Herzog: Netanyahu's attacks on judiciary a 'clear and present danger to democracy'
Knesset opens its sure-to-be contentious summer session with 2 motions of no confiendece, which were voted down; Herzog iterates support for government on security issues, but blasts its attempt to pass override power; Lapid: 'Let this be not only shortest, but last session for government.'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was originally slated to speak before the plenum, but his speech was aborted in favor of the speech and presentation he gave the same evening about Iran's secret nuclear archives.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) opened his remarks by commenting on the same issue, saying Iran "must not be allowed to entrench in Syria and position itself near our border."
On the Iranian matter, Herzog said, he and his party members will back up "relevant steps taken for Israel's defense" and added both the opposition and coalition were of the same mind as it pertained to preventing Iran from attain nuclear capabilities.
"At a time like this, we are obliged to security determination and political savvy, sound judgment, assertiveness, caution and responsibility on all matters," Herzog concluded.
The Zionist Union chief then spoke about the controversy engendered by the override power, an initiative by Netanyahu's government to delimit the High Court of Justice's authority to strike down Knesset legislation.
"Despite security-related background noises, it is still important to say that the coalition and government are attempting to dismantle (State Visionary Theodor) Herzl's vision by mortally wounding equality between its citizens and undermine the judiciary," he cautioned.
"The attack on the court by the prime minister and his colleagues is a clear and present danger to Israeli democracy. Our Supreme Court is an object of admiration and esteem in the entire world. It's one of our sources of power in the international arena. I reiterate my demand of the government and its head: hands off the Supreme Court," Herzog insisted.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein's opening remarks also addressed the tenuous security situation.
"It's no secret that in the past 24 hours, winds from the north have been blowing. I have seen unfounded rumors causing undue stress in public. Without specifying or knowing what the future holds, I appeal to every Israel citizen to say they can count on the IDF's commanders to do everything required to keep us safe," he said.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) provided his own take on recent events, saying, "This has been our home for thousands of years. We will stand tall against all those who threaten to annihilate us, and ensure the safety of Israel's citizens."
Earlier Monday, Coalition Chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) commented on the override power, saying, "We are going to strengthen both the people of Israel and the High Court. The bill isn't circumventing the court and I believe it'll pass. There's no dispute that the Knesset should have the option of telling the court, 'We don't agree with you striking down this law.' The only question is what majority will be required."
In addition to Meretz and the Joint List's votes of no confidence, Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union also submitted motions of their own, but withdrew them due to the security situation.
Lapid: Let this be last session for governmentNevertheless, at a Yesh Atid parliamentary group meeting earlier Monday, chairman Yair Lapid attacked the government and Netanyahu.
"Let it be not only the shortest session, but also the last, because politics have become the State of Israel's number one problem. Netanyahu doesn't want a single, united people. The more we squabble, the more we hate one another, the better off he'll be," Lapid accused.
Aside from Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Union and the Labor Party Avi Gabbay also spoke, albeit at his party's parliamentary group meeting. "This summer session will be perhaps the most significant in Israel's history. It will determine whether we continue being a democratic state or a pretend democracy like Turkey," he opined.
"This session will put into sharp focus the differences between the democratic Zionist Union—which believes in equality, the values of the Declaration of Independence, supremacy of fundamental rights and peace and parting with the Palestinians—and a group willing to forsake all values in order to remain in power," he added.
Commenting on the override power, the Labor Party's leader said that if it passes, "our lives will be inexorably changed. We could be arrested over a Facebook post—that will be the form of majority tyranny."
"We'll fight against any law chipping away at democracy and it doesn't matter what majority it will require. Basic Laws are Basic Laws and cannot be overruled by other legislation. We'll fight here both within and without the Knesset, as we have encircled the Supreme Court ten days ago," Gabbay reminded, concluding his remarks.