Netanyahu 'a criminal' trying to reform Israel's courts - Lapid

"This is not judicial reform, this is not ideology, it is criminality taking advantage of the opportunity," Yair Lapid said of Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to reform the judiciary.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Prime minister-elect and Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu's plans for reform of Israel's judicial system constitute "criminality that is taking advantage of the opportunity," outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid said at the Israel Democracy Institute's annual security and democracy conference.

"Netanyahu wants to decide who the prosecutor in his trial will be. Netanyahu wants to decide who the [High Court of Justice] judges that will debate his appeal will be. Netanyahu wants to pass a law that prevents the indictment of a sitting prime minister because he is a prime minister who was indicted. This is not judicial reform, this is not ideology, it is criminality taking advantage of the opportunity," Lapid said.

"Netanyahu wants to decide who the prosecutor in his trial will be. Netanyahu wants to decide who the [High Court of Justice] judges that will debate his appeal will be. Netanyahu wants to pass a law that prevents the indictment of a sitting prime minister because he is a prime minister who was indicted. This is not judicial reform, this is not ideology, it is criminality taking advantage of the opportunity."

Yair Lapid

"This is what needs to stop. This is what we are determined to fight. We are not their pushovers. We are not just here to pay taxes and send our children to the army," Lapid said.

The prime minister added that his "first step" is to explain to the public "not the what, but the why," and what is "actually happening here: [The public] is being cheated, hurt, the country's democratic foundations are being taken apart, all for personal reasons. There is no other reason," Lapid said.

A number of other party leaders spoke to the media on Monday prior to their weekly party meetings.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz (center) is seen addressing his National Unity Party in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 28, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Defense Minister Benny Gantz (center) is seen addressing his National Unity Party in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 28, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

What did Israeli party leaders say?

Defense Minister Benny Gantz began by denouncing the recent violence by IDF soldiers toward civilians in the West Bank.

"The IDF has the authority to use force, but not to exact revenge."

Benny Gantz

"The IDF has the authority to use force, but not to exact revenge," Gantz said. He stressed that while certain laws that the incoming coalition is planning can be erased in the future, a deterioration in the security situation cannot. Making political decisions that harm national security is a "black flag," Gantz said. He gave as an example the agreement between the Likud and Otzma Yehudit to move the Judea and Samaria Border Police Division from the jurisdiction of the IDF's Central Command to that of incoming National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. Other than this becoming a "private militia," the move will cause logistical chaos and will damage Israel's capabilities, Gantz argued.

Gantz also expressed his opposition to the demand by Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich to receive power over the Civil Authority that presides over civil matters and is currently part of the Defense Ministry. This could lead to accusations of "de-facto annexation" – which Gantz said he hopes the government is not planning on doing.

Noam MK Avi Maoz was asked about statements he made in recent weeks that he would use his power to limit events connected to the LGBT community, such as the gay pride parade in Jerusalem. Maoz said that this was not part of his coalition agreement signed last night with Netanyahu, but did not say whether he would or would not act to limit LGBT freedoms.

Maoz according to the agreement will receive power over Nativ (otherwise known as the Liaison Bureau), which assists Jews in the former Soviet Union countries, including assisting them to prove their Jewish roots so that they can immigrate to Israel based on the Law of Return. Members of the incoming coalition have expressed their wish to cancel the law's "Grandfather Clause," which enables people with one Jewish grandparent make aliyah. Maoz, however, said that he would act according to the law as it currently stands – but that he would also make sure that those who are not eligible to come to Israel would not do so.

Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the cost of the plans that have been announced so far by the incoming coalition is over NIS 60 billion, and that this would need to be funded either by raising taxes or by enlarging Israel's deficit, which will then affect its international credit ratings.

Liberman took a snipe at the incoming coalition, saying that although it promised to be fully right-wing, the plan to significantly enlarge government spending shows that it had "started on the left foot."

Leader of the Labor Party, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, argued at the beginning of her party's faction meeting that a straight line connected the violence in Hebron and the stabbing in Holon, and that "a straight line connected the violence against Arabs and against human rights activists in Hebron - and the violence that Israeli citizens suffer in the streets."

"For years these parties, these people, these bad apples were out of bounds. Even within right-wing circles they were outside the camp.

"Now, these hateful and exclusionary parties are welcomed with a warm embrace by Benjamin Netanyahu, because everything is kosher in his attempt to escape from the trial," Michaeli said.