Amsalem and Netanyahu
Amsalem and NetanyahuYonatan Sindel/ Flash 90

Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) distanced himself from faction member MK David Amsalem, who is in the process of filing a petition requiring all Arab men over 18 to draft into the IDF and who has been harshly critical of Supreme Court justices.

"I have now spoken with Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, and I told her that MK David Amsalem's remarks are not acceptable to me, do not reflect my position, and were said without my knowledge," Netanyahu said in a statement.

He said, "In a democracy there is no factor that is immune to criticism, but criticism must be factual, to the body of the matter and not of a person. The cynical attempt by stakeholders to attribute to me the words of MK Amsalem and make this lie a political gain is ridiculous, especially in light of my call for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry to appoint Chief Justice Hayut to investigate the serious spying case against Israeli citizens."

"It may be Dudi [David Amsalem] speaking the words, but it's Bibi [Netanyahu] who is talking," tweeted Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar (New Hope).

"Amsalem's relentless attacks on the Supreme Court and its judges are simply part of a systematic plan to delegitimize all the lawful institutions in the State," he added.

On Thursday morning, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut sent a letter to MK David Amsalem from Likud, in which she responded to his statements Wednesday against her in the Knesset plenum.

"There is nothing farther from the truth than to say of me that I do not tolerate the Amsalems and the Machlufs (two common Sephardic names - ed.)," Hayut wrote, "I wonder where this intense hatred comes from, that brings you to say such harsh things."

Amsalem responded Thursday morning, saying: "If you were a decent woman then you would at least suggest to the Judicial Selection Committee that there be seven, eight, nine Sephardic judges, also some haredi, also some Ethiopians."