Ben-Gvir attacks Netanyahu and Maoz resigns from the government

Middle East Monitor  /  February 28, 2023

Israel’s Knesset Plenum held a session after collecting the signatures of 40 members to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend a debate on the government’s policy and plan to weaken the judiciary.

The prime minister is obligated to attend the entire session in order to answer and respond to the inquiries from the opposition blocs and to listen to the statements of opponents after the correct number of signatories was obtained. The Otzma Yehudit Party – which forms part of his coalition – was absent from the vote.

Otzma Yehudit, led by hardline Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, accused Netanyahu of being irresponsible and submitting to terrorism after the Likud Party refused to boycott the parliamentary session.

Likud officials considered Otzma Yehudit’s boycott of the session “an irresponsible act against the right-wing government. When there is a left-wing vote against the right-wing government, everyone must attend.”

Otzma Yehudit officials said: “Netanyahu’s containment policy and the Likud since the right-wing government was founded is an irresponsible act. When there are terrorists attacking Israelis, Israel needs to strike at terror and not surrender to it.” The party stressed that boycotting the 40-signatory session is an expression of Otzma Yehudit’s objection to the policy adopted by Netanyahu in the occupied West Bank, which is witnessing an escalation by the occupation and its settlers against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the head of the Noam Party, Avi Maoz, announced his resignation from his position as deputy minister in Netanyahu’s government, in light of the latter’s procrastination in implementing the coalition agreements which grant Maoz power in the ministries of education, health and social welfare. Maoz confirmed that he will remain a member of the government coalition.

In the 40-signatory session in the Knesset, the opposition called on Netanyahu to stop the legislative process to endorse the plan to weaken the judiciary and to start a dialogue held under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog.

In exchange, Netanyahu accused the opposition of encouraging “civil disobedience” and called for “extinguishing the flames.” He called for immediate dialogue with the opposition on a compromise to reform the judiciary, but “without preconditions”.

Netanyahu said that the current government is “changing the rules,” adding: “We are acting against terror in all ways: prevention, operations, punishment, and now also legislation: a law to expel families of terrorists and a death penalty for terrorists – things that did not exist until now.”