Thousands of Israelis took to the streets on this Saturday night to protest against the new extreme far-right government and its policies that many say are grave threat to democracy and freedoms in Israel.
While only few days have passed since the start of the new government in Israel, thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv against the far-right and extreme policies that the coalition government is about to implement.
Protesters brandished signs with slogans including “Democracy in danger,” “Together against fascism and apartheid” and “Biblical Disaster” in Israel’s capital city. There were also many Israeli lawmakers among the protestors, mostly from, left-wing and Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
The protestors, whose number was estimated to reach to more than 10 thousand, mainly came to the streets to express their opposition to Israel’s recently announced policy that is aimed at limiting the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and transfer some if the Court’s authorities to the parliament.
To read between the lines, Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced on Thursday that a law is planned that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers, reduce the judiciary’s influence on the selection of judges and allow parliament to overrule court decisions with a majority vote of its 120 members.
Before the big protests on Saturday night, many civil liberties and human rights advocates already expressed grave concerns about the plan, saying it will surely lead to authoritarianism and put minority rights in Israel in great danger.
“If they succeed, it’s a different system, a different Israel,” said Dan Meridor, a former justice minister of Israel, adding also that in the absence of a constitution, the country’s courts serve to protect people from “being at the mercy of the governing majority”.
Why does the new government want to limit the Court’s decisions?
One of the biggest concerns for Israelis taking part in the Saturday protests was that limiting the power and the authority of the Court will destroy both the Court and Israel’s democracy.
“”My grandparents came to Israel to build here something amazing … We don’t want to feel that our democracy is disappearing, that the Supreme Court will be destroyed,” said a lawyer among the protesters who gave his name only as Assaf. “Extremists are starting to deploy their forces and it’s not the majority,” said protester Omer, a worker in Tel Aviv’s tech sector.
But this is only one side of the coin. The controversial decision that Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced on Thursday in regard to pending the decisions of Israel’s Court to the will of the parliament is first and foremost aimed at helping Netanyahu escape his corruption charges.
The 73-year-old Netanyahu served three times as Israel’s Prime Minister from 1996–1999, 2009–2021, and from 2022 onwards. His fourth and fifth term as prime minister was overshadowed by ongoing investigation into alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust by him and close political allies within his inner circle. Netanyahu’s trial in the Jerusalem District Court began on 24 May 2020.
But now, and if the new policy is to become law in Israel’s parliament, then every decision that the Court makes will have to be approved also by a majority vote of the parliament’s 120 members. This in turn means that Netanyahu can use his influence in the parliament to dismiss all the charges against himself simply by nullifying the Court’s decision in the Knesset.