The well-respected CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" began its 56th season on Sunday night reporting on Israel's judicial overhaul that has been the center of Israel's political turmoil for the past nine months. "60 Minutes" host Lesley Stahl spent time with the Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest movement and summarized Israel's biggest protest in its history for her up to 12 million weekly viewers.
Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Yariv Levin in an interview for the "60 Minutes" segment, said that Israel's High Court is "an elitist bastion that too often overrules lawmakers chosen by the people," adding: "No democracy can accept a situation that the government, the elected government that has a majority in the parliament, won't be able to pass any bill and to do anything because there are protests, because there are some people that are against it."
When asked about the current government and the openly racist and homophobic statements made by some lawmakers, he replied: "the vast majority of the members of parliament that support this government stand firmly behind democratic and liberal principles."
Stahl asked Levin whether he was afraid that Israel was at risk because of reservists who threaten not to show up for service, and if he was ready to withdraw from promoting the reform. "What is the price of democracy? What do you suggest I do? We will tell the citizens of Israel, 'Okay, don't go vote. No It is necessary to hold elections', we will simply go to those former militarists and ask them what we are allowed to do," he responded caustically.
Stahl interviewed three Brothers and Sisters in Arms activists and asked protester Shira Eting, "what is at stake for women, Shira?" She responded: "That we'll all be sitting in the back of the bus." Eting, a lesbian with a child, is concerned about the government that has not condemned some of its own members who have said that the LGBTQA+ community is "more dangerous than ISIS and Hezbollah."
The protest leaders talked about the fear of Israel turning into a dictatorship, the exclusion of women, the violation of LGBT rights and the fear that ultra-Orthodox will be exempted from conscription into the IDF.
Among other grievances, the three protestors point to the fact that Ultra-Orthodox boys and girls do not serve in the IDF or even perform national service like the rest of the population. Eyal Naveh, father of six and said: "They want a law that they will not go to the army. My 15-years-old, in three years he will go to the army. I'm not gonna sleep for, like, three years. And the other father, the ultra-Orthodox father, will sleep all the time."
As he was about to board the plane on his way to the United Nations General Assembly annual meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented about the protests and the protesters. "Nothing surprises me. These protests are well funded and well organized. The protests made blocking roads is normal, they made harassing public figures supposedly normal, they made refusal to serve normal. That's why they spread lies about Israel and they think it's normal. To me, this is not normal. When I was head of the opposition, I never did that," he said.
Netanyahu also said that those who will demonstrate against him abroad "are joining with the PLO and Iran." HIs office later clarified the words, saying in a statement that when Netanyahu "used the word 'joining', he meant the fact that when the Prime Minister of Israel is representing the State of Israel at the UN, Israeli citizens will be demonstrating at the same time as supporters of the PLO and BDS, which has never happened before. One would hope that the Israeli demonstrators will at least take several minutes to also protest against those who deny the State of Israel's right to exist."
Dylan Williams, senior vice president for Policy and Strategy for the liberal US organization J Street, commented on Netanyahu's comments on Twitter, currently known as X. "This is how desperate dictators talk to delegitimize democratic opposition to their rule," Williams tweeted.
The "60 Minutes" episode will be broadcast on Cellcom TV on Thursday