President Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech calling for pause in Judicial Overhaul Process

March 27, 2023

Source: Times of Israel, which cites the government Press Office: 

Within four days, Israeli Prime Minister initially rejected no pause in the coalition government’s effort to overhaul the Israeli judiciary and then he accepted a pause in coalition’s intention. Intervening the Israeli Defense Minister publicly took issue with the legislative intent, Netanyahu fired him, causing hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens to take to streets in Israel to protest the coalition’s actions. Civil servants, the Histadrut Labor Union, military reservists, and others imposed upon Netanyahu recognizes the need for pause in the judicial overhaul process. Embedded in the speeches are Netanyahu’s anger at the reservists.

In the second speech, Netanyahu noted, “his intent to a genuine chance for genuine dialogue. We insist on the need to enact the necessary changes in the judicial system and we will give a chance to achieving broad consensus. This is an incomparably worthy goal.” The day after his second speech, Israeli President Isaac Herzog begin to confer with the respective sides in the matter to locate some compromise. 

For context this is what then Prime Minister Netanyahu is quoted to have said in April 2012 about the Supreme Court’s role in a democratic society, “I say that above all, in a democratic state, the body that protects and preserves those freedoms and rights is the Court… I believe that in a democracy, a strong and independent Court is what enables the existence of all other democratic institutions… Just in the last few months, I buried every law that threatens the independence of the system… and I will continue to do so. Every time a law comes across my desk that threatens to impair the independence of the courts, we will take it down.” Basic Law: Legislation – a Lethal Blow to the Supreme Court, April 30, 2012, Israel Democracy Institute

President Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech calling for pause in Judicial Overhaul Process

March 27, 2023

Citizens of Israel,

Three thousand years ago, here in Jerusalem, the judgement of Solomon took place. Two women came before King Solomon. Each one claimed that she was the real mother of the infant. King Solomon commanded that a sword be brought and that the baby be cut in half. One woman was prepared to rend the baby in two while the other woman absolutely refused and insisted that the infant stay alive and whole.

Today as well, both sides in the national controversy claim to love the infant, to love our country. I am aware of the enormous tension that is building between the two sides, between two parts of the nation, and I am attentive to the desire of many citizens to dispel this tension.

However, there is one thing that I cannot accept. There is an extremist minority that is prepared to tear our country to pieces. It is using violence and incitement, it is threatening to harm elected officials, it is stoking civil war, and it is calling for refusal to serve, which is a terrible crime.

The State of Israel cannot exist without the IDF and the IDF cannot exist with refusal to serve. Refusal to serve by one side will lead to refusal to serve by the other. Refusal to serve is the end of our country. Therefore, I demand that the heads of the security services and of the army vigorously oppose the phenomenon of refusal to serve, not contain it, not understand it, not accept it – but put a stop to it.

Those who call for refusal to serve, those who call for anarchy and violence, are knowingly cutting the baby in two. But most Israeli citizens on both sides of the divide do not want to rend the infant. They are unwilling to cut the nation in two.

Citizens of Israel,

I am unwilling to cut the nation in two. For three months I have repeatedly called for dialogue and also said that I would leave no stone unturned to find a solution because I remember, we remember, that we are not facing enemies but our brothers.

I say here and now: There can be no civil war. Israeli society is on a dangerous collision course. We are in the midst of a crisis that is endangering the basic unity between us. This crisis requires all of us to act responsibly.

Yesterday I read Benny Gantz’s letter in which he promised in good faith to enter a dialogue on all issues. I know that there are additional people who support his approach. To them I extend my hand and I do so after having received the consent of most of my colleagues.

When there is a chance to prevent civil war through dialogue, I – as Prime Minister – will take a time-out for dialogue. I will give a genuine chance for genuine dialogue. We insist on the need to enact the necessary changes in the judicial system and we will give a chance to achieving broad consensus. This is an incomparably worthy goal.

Therefore, out of national responsibility, out of a desire to prevent a rift in the nation, I have decided to suspend the second and third readings of the law in the current Knesset session to allow time to try and reach that broad consensus, ahead of legislation in the next Knesset session. One way or another, we will enact a reform that will restore the balance between the authorities that has been lost, by preserving – and I add, even by strengthening – individual rights.

From here, I would like to appeal to the supporters of the national camp: We have the Knesset majority to do this alone, with immense support among the people. Many of our supporters came to Jerusalem this evening to support the reform, to say: We need change, we need reform.

I would like to say to you: I am proud of you. You are not second-class citizens. I appreciate that you turned out today in the streets of our capital to make your democratic voice heard. Nobody will silence your voice, our voice.

I must say something else: You came spontaneously, unorganized and unfinanced, not pushed by the media, with all your heart and soul. You have touched me. I only ask of you one thing: Continue to act responsibly and do not be dragged into any provocation.

Our path is just. Today, the great majority of the public recognizes the urgency of democratic reform of the judicial system. We will not allow anyone to rob the people of its free choice. While we will not give up on the path for which we were elected, we will make the effort to achieve broad agreement.

Citizens of Israel,

We live in the generation of national revival. History has given us an extraordinary opportunity, unprecedented in the annals of nations, to return to our land and build up our homeland and our state.

Soon we will celebrate Passover, the days of remembrance and Independence Day.

We will gather around the holiday table – together.

We will mourn our fallen – together.

We will celebrate our independence – together.

And together we will thank the men and women of the security forces, who do not forget, even for a moment, their duty to defend all of us, all the time.

We all have a common fate and we all have a common mission, which is to ensure the eternity of Israel.

Thank you.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the nation (unofficial translation) 

March 23, 2023 

Sources:, and the Hebrew from

Citizens of Israel,

A few months ago, immediately after election results were announced, I said: I intend to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel. I meant it then, and I still mean it today.

