his 38 years in the IDF, saying: “After I fought against enemies who sought to erase us from the Earth, I come today to battle against the new threat to the democratic system’s functioning, and legal and constitutional institutions of the state.”
The Blue and White leader’s comments came after Netanyahu firmly denied a report that the party is seeking to revoke the High Court’s oversight on government decisions and Knesset votes.
However, Likud has been working on an immunity bill for elected officials, which seeks to reverse a change in the law from 2005 and have all MKs automatically be immune to prosecution unless the Knesset votes to strip them of their immunity.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on three counts of breach of trust, three of fraud and one of bribery – pending a hearing, set to take place later this year – and the immunity bill could prevent that from happening as long as Netanyahu remains in office.
In addition, the Likud supports Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal of an “override clause,” which would allow the Knesset to re-pass laws that the Supreme Court struck down.
The bills would be part of a “judicial appendix” in coalition agreements, consisting of planned reforms to the judiciary.
Gantz lamented “the amount of accusations [Netanyahu is] trying to avoid through political agreements,” saying this proves that the prime minister puts himself before everything.
“Israel needs leadership that is modest and not arrogant, that is not suspected of bribery, that has time to handle the needs of the state, that verve’s all its citizens,” Gantz said. “It deserves more than a part-time prime minister, and leadership that wants to be above the law.”
Gantz vowed that his party will protect democracy “that is not the tyranny of the majority, but a government that respects the minority, respects the need for limitations of government power and the necessary balance.”
Haaretz reported on Monday that Netanyahu hopes to advance a bill that will mean the Supreme Court can no longer cancel or require changes to government decisions or laws passed by the Knesset. This would prevent the court from overturning any of the measures in the “judicial appendix.”
Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page: “My policy has always been to keep the court strong and independent, but that doesn’t mean the court is omnipotent.
“The media is publishing biased leaks and twisted interpretations that include incorrect proposals,” he added. “All this is meant to sow fear and prevent any changes, with a goal to stop bringing back the necessary balance between branches of government in Israel.”
When the balance is restored, Netanyahu wrote, the government will bring back bills to deport terrorists’ families, to make it easier to sentence terrorists to death and to deport migrants.
Smotrich has made his appointment as justice minister a condition of URP joining the coalition, but Netanyahu prefers to give the portfolio to his close ally, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid slammed the override clause, calling it the “Turkish Law.”
“It’s a law that will turn us into Erdogan’s Turkey,” he said at a press conference in the Knesset. “If these laws pass, Israel won’t be the same country. Ask yourselves: In which countries does the ruler have immunity from the law?”
Lapid referred to Netanyahu’s attorneys asking Mandelblit to postpone the premier’s pre-indictment hearing, scheduled for July.
“The attorney-general should cancel Netanyahu’s hearing. He doesn’t deserve one... Netanyahu doesn’t really want a hearing. He wants one thing: to drag the process out. He needs to form his ‘get out of jail’ government,” Lapid said.
According to Lapid, Netanyahu is trying to postpone the hearing until after the Knesset can pass the immunity bill and override clause so that he will be able to avoid the hearing entirely.
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