Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Thursday (March 23rd) to "end the division among the people", after nearly three months of massive demonstrations against the justice reform project currently being examined by Parliament.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who had so far remained behind on this issue, announced that he was entering "the scene" and that he was determined to advance the reform, but that he would do everything to "reach a solution" acceptable to both the supporters of the project and its critics.
"We cannot allow a dispute, however acute, to endanger the common future of all of us (...) Opponents of reform are not traitors, supporters are not fascists," he said, referring to the two sides' favorite invective against the other. "I will do everything, everything, to calm the spirits and put an end to the division among the people," he said.
He himself had repeatedly in recent weeks called the protesters supporters of "anarchy".
Defence Minister cancels speech
The reform aims to increase the power of elected officials over that of magistrates. According to its critics, it jeopardizes the democratic character of the State of Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies believe the reform is necessary to restore a balanced balance of power between elected officials and the Supreme Court, which they consider politicized.
The prime minister delivered his address to the nation after holding talks with his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who had initially announced his intention to speak publicly in the early evening. The latter, who has repeatedly asked the ruling coalition to pause the legislative process to allow negotiations with the opposition on reform, finally cancelled his intervention.
Tens of thousands of protesters on Thursday
For just over an hour, Israeli television evoked the prospect of a resignation of the minister, or the scenario of a hypothetical explosion of the government coalition, one of the most right-wing in Israel's history.
Also on Thursday, tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated against the reform during a new day of mobilization, punctuated by clashes between demonstrators and police.
In Tel Aviv, a dozen protesters were arrested for disturbing public order, according to police. Police used water cannons to disperse crowds that had blocked the city's ring road, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
"If the vote [of the law] on the [composition of the commission responsible for] appointing judges passes next week [in parliament], it is the beginning of dictatorship," Nadav Golander, a 37-year-old protester who works in advertising, told AFP.
This text is one of the central elements of the reform. It has been amended in committee these days to soften its content with a view to reaching a wider vote, and Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that it will be put to the vote of lawmakers for adoption in plenary "next week".
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