On Monday, the Knesset held the first reading of the proposals, with the opposition calling for additional protests and partial strikes.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis participated in a second week of demonstrations against the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the judicial system. These plans, according to critics, pose a threat to democratic checks placed on ministers by the courts.
The plans, which the government says are needed to stop judges from going too far, have been met with strong opposition from groups like lawyers and business leaders, who are worried about them. This has deepened the political divide already present in Israeli society.
At a protest in Tel Aviv, a protester said, “We (are)…here in order to demonstrate against the government of Israel under Netanyahu, which in our belief is against democracy and are going to do anything they can to take out democracy of Israel.”
The protests have been dismissed by Netanyahu as leftist opponents refusing to accept the election results from last November, which produced one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history. “He wants to change Israel into something else, and we are very proud of our democracy.” At the Tel Aviv protest, another protester, aged 61, told Reuters, “We will not agree, and we will do everything in our power to stop it.”
The protesters claim that if the government succeeds in enacting the plans, which would restrict the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn government decisions or Knesset laws and tighten political control over judicial appointments, Israeli democracy would be undermined. Monday, when the proposals are scheduled for a first reading in the parliament, will see additional protests and partial strikes.
A poll conducted on Saturday by Israel’s N12 news revealed that 62% of Israelis want the proposed judicial plans to be paused or halted entirely.
Justice against Justice
After years of feeling excluded and marginalized, revolutionaries typically develop their zeal for radical change after being away from the helm of government. In contrast, the majority of the new government in Israel is made up of parties that have been in power almost continuously for decades. Despite this, these parties, which are primarily ultra-nationalists and religious conservatives, are being exposed as covert revolutionaries.
They are embracing radicalism and polarization as a strategy for retaining power and motivating voters. Alexis de Tocqueville warned against the idea that democracy simply means the unlimited power of the majority and its elected representatives at the beginning of modern democracies. The new coalition has suddenly declared that democracy simply means this.
The radical right-wing is interested in swiftly destroying the current Israeli regime, including its liberal elements and separation of powers, which it helped build in the past. Armed with the knowledge that demographically, the future is with them. The right would be able to reshape Israel’s society and culture with this move.
There is no doubt that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a personal stake in taking control of the legal system: He denies the allegations against him, which include bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. But in reality, his trial is just a springboard for more powerful political forces that want to change the country in multiple ways.
When addressing Justice Minister Yariv Levin in parliament the other day, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid put it succinctly: The government policy that you have established is to always put the person who is most extreme about the issue.”