Netanyahu's 'draconian laws' are attack on Israeli democracy, say MKs
Knesset convenes to vote on a number of controversial bills; approves in first reading bill paving way for conservative judge to become next Supreme Court president.
As the Knesset get ready to vote Monday on a number of controversial bills, MKs from both the opposition and the governing coalition have voiced strong criticism of the proposed laws, saying they are draconian and anti-democratic.
"We will fight Netanyahu's draconian laws," said Kadima chairwoman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. "This is an attempt to turn Israel into a dark… dictatorship." Livni added: "Every government minister, even if he or she opposes the laws, is part of a system that is silencing the citizens. This is not a matter of an opposition to the government; there must be a front that expresses the sane and balanced voice."
Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich said, "We are under a combined attack on Israeli democracy. Netanyahu cannot hide behind Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin. Without his support their crazy bills would not have passed."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "It's important to defend the Supreme Court… any interference that weakens the Supreme Court weakens democracy."
The bills include a proposal that would help the coalition get its candidate, Judge Noam Sohlberg, onto the Supreme Court. Critics say the bills, if passed, will restrict freedom of expression and weaken the judicial system.
The Knesset is also expected on Monday to consider an amendment to the defamation law that would increase compensation to libel victims to NIS 500,000 from NIS 50,000, without having to prove damages. The bill will be put to a vote on its first reading.
Meanwhile, the Knesset approved a bill proposing to abolish the rule that a justice cannot be appointed Supreme Court president unless he is at least three years short of the mandatory retirement age of 70. The bill would pave Justice Asher Grunis' way to becoming Supreme Court president. 52 MKs voted in favor, 35 voted against the bill.
On Sunday, The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved two bills that would limit foreign funding for Israeli human rights organizations.
Netanyahu had already announced support for one of the bills, sponsored by two members of his Likud party - MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Ofir Akunis - which would cap foreign governments' contributions to "political" non-governmental organizations at NIS 20,000.