Former PM slanders Israeli gov’t over judicial reform, warns bloodshed ‘always comes from right-wing’

Ehud Barak went so far as to tell CBS News that anti-judicial reform protests may end with lives lost because violence ‘always comes from the right wing.’

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Former prime minister Ehud Barak lambasted Israel’s current government and its leader Tuesday in an interview on CBS News that focused on the anti-judicial reform protests, which he would like to be seen as leading.

“We the people are defending our democracy against an attempt to destroy it from within,” he told Errol Barnett.

“It’s not a judicial reform,” he said. Israel’s chief justice, he noted, had defined it as “an attempt to crush the independence of Supreme Court [sic] and push Israel out of the family of democracy…and we’re not going to let it happen.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly explained the overhaul as a necessary rebalancing of the powers between the three branches of government.

As he told multibillionaire Tesla and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk on Tuesday in a meeting broadcast live, over the last 30 years the Supreme Court has become the most activist in the world and taken for itself the authority to overrule Knesset laws and government decisions.

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“Democracy is supposed to be checks and balances of the three branches on each other,” he said, in part. “In Israel, the judiciary has no checks and no balances. It just has power.”

Emphatically claiming that Netanyahu “does not enjoy any majority on this issue,” Barak said the prime minister is “heavily isolated, desperate, almost kind of out of focus and balance, and his government is blatantly illegitimate, to my humble opinion even illegal” because of its efforts “to turn Israel from a place where government is limited, it cannot take whatever it wants against individuals or groups or minorities or LTBQs [sic] or women or whatever, into a government that can do it.”

Those heading the overhaul efforts, including Justice Minister Yariv Levin, have dismissed such criticism, saying that the government has no such ideas in mind, and even if it did, since Israel is a democracy, the people would always have the power to vote them out of power and reverse the decisions.

Barak, who beat Netanyahu in the 1999 elections but has seen him become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, did not mince words when it came to describing his rival’s motivations.

Calling Netanyahu by his nickname, he said, “Basically what Bibi created was an unholy alliance to save him from three criminal court cases. In Israel, 97% of criminal court cases end with a ‘guilty’ verdict, so he is doing whatever it takes to get rid of it.”

He called the Likud’s national-religious coalition partners as “extremists,” and “Messianic supremacist kind of racists,” comparing them to the Proud Boys group in the U.S., whose leaders have been convicted in connection to the January 6th Capitol Hill riots.

Barak eventually expressed confidence in the Opposition’s eventual victory, while attacking the government in a way that is sure to raise his critics’ hackles.

“We will win,” he said. “It might take time, some people might lose their lives along the way…. I told the people we’ll have to face toil and sweat and tears. Hopefully no blood, but might be some violence [which] always comes from the right wing,” he said, while rejecting the idea of civil war because “Netanyahu doesn’t have the troops” or the will for it.

In contrast to his statement, while the protests have largely been peaceful, there has been violence, and the police have made dozens of arrests, including of people who have attacked them during demonstrations.