Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the United States took an unexpected turn as he publicly criticized Justice Minister Yariv Levin's original proposal for legal legislation, sparking controversy within the Likud party. During his visit, Netanyahu met with Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. In response to Musk's questions about the legal revolution in Israel, Netanyahu expressed his concerns about Levin's legislative plan presented in January.
"There was a proposal, I thought it was bad, to eliminate one imbalance by means of another imbalance," Netanyahu told Musk. "I thought it was a mistake to move the pendulum to another side. I have a majority in the Knesset to enact everything, but I'm trying to reach a consensus."
This public criticism of Levin by Netanyahu marked a significant departure from their previous closed-door conversations. Some Likud party members believe that Netanyahu's criticism of Levin's legal plan could have contributed to a loss of more than 10 mandates for the party, potentially benefiting the left in upcoming elections.
Netanyahu also faced criticism for his statements against the protesters during his visit, referring to them as "members of the PLO and Iran." Critics argue that instead of calming tensions, his remarks added to the unrest.
In his meeting with Elon Musk, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of restoring the balance within Israel's legal system. "Israel was and always will be democratic," he said. "Its character changed three decades ago, the balance was broken, and today we have the most activist legal system in the world. Democracy is supposed to be about checks and balances. In Israel, there are no checks and balances - there is only power. So now there is the demand to restore the balance."
Minister of Justice Yariv Levin, on the other hand, defended his proposed legal reforms during an interview with the American CBC network's "60 Minutes" program. Levin argued that no democracy could function effectively when its elected government, with a parliamentary majority, faces obstacles in passing legislation due to public demonstrations and opposition.
Levin contended that the Israeli Supreme Court had become too powerful and often overturned decisions made by the elected representatives of the people. When asked about the right-wing nature of his government, Levin stated, "I am proud to be part of this government, and I think this is what the Israelis wanted."
Responding to concerns about certain government ministers making controversial statements, Levin asserted, "The vast majority of the members of parliament who support this government stand firmly behind democratic and liberal principles."
Despite the controversy and tensions within the Likud party, the debate over legal reform in Israel continues, with Netanyahu seeking consensus and Levin pushing for a balance of power between the branches of government. The future of Israel's democracy hangs in the balance, with the world watching closely.