Former Israeli Defense Minister Blasts Netanyahu for ‘Sacrificing Democracy’ to Save Own Skin

The former Likudnik and cabinet member Moshe Ya’alon said that the legislative proposals to overhaul Israel’s judicial system reveals the true intentions of a man ‘ready to burn down the country and its values…in order to escape’ trial

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Moshe Ya'alon
Moshe Ya'alonCredit: Ilan Assayag

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sacrificing Israeli democracy in order to avoid prosecution in his ongoing corruption trial.

In a series of tweets following the new government’s unveiling a plan to radically overhaul the judiciary, Ya’alon, a former member of the Netanyahu’s Likud party who served in the prime minister’s cabinet from 2013-2016, asserted that the new legislative program revealed “the true intentions of a criminal defendant” who is “ready to burn down the country and its values…in order to escape the dock.”

“Who would have believed that less than 80 years after the holocaust that befell our people, a criminal, messianic, fascist and corrupt government would be established in Israel, whose goal is to rescue an accused criminal,” he asked.

On Wednesday evening, newly appointed Justice Minister Yariv Levin presented what is being described as a “reform of governance” that would include several legislative initiatives aimed at limiting the power of the Israeli Supreme Court and the legal advisers to the government.

Ya'alon and Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

Among other measures, the government will pursue legislation that would permit the Knesset to override Supreme Court decisions by a very slim majority of 61 votes in the 120-seat parliament, as well as legislation to tip the balance on the Judicial Appointments Committee in favor of politicians. Currently, the judges on the committee effectively have veto power over the appointment of Supreme Court justices.

Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for fraud and breach of trust, has repeatedly railed against the judiciary, as well as law enforcement and the media, for engaging in an alleged “coup” against him.

After being indicted in 2019, Netanyahu, in comments would help define his rhetoric in the coming years, said that while he holds Israel's judicial authorities in high regard, “you would have to be blind not to see that something bad is happening with the police and the prosecution, because tonight we are witnessing an attempted government coup against the prime minister through blood libels and a biased investigation process.”

Despite pushing a raft of legislative initiatives meant to curb the power of the judiciary, Netanyahu has distanced himself from his right-wing allies’ moves to end his trial by legalizing some of the charges against him, stating that he “frequently run[s] into friends who want to help me more than I need, and this is an example.”

“I don’t intend to abolish anything and I don’t intend to apply anything retroactively,” Netanyahu said in October.

Ya’alon resigned as Defense Minister in 2016, citing “strong disagreement on moral and professional issues” with Netanyahu, and has since been a fierce critic of the prime minister.

During a protest march in Haifa last month, Ya’alon called the incoming government “criminal,” saying that “Netanyahu dragged us to five elections and subjugated the nation’s interests to his personal benefit. He has established a racist, corrupt, and homophobic government in order to flee justice.”

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