President of Israel Announces Nearing Agreement on Judicial Reform

PA warns of consequences of Ben Gvir's call to demolish homes in Ramadan

Israeli bulldozers demolish a Palestinian family's home in the Wadi Joz neighbourhood of Jerusalem. AFP

The Palestinian Authority condemned yesterday the Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, called on the Israeli police to carry out demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem during the next Ramadan, while Israeli President Isaac Herzog announced that an agreement on judicial reform in Israel is near.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said in a press statement that "the statements of the fascist Ben Gvir incite further escalation of the situation in the arena of conflict."

She said that these statements "would ignite more fires in the arena of conflict, especially as they fall within the framework of the large-scale Judaization and Israelization of Jerusalem, which affects all aspects of the lives of Jerusalemite citizens, and as a result leads to large-scale ethnic cleansing and forced transfer operations and crimes."

The ministry held the Israeli government "fully and directly responsible for the crimes and continuous violations of the occupation in Jerusalem," stressing that stopping all unilateral measures is the gateway to commitment to the understandings of Aqaba, and stopping the ongoing Israeli escalation.

Israeli Public Radio reported that Ben Gvir called on the Israeli police to carry out demolitions of Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem next Ramadan, to build them without permits.

The radio reported that the Israeli authorities have often refrained for years from demolishing homes during the Ramadan months, "in order not to set the square on fire", but that the police are preparing to implement Ben Gvir's demands, despite the already tense security situation.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israeli ministers' statements against the Palestinians, their existence and their cause "reflect the government's extremist approach."

Shtayyeh stressed at the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah that "settler terrorism in Huwara, Beita, Burin and the rest of the Palestinian villages and cities is protected from the political level and the Israeli army."

What is happening is "organized and systematic state terrorism, carried out through several tools, most notably the settlers," he said.

Shtayyeh welcomed the positions of the countries that condemned "settler terrorism" against civilians, and the positions of the countries that demanded an end to settlement construction, calling for translating these condemnations into concrete measures to hold Israel accountable, expose its "racist" policy, and put "settler militias on the list of international terrorism."

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said a compromise would soon be reached in the dispute over the government's judicial reform plan, after talking about what he described as behind-the-scenes agreements on most problems, according to Bloomberg News.

Herzog said: "We are closer than ever to the possibility of an agreed blueprint." Speaking to them, he called on local council leaders to help influence national leadership to reach an agreement.

The government's proposals include giving MPs the final say in choosing judges, as well as allowing parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated for weeks against the push by the legislature, warning it could undermine democratic reforms and threaten civil rights.

Critics of the planned legal changes say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies, is taking steps that would damage Israel's democratic checks and balances, enable corruption and impose diplomatic isolation.

Proponents say the changes are necessary to rein in what they see as an active judiciary that interferes in politics.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid has called for talks to reach a compromise and a 60-day freeze on the legislation, but Netanyahu has said he will only agree to negotiations without preconditions.

Since the proposals were submitted in late January, the shekel has fallen against the dollar, prompting investor concern that Israel could join the growing list of emerging markets taking a more authoritarian stance in the decision-making process.

Until last week, the shekel had fallen almost 10 percent against the dollar in one month to a three-year low.

But analysts said optimism about a compromise sent the shekel up 2% yesterday to 3.59 against the dollar, reaching its highest level since Feb. 21. Similarly, stock indices on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and government bond prices rose nearly 2%.