Netanyahu's Likud dismisses mutiny claims as MKs, ministers speak out

Earlier on Friday, Likud MK Eli Dallal announced that he would only support legislation on which there is a strong consensus.

 Prime Minis4er Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Likud party speaks with Miki Zohar during a Likud party meeting in the Israeli parliament on January 25, 2016 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Prime Minis4er Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Likud party speaks with Miki Zohar during a Likud party meeting in the Israeli parliament on January 25, 2016
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Likud party denied that a rebellion was occurring within its party over the judicial reform on Saturday night, as over the weekend multiple Knesset members called for broad agreements and even refused to advance measures not created through consensus.

"There is no rebellion in Likud. Everyone wants to come to an agreement and you have to make an effort for that -- but without giving the veto to the other side," said the Likud party. "Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu will work with all his strength to lead the continuation of the legislation with broad agreements in the future as well, as much as possible."

After passing the reasonableness standard law on Monday, Netanyahu had called for negotiations by November to reach agreements, the Likud party reminded.

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein said in an interview on Channel 12's Meet the Press on Saturday night that he had advocated for negotiations since the reform was proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin in January.

He said that he had "fallen asleep a little" in his advocacy, having hoped that there would be better terms or an agreement, but on both sides, the talks collapsed and Opposition leader Yair Lapid and National Unity leader Benny Gantz pulled out from the President's Residence.

"Every time there is a compromise proposal, someone vetoes it - enough, Edelstein told Channel 12. "From now on they will need to explain from A to Z what is going to vote, when it's advancing, and what formula. This is the new reality, and this is my lesson. If not, it looks like they will need to make do without me."

Edelstein said that he hadn't coordinated with other Likud MKs, but said that other people had learned their lesson and about the importance of consensus, including MK David Bitan. He said he had spoken to Netanyahu about his concerns, and that the prime minister was seeking an agreement.

After the interview, Edelstein took to Twitter to warn those engaging in "extreme protests" would only strengthen the right. He said that the Likud extended a hand to the "sane majority."

Likud MKs, ministers speak out

Over the weekend other Likud MKs had made appeals for consensus on judicial reform to bridge national divides, often evoking the fast day of Tisha Be'av which commemorates the destruction of the temples and other tragedies -- some of which were believed to be caused by baseless hatred and national division.

Likud MK Eli Dalal wrote on Twitter on Friday that Tisha Be'av, was a period of reflection, to learn from the past and bridge the rifts in the people of Israel.

"I announce that I will only support moves that are achieved through a broad national consensus," Dalal said.

Dalal had also withdrawn on Thursday a private bill to alter the powers of the Attorney-General's Office, a promise of many judicial reform proposals. Canceling his involvement in the bill after the Likud said it hadn't supported its advancement, Dalal had said that he had withdrawn the legislation in order to pursue national consensus and dialogue.

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter wrote on Facebook on Friday about how extremists on both sides could cause discord, citing Tisha Be'av and the story of the zealots "bullies" who burned down food storehouses as a parallel.

"Each side blames the other side, just like then, in the days before the destruction of the Second Temple," said Dichter. "Today, there are "bullies" who endanger the state by dragging them into extreme legislation, or by bringing them into extreme and violent protest."

Dichter said that the overwhelming majority is against the extremists on both sides.

In an interview with KAN Reshet Bet radio, Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer (Religious Zionist) stated that it may be necessary to "freeze" the judicial reform in order to "calm the situation, build trust, and strengthen solidarity," on Friday.

Sofer stated that the government is committed to using the next four months to hold a discussion and listen to the debate surrounding the judicial reform.

"I'm not sure if what I'm saying is popular among all my constituents but I'm saying it because I believe it," said Sofer to KAN Reshet Bet. "I think our national responsibility obligates us to calm things, to try and advance the legislation, if at all, then as much as possible through cooperation."

Also on Friday, Education Ministry director-general Asaf Tzalel resigned from his role in response to the ongoing judicial reform debate.

"I have never belonged to one side or the other and I do not choose a side even today. The education system is stately and must be kept as such," wrote Tzalel in his resignation letter, calling for the education system to be used in order to repair the rifts in society.

"As a public representative, I want to take responsibility and end my role. The rift we have reached does not allow me to continue to exercise my responsibility properly."

Possibly alluding to the spate of remarks by Likud MKs seeking consensus, on Friday National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir wrote on Twitter that "Maybe there are those who forgot, we didn't forget, the people chose the right."

National Unity MK Chili Tropper wrote on Facebook on Friday that there was major movement in the coalition as more Likud ministers and MKs said that they would not support unilateral moves. Tropper said that there were more Likud members on the fence, and said that Levin, Ben-Gvir and Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman were dragging them to the extreme.

"There are first signs of outstretched hands from brave coalition members, who need to be reached back to seek agreements and partnerships with them. For Israel," said Tropper, calling upon the protest movements not to mock and reject them.