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March 27, 2023 7:20 am

Ben-Gvir Threatens to Bolt Coalition if Judicial Reforms Paused

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Jewish Power party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks following the announcement of exit polls in Israel’s general election, at his party headquarters in Jerusalem November 2, 2022. REUTERS/Corinna Kern – Israeli National Security Minister and Otzma Yehudit Party chief Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened to leave the ruling coalition on Monday if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu freezes its judicial reform program.

The threat was delivered during a stormy meeting at the Knesset, during which Ben-Gvir could be heard screaming at the prime minister.

Otzma Yehudit has six seats in the 120-member Knesset, and without them, Netanyahu’s 64-seat coalition would lose its majority and almost certainly collapse.

Netanyahu was scheduled to address the country at 10 a.m. but delayed the speech.

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The Religious Zionism Party, which has seven Knesset members, issued a statement on Monday rejecting any pause in the reform initiative, describing such a move as a “surrender” to the “violent” demonstrations taking place across the country.

“After much consideration and consultations, our position is that we must not do anything to stop the passage of the legislation. Stopping the legislation would constitute a surrender to violence and anarchy, to the refusal to serve in the army and to the dictatorship of the minority—and would undermine the results of the [November] election,” said the statement.

“We were and still are open to dialogue, compromise and agreement, but not under the threat of a coup by the centers of power against Israeli democracy,” it added.

In response, Economy Minister Nir Barkat of the Likud Party called on coalition parties to back Netanyahu.

“We must not bring about the overthrow of the right-wing government at our own hands. Our strength is in our unity,” he said.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin said on Monday that he would respect Netanyahu’s decision but warned that delaying the legislative process could “immediately lead to the fall of the government and the collapse of Likud.

“We must all make an effort to stabilize the coalition,” he said.

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