Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was faced with a bit of a dilemma Sunday night while addressing the National Leadership Mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, held in Jerusalem at the Inbal Hotel.
The six-decade-long Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations advances the interests of the American Jewish community, promotes broad-based support for Israel, and addresses critical concerns facing Israel and world Jewry. The Conference is at the forefront of efforts to strengthen US-Israel relations and broaden support for Israel among the American people, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, counter global antisemitism, fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and other attempts to isolate Israel and the Jewish people and, achieve peace
and security for Israel and her neighbors.
Speaking to this august assembly, the prime minister attempted to clarify the logic — or lack thereof — in the Israeli political process, which at this point often involves Israel’s attorney general and sometimes the Supreme Court as well. Neither are supposed to be political entities, of course — but as with many things in Israel, it’s a paradoxical thing that defies explanation — which Netanyahu tried to explain.
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Israel is now in the midst of a legal reform,” the prime minister told the gathering, making reference to the ongoing craziness over his government’s plan to reform the judicial system, according to Israeli journalist Amit Segal.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets every Saturday night to protest those reforms, led by Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who claims the Netanyahu government is “killing democracy” with the plan.
“I wanted to talk to you at length about this issue and explain to you why you don’t need to worry,” he said. Because America’s Jewish leadership has become involved in the brouhaha over the planned judicial reform, and has expressed deep concerns, along with top officials in the Biden Administration.
“For now, I am prevented from doing so because I am forbidden to talk about it,” Netanyahu said wryly. “I’ve been given a gag order.
“I’m not making this up; I’m not allowed to talk about it. After all, who am I? I am only the Prime Minister of Israel. What can I say about this thing that divides our people? It’s crazy,” he commented.
“I hope you notice the grotesqueness of the situation, including President Herzog and one of the leading members of the Opposition and calls for my intervention.
“So for the moment, I’d just like to say three things.
“First, Israel is a democracy and will remain a democracy, with majority rule and proper safeguards of civil liberties. That’s the first thing.
“The second thing is all democracies should respect the will of other free peoples, just as we respect their democratic decisions.
“The third is that there’s been a lot of rhetoric that is frankly reckless and dangerous, including calls for bloodshed in the streets and calls for a civil war. It isn’t going to happen. There’s not going to be a civil war,” he emphasized.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu also addressed the issue in his opening remarks to the weekly cabinet meeting, saying, “I am pleased to disappoint our enemies and also reassure our friends: Israel is, and will remain, a strong, vibrant and independent democracy,” he said.
“It is precisely against the backdrop of the expectations of our enemies, expectations of destruction and bloodshed, that talk of blood in the streets must stop. The flames need to be lowered. The mood needs to be calmed,” he warned.
“This is the clear call that I am making from here and I expect all public leaders to say these clear words. This is what the Israeli public expects of us and it is the clear message that we need to send to our enemies.”