We have one state and we must do everything to protect it, protect it from outside threats, and from an irreparable rift inside. We cannot allow any disagreement, however fierce, endanger our common future. Not only must we reject violence and bullying, we must reject and we must also condemn incitement and ranting.

The opponents of the reform are not traitors, and the supporters of the reform are not fascists. An overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens, across the political spectrum, love our country and want to protect our democracy.

But since there are those who appropriate democracy for themselves, I want to say a few words about democracy tonight. True, we have differences of opinion. Supporters of the reform think that there is no real democracy here, and that what endangers democracy is an ‘all-powerful’ Supreme Court that enters every issue and that in practice is the one that runs the country. On the other hand, the opponents of the reform think that what will endanger democracy is a Knesset and a government that will act without brakes and without restraints, and that will harm individual rights.

A proper democratic regime must address these two issues. It must ensure the rule of the majority, and it must in the process preserve the rights of the individual. To ensure this, and to prevent the rift among the people, the judicial reform for democracy must respond to these two basic needs. To avoid a rift among the people, each side must seriously consider the claims and concerns of the other side — and I ask to do this now.

Supporters of the reform are outraged that the balance between the branches of government in Israel has been violated over the past decades. The court unjustifiably intervened with security considerations in the fight against terror. It raised difficulties, time after time, regarding government policy.

For example, it prevented the deportation from Israel of infiltrators, and you know what that did to the residents of South Tel Aviv and many other places in the country. It intervened in the [terms of Israel’s] gas [extraction] deal and for years it delayed the extraction of gas from water, at an economic cost of tens of billions of shekels, which affected every citizen in Israel. Without authority, the court struck down laws, prevented appointments, and intervened in many areas that it did have the right to do so.

And there is one more claim, and perhaps the most painful. Many agree that the Supreme Court operates as a closed club for appointing judges, using the ‘friend brings friend’ method. Judges have a veto, in the existing system judges have a veto on the appointment of judges, and in practice they appoint themselves — which does not happen in any other democracy in the world.

Well, quite a few people, who do not define themselves as supporters of the reform, agree that various amendments must be made, including in this matter, to enact a substantial reform of the court system. But there are also those who fear that the proposed democratic reform will go too far, and that it will allow the government and the Knesset to take over the court, to override any ruling, to enact any law. They fear a theocracy, an illiberal state, laws against LGBTs, secular, women, minorities.

So, in light of these concerns, I say tonight: I believe it is possible to bring about a reform that will provide an answer to both sides. A reform that will restore the proper balance between the branches — and on the other hand, protect, and I say beyond that, not only protect, preserve —  the individual rights of every citizen in the country.

We did not come to run over and trample. We came to balance and to fix. And so, we are determined to correct and responsibly promote the democratic reform, which will restore the proper balance between the branches. And I remind you, we have spoken of so far only one of many issues which we have yet to discuss.

The best way to achieve the balanced reform, and to prevent the rift among the people, is through discussion, to achieve the broadest agreement possible.

To my sorrow, thus far, the heads of the opposition have refused to enter this discussion. We wasted, almost three months because of this refusal. I hope this will change; I hope it will change in the coming days. I am working to reach a solution. I am attentive to the concerns of the other side. Please note, we have already made changes to the law concerning the judicial selection committee, to address these concerns.

The law that will be submitted next week for approval by the Knesset is a law that does not control the court, but balances and diversifies it. It opens the gates of the court to views and publics and vast sectors which until today have been excluded from it, excluded from it for decades.

We do not want a controlled court. We want a balanced court. And a balanced court will be a court of the people, and such a court will also gain the trust of the people. This is not the end of democracy; it is the strengthening of democracy.

In all democracies, including the U.S., elected officials are the ones who choose judges. There are almost no exceptions to this, just a few. So, the United States is not a democracy? Is New Zealand not a democracy? Is Canada not a democracy? The well-known jurist, Prof. Dershowitz, from Harvard University, who by the way is opposed to parts of the reform, said that if the reform goes through in its previous form, before the changes, before the “softening,” then the United States [sic: Israel] will not be a dictatorship, it will be similar to New Zealand, Canada and to a large extent to the U.S. as well. This is not the end of democracy; it is the strengthening of democracy.

Now I want to answer the concern, a central concern, raised by the other side. I know that there is concern about a sweeping, unlimited override clause, which would result in any small majority in the Knesset being able to invalidate any decision of the court. I want to tell you clearly it won’t happen.

On the contrary, we mean and I mean to anchor individual rights in the law. We will guarantee the basic rights of all citizens of Israel — Jews and non-Jews, secular and religious, women, LGBT, everyone — without exception. Every legislation will be committed to these principles. I am not saying this in an airy way, we intend to bring clear legislation on this subject, I will personally make sure that it happens.

Now, unfortunately, until today my hands were tied. We have reached an absurd situation, that if I had entered [the arena], as my job requires, they threatened to remove me as Prime Minister to the entrenchments. This would have nullified the results of the elections and the will of millions of citizens. This is an absurd thing that is not possible in a reformed democracy.

And that is why tonight, I am informing you, my friends, the citizens of Israel. No more. I am entering the [arena]. I put aside all other considerations. For the sake of our people, for the sake of our country, I will do everything in my power to bring about a solution.

I met tonight with a [ ? ]ministers, including the Minister of Defense. I heard his concerns about the implications of the situation on our national security. I take everything into account. In the same breath I must say again: There is no room for refusal [to serve in the IDF]. The refusal endangers our national security and the personal security of each of us. And there is no justification for refusal.

I tell you my friends, I will do everything, everything, to calm the spirits and prevent the rift in the people. Because we are all brothers.

With God’s help together we will do and together we will succeed.

Thank you very much.