Netanyahu brushes aside criticism, claiming that millions of people want a change in the legal system.

Sherif Saad

The Prime Minister has warned against "inflammatory statements about the civil war and the collapse of the state" and has insisted that the coalition's election campaign made clear its aim to rein in the judiciary.

On Sunday, despite an 80,000-person demonstration held the night before in opposition to the government's disputed plans to reshape the court, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet colleagues that the national elections were a larger expression of the public's will.

There are plans afoot to give the government power over the panel that picks justices and to weaken the Supreme Court so that it cannot reject laws and policies that it deems unconstitutional.

Others worry that the revision, along with other pieces of proposed legislation, would hurt Israel's democracy by disrupting the country's system of checks and balances, giving the executive branch too much authority, and failing to adequately protect vulnerable groups.

There was a tremendous protest, the mother of all demonstrations, two months ago. Millions of people turned out to cast their ballots in the election. According to a statement released by his office, Netanyahu noted that judicial system reform was one of the primary themes that voters considered on November 1.

At the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, he claimed, "Everyone who was at our election rallies, in city centers and neighborhoods, heard the shouts rising from the throng," without providing an example. There were millions of people out in the streets on election day.

Netanyahu informed his ministers that "one of the primary subjects they voted on was overhauling the judicial system." Netanyahu advised people not to be "swept away by bombastic statements like civil strife and the collapse of the state."

As an afterthought, he said, "I must stress that while we were in the opposition, we did not call for civil war and did not talk of the annihilation of the state, even when the administration took choices that we vociferously opposed." I hope that the opposition's top officials will follow suit. To paraphrase, he said the reforms will "restore the public's faith in the legal system."

Last week, opposition legislator Benny Gantz accused Netanyahu of "heading toward civil war," and opposition leader Yair Lapid called for supporters of his Yesh Atid party to go to the streets in a "fight for our home" to protest the reforms.

A politician from the coalition's ultra-right Otzma Yehudit party then called for Gantz and Lapid to be jailed for "treason." Tali Gotliv, a member of the Likud party, claimed on Sunday that she had urged Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the man at the forefront of the judicial shake-up, to remove Supreme Court President Esther Hayut from her position due to a conflict of interest.

While expressing a political view on a controversial matter, Gotliv cited a speech that Hayut delivered last week in which she raged against the proposed reforms and accused the judge of scaremongering the public with lies.

Meanwhile, President Isaac Herzog urged lawmakers to "reduce the intensity" of their debate on the reform. On Sunday, Herzog announced his efforts to negotiate the upcoming legislation with both parties.

On Sunday, the protest's organizers announced plans for a new rally on January 21; however, this time it will take place on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, close to the government complex that includes the IDF headquarters, rather than at Habima Square so that a larger number of people can attend in a less residential area.

The statement released by the organizers said, "The path to stopping this coup has just started." Protesters in Israel are out in force, and the situation can only be described as a resolute and uncompromising struggle to maintain democracy.

But in a separate statement, one of the primary protest organizers, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, announced that they will be staging a demonstration in Habima Square on Saturday evening.

Eliad Shraga, leader of the Movement for Quality Government, stated, "We will continue together to lead and organize this struggle for the character and identity of the State of Israel as a democratic and liberal country." Our battles will be fought not just in the courts and the Knesset, but also in the streets, squares, and on bridges.

Authority Transfer

On Sunday, the cabinet also authorized the establishment of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy, to be led by Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan. The appointment of May Golan to the position of minister in the Prime Minister's Office was also authorized by the Cabinet. Both measures must be sanctioned by the Knesset.

Members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation were also approved, with Levin taking the helm. In addition to Distel Atbaryan, the forum includes Ministers of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, Education Yoav Kisch, Education Haim Biton, Welfare Yoav Ben-Tzur, Housing Yitzhak Goldknopf, Environmental Protection Idit Silman, Communications Shlomo Karhi, and Diaspora Affairs and Social Equality Amichai Chikli.

A statement from the PMO noted that the "transfer of areas of operation and authority from the Education Ministry and the Social Equality Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office in line with the coalition agreements" had also been approved.

Deputy Minister Avi Maoz, head of the far-right anti-LGBTQ Noam party, will be in charge of the program, as reported by Channel 12 news, as a result of a decision to move it from the Education Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office.

An outpouring of anger and worry has been voiced in response to Maoz's appointment as supervisor of a crucial part of pupils' curriculum, with several local governments stating they would not tolerate the entrance of anti-LGBTQ or illiberal material into their schools.

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