Netanyahu touts his American education in defense of ‘balanced’ judicial reform

Prime Minister Netanyahu tells CNN he supports negotiations to create broad consensus behind judicial overhaul.

By World Israel News Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he hopes to pass a moderate form of the judicial reform plan, one which can receive the backing of a broad consensus of Israelis.

Speaking with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Sunday afternoon, Netanyahu said a majority of Israelis back some form of judicial reform, arguing that the backlash against his government’s plan has more to do with criticism of the details than the idea of reform itself.

“There is a very broad segment of the Israeli public, 2.5 million people, the majority who voted for me and my government, who are eager to see a restoration of the balance between the three branches of government.”

Netanyahu cited his own education in the United States, including his reading of the Federalist Papers, in his support for a balance of powers between the three branches of government in Israel.

“I was educated in the United States. I am fully conversant with the “Federalist” papers. I actually read them more than once. And I think that what we’re trying to do is put this system into balance.”

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The Israeli premier appeared to take aim at his own government’s proposed judicial reform package, however, hinting it would shift the balance of power too far in favor of the executive and legislative branches, at the expense of the judiciary.

“People now understand it and accept it on my side of the spectrum, that we cannot move the pendulum from one side of the most activist judicial branch on the planet that arrogates the will of the majority, again overriding the decisions of the elected government to the other side, where you’ll have the parliament essentially overriding with a simple majority the will of the — or the decisions of the Supreme Court.

“There has to be a happy middle here. And what I decided to do about a month ago is to, well, press the pause button and allow for an attempt to reach a consensus on something that I think is important for Israeli democracy.”

Netanyahu emphasized that whatever the details of the reform, Israel will remain a “robust” democracy.

“But one thing I guarantee you, at the end of this process, Israel was democracy, is a democracy, will remain as robust a democracy, and you could see that by the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating for or against this — and against this judicial reform in peaceful demonstrations in ways that are not possible within an enormous radius.

“And when you have that, as you have in France or protests in France or protests in the United States, it’s not a sign of the collapse of the democracy, it’s a sign of the robustness of the public debate which I’m sure, and I hope, and I’m working to resolve by as broad a consensus as I can.”

The interview comes just days after hundreds of thousands of Israelis rallied in the capital Thursday evening in support of the judicial overhaul.

On Sunday, MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism), chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, demanded the government resume work on passing the reform, which was frozen prior to the Knesset’s Passover recess.

“The legal reform will pass,” Rothman said. “It is necessary for the survival of the coalition.”