The contrasting ambition and angst surrounding the right-wing campaign to rein in Israel’s judiciary emerged in a revealing give-and-take between a Likud and a Meretz MK at a Knesset meeting.
Likud MK Miki Zohar was described as “gloating” over the prospect of rendering the High Court “irrelevant” by providing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with immunity from prosecution and the Knesset with power to override any objections from the Court.
“Imagine the override clause passes, the Supreme Court is no longer an address. The immunity law passes, you’ll be stuck with Bibi for another ten years,” Zohar told MK Michal Rozin, while smiling and laughing. “What will you do then? I think this could be one of the most difficult [Knesset] terms for you,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel on Tuesday.
“It’s the end of democracy,” Rozin responded. “An irrelevant Supreme Court and Bibi here for another ten years! Oh my G-d!” Zohar said, using Netanyahu’s nickname, “Bibi.”
“In short, Erdogan is here,” she added, echoing the refrain of the opposition that the Likud judiciary reform program parallels the sweeping constitutional changes made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to enable him to continue ruling for decades.
Zohar then argued that PM Netanyahu “is here democratically; he was voted in,” though ignoring the fact that Erdogan has similarly been winning elections.
Zohar rebuffed accusations that Netanyahu has been pushing the bill, insisting that it’s his own initiative. “The prime minister blocked the immunity bill in the last Knesset. He said he’s not interested, which is why I was not successful in promoting it.
“It’s not part of coalition negotiations,” Zohar added, speaking at the opening of a Knesset House Committee meeting. “I am trying to convince the prime minister to support it in the current Knesset… We are sick of political persecution, and therefore, the immunity bill is right, and I plan to try to promote it even without instructions from Netanyahu.”
“Citizens aren’t allowed to steal, but MKs are,” Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata objected.
Zohar argued that PM Netanyahu’s mistreatment at the hands of the police and prosecutors demonstrates the necessity of his bill, because “this is the first time someone is being accused of bribery without putting an agora [a penny] in his pocket. I have two law degrees and I know the legal definition of a bribe.”