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Israeli press review: Top judge warns politicians against undermining justice system

Meanwhile, Israel’s finance minister seeks punishment for university after pro-Palestine rally, and Bennett gets a boost in parliament 
Israeli president of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, delivering a speech in Jerusalem. (AFP/file)
Israeli president of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, delivering a speech in Jerusalem. (AFP/file)

Supreme court chief says politicians seeking to 'destroy' justice system

The justice system in Israel is in danger from attacks by politicians, the country's top court chief warned on Monday. 

Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut said political discourse surrounding the court system was deteriorating and warned that attacks on the justice system were "dangerous," the Times of Israel reported. 

"Regrettably, civil dialogue and personal responsibility have given way to confrontational discourse that has bred attacks on the judiciary and its judges, and strident calls to harm them and curtail their powers," Hayut said in a speech at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat.

Hayut's comments came after Issawi Frej, minister of regional cooperation, slammed Jerusalem's lower court for seeming to allow Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa Mosque, in contravention of delicate decades-old arrangements.  

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On Sunday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court overturned a police restraining order against three Israeli far-right activists for praying at al-Aqsa Mosque in violation of the longstanding understanding between Israel and Jordan, which administers the affairs of the mosque.

The ruling was overturned by an Israeli appeals court on Wednesday.  

In his criticism of the initial ruling, Frej told the Kan public broadcaster that it "bordered on stupidity," and added that it was "not a judicial decision, but political".

Hayut said that while criticism of the court was welcome, discourse should remain "civil and respectful".

"One can talk about the court's errors, and about the need to file an appeal or request another hearing," Hayut said.

"But to my dismay, public discourse today… is deteriorating and going to places that we have not seen before…  and these are extremely dangerous places."

She added that such discourse stemmed from politicians' "dreams to destroy" the Supreme Court.

Palestinian rally sparks move to cut university funding

Israel's finance minister called on Wednesday for funding to a Beersheba university to be reduced following a pro-Palestine demonstration on campus. 

Avigdor Lieberman wrote in a tweet that the Ben-Gurion University rally "negated the existence of Israel as a Jewish democratic state".

Lieberman said he requested to examine the university's conduct, with the aim of cutting its budget, Haaretz reported. 

'Yesterday I warned the Arab students, who are flying Palestine flags at universities: remember 48. Remember our independence war and your Nakba'

- Israel Katz, Israeli MP

His comment came two days after a group of students held a Nakba Day protest on campus, some of them waving Palestinian flags.

On Tuesday, lawmaker Israel Katz warned Palestinians of another Nakba if they fly the Palestinian flag in Israeli universities.

"Yesterday I warned the Arab students, who are flying Palestine flags at universities: remember 48. Remember our independence war and your Nakba. Don't stretch the rope too much.… If you don't calm down we'll teach you a lesson that won't be forgotten," he said, speaking in parliament. 

Beersheba's mayor said he was "ashamed and shocked" at the sight of "Palestinian flags being proudly waved after the demonstration," according to Haaretz. 

The university said in response that it had approved the rally, and allowed students to wave Palestinian flags based on the opinion of the attorney general. 

Soldiers' tuition bill passes despite Likud's reluctance

The Israeli parliament on Tuesday passed a bill subsidising 75 percent of academic tuition fees for discharged soldiers, in a victory for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. 

The bill passed with 55 votes in favour, while six members of the Joint List, predominantly made up of Palestinian citizens of Israel, voted against it. 

The Likud party, headed by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, did not take part in the vote. 

The vote was supposed to be held last week but was held up in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, after facing surprise objections from Likud, Haaretz said. 

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Netanyahu said he was opposing the bill since it wouldn't fully cover tuition fees.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz then proposed a compromise to increase the scholarship rate from 67 percent to 75 percent.

The Joint List then submitted a request for the final vote on the bill to be considered a vote of no confidence in the government, the Times of Israel reported.

As a result, right-wing and religious parties in the opposition vacated the plenum so that they would not have to vote in favour of the ruling coalition.

According to Haaretz, Likud sources criticised Netanyahu's initial plan to oppose the bill, with a senior member of the party saying that "Netanyahu is causing very serious damage to Likud in his decision to withhold scholarships from combat soldiers.

"The public suddenly understands that petty politics are being played at the expense of the soldiers. Every day that passes, the public damage caused to Likud is huge. Who would dare to play politics at soldiers' expense? He's dragging us all to new lows."

*Israeli press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye