With no end in prospect for the protests in Israel against policies taken by Netanyahu’s government, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets this Saturday again.
In the ninth week of constant protest against Netanyahu’s government, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in different cities of Israel this Saturday night to object to new policies against Israel’s supreme court. Signs carried by crowds of protesters read “No Constitution, No Democracy” and “They Shall Not Pass.”
The focus of Saturday’s protests was, just like before during the past none weeks, to show opposition against a government plan to overall Israel’s court system. The protesters oppose legislation that Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies hope to pass that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers to rule against the legislature and the executive while giving lawmakers decisive power in appointing judges.
What are the proposed changes in Israel’s supreme court?
Changes that Netanyahu’s government is stubbornly trying to make in the supreme court and have sparked so many protests across Israel have four main pillars;
First, allowing the Knesset to override decisions taken by the supreme court with a simple majority of 61 out of 120 seats. Currently, the court has the authority to block any law it considers unconstitutional.
Second, taking away the power of the supreme court in judging Knesset legislation and other government decisions for “reasonability”. Third, giving lawmakers in the Knesset total power over appointing judges to the court. Currently, the decision is taken by a set committee of legal experts and representatives. Fourth, giving ministers the ability to appoint whomever they want as their own legal advisors, which means taking away the authority of the court in making such decisions.
Many experts believe that this controversial decision has two motives behind it; First, lawmakers want to grant themselves more authority in shaping the domestic policies in Israel.
It is in fact for this reason that many fear that Israel can turn from a democracy into a dictatorship. And second, Netanyahu could escape from his potential prison time by exonerating himself from the corruption charges against him. Israel’s Prime Minister has indeed been charged with fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in three corruption cases against him.
The protests are turning violent, and Netanyahu still doesn’t care
What was rather concerning about this time’s protest was that although it started quite peacefully, videos that went viral later showed protesters breaking down barriers in Tel Aviv, igniting fires