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Israeli judicial reform legislation won“t be halted, justice minister says

2023-02-05T20:04:58Z

Israeli Justice minister Yariv Levin attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, on January 15, 2023. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

Israel’s justice minister said on Sunday he would not freeze “for even a minute” the legislative process for proposed judicial reforms that have drawn widespread condemnation both domestically and globally.

Israel’s Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s comments to Hebrew media’s Channel 13 followed a statement earlier in the day from Israeli president Isaac Herzog, calling for the process to be temporarily halted.

“Stop the whole process for a moment, take a deep breath, allow for dialogue because there is a huge majority of the people who would like dialogue,” Herzog said in the statement.

The plans to strengthen political control over appointments of judges, including the Supreme Court, while weakening that body’s ability to overturn legislation or rule against the government, have brought tens of thousands of Israelis onto the streets in nationwide protests, widening already deep political divisions in Israeli society.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the reforms are needed to curb overreach by judges.

Critics say the proposed changes will politicize the judiciary and compromise its independence, foster corruption and harm Israel’s legal protection abroad and its economy.

The Israeli president, who was appointed and not elected, has previously called for all sides of the debate to defuse the tension and try to reach a common understanding.