Netanyahu: We will use summer to 'reach internal agreements'

The prime minister's remarks came following Likud ministers and MKS expressing their resolve to pass any future judicial reform legislation with broad consensus.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Sunday's cabinet meeting. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Sunday's cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)

The government will “take advantage of the summer recess” in order to “reach agreements,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of Sunday morning’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“I hope that this time our outstretched hand will not be left hanging,” the prime minister said. “It is possible to arrive at agreements, it is necessary to arrive at agreements and a large majority in the public understands this public truth,” Netanyahu added.

The prime minister’s remarks came after a number of Likud ministers and Knesset members expressed their resolve over the weekend to pass any additional judicial reform legislation in future with broad consensus and agreement with the opposition. These included MKs Eli Dalal, Yuli Edelstein and David Bitan, and reportedly Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning, “For all those who are quick to celebrate the ‘rebellion’ in the Likud – this is what democracy looks like. Yes, there are parties in which it is permitted to express a variety of opinions,” Cohen wrote.

Culture and Sports Minister Mickey Zohar said, “I propose to all the commentators who speak about a ‘rebellion in the Likud’ to cool the excitement. They have talked about a rebellion for years, and in the meanwhile the Likud has always progressed together. We are unified and united, that is how it is when there is ideology and a worldview,” Zohar said.

 Sunday's cabinet meeting at the Knesset/ (credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)
Sunday's cabinet meeting at the Knesset/ (credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter also commented on the calls not to pass any more judicial reform legislation without consensus. In an interview on KAN Reshet Bet on Sunday morning, Dichter said that he, too, supported consensus legislation, but that he “was not aware of a rebellion in the Likud” and that he had not coordinated with other moderate voices on the matter.

Likud quashes rumors of rebellion within party

The Likud in a statement on Saturday night said, “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. Prime Minister 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.”

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid said in the Knesset plenum on Sunday that, as long as there were no official freeze of judicial reform legislation, there was “no point and no reason” to talk about other laws or other agreements, since it was “completely clear that the government again will run away at the last moment.”

Lapid called on the government and opposition to “legislate together” an 18-month freeze of judicial reform legislation, and in the meanwhile, hold talks at the President’s Residence.

“My role, and the role of the entire opposition, is not to set up visits for Netanyahu in the White House, and not calm the credit-rating agencies, to whom Netanyahu lied. If the government wants to reach broad consensus, it holds the burden of proof,” Lapid said.

The opposition leader revealed on Saturday evening that Netanyahu and the opposition had already agreed to a compromise whereby the opposition would support a watered-down version of the Law to Cancel the Reasonableness Standard in exchange for a commitment to a legislation freeze, but that Justice Minister Yariv Levin and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir forced the prime minister to back down.Both the Likud and the protest movement attacked Lapid’s comments.

The Likud said in a statement: “Yair Lapid is willing to talk to Abu Mazen without preconditions, but to the Likud he gives a list of preconditions for talks. We invite Lapid to enter dialogue already today so that we will be able to arrive at broad agreements.”

The umbrella protest group “Kaplan Force” said: “A government that one-sidedly passed a dictatorial law is not legitimate. The false show of moderacy in the Likud should not be trusted, and talks should not be held [with the Likud]. It is very unfortunate that Lapid did not learn a thing from last week and believes Netanyahu’s lies of ‘reaching out a hand.’

“The government tramples democracy, the judicial system and free press with dozens of laws, decisions, and initiatives. It is time for Lapid to begin to be an opposition, and understand that only a determined and powerful struggle will safeguard Israel as a liberal democracy,” the Kaplan Force concluded.

The Knesset on Sunday held its final plenum session ahead of its recess, which begins Monday and will last until October 15. Knesset members from both the coalition and opposition took advantage of the final day of legislation to “clean the slate” by passing a number of laws.

These included a law against reemployment of people who were convicted of violence against minors, co-sponsored by Likud MK Ofir Katz and Yesh Atid MK Ron Katz; a law that was initiated during the previous government’s tenure that updated and increased benefits for disabled IDF veterans; two laws increased punishment for crimes, the first for sexual crimes carried out for nationalist reasons, and the second for extortion by criminal organizations; a law that regulates the use of electronic tracking bracelets on convicted domestic abusers; and more.

Also on Sunday, Yesh Atid MK Orna Barbivay resigned from the Knesset in order to run for mayor of Tel Aviv. While not required by law to do so, Lapid demanded of his party members that those who wished to run for the October 31 municipal elections also must resign. Barbivay was replaced by the next up on the Yesh Atid list, Yaron Levy, who currently is deputy mayor of Bat Yam.