Mixed responses trail Israeli minister’s demand to halt judicial reforms

Israeli Defence Minister Joav Galant’s demand for a halt to controversial judicial reforms met a divided response, according to reports on Sunday.

While at least two other members of his Likud Party supported his call, Israeli media reported, other coalition members responded with anger, and some even called for his dismissal.

Mr Galant’s remarks came in response to the proposed judicial overhaul that has riven society and marked a major break with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We must stop the process in order to start a dialogue’’ Mr Galant said in an earlier surprise speech on Saturday, saying Israel’s security was at risk.

He said he had heard disturbing comments from commanders in the army in recent weeks as tensions escalated over the reforms that would intentionally weaken the Supreme Court and hand more power to parliament.

Israel’s coalition government has accused the Supreme Court of excessive interference in political decisions. It has proposed changing Israeli law to allow parliament to overrule the court’s decisions with a simple majority.

The proposed reforms would also give the government far more power over the appointment of judges.

Critics see the changes as a major threat to the separation of powers.

Mr Galant called for dialogue with opponents of the reform, suggesting a time frame of up until Israel’s Independence Day on April 26.

Organisers of the mass protests, however, said after Mr  Galant’s speech that the demonstrations would continue until the reform plans were completely abandoned.

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing religious coalition plans to implement key elements of the reform in the coming days.

However, the vote on a law that would give government politicians more influence in appointing judges could occur as early as Monday.

It is still unclear how critics of the reform within the government will vote in the process and whether the coalition has a majority.

There have been repeated mass protests for three months. According to Israeli media, almost 200,000 demonstrators gathered again Saturday evening in Tel Aviv.


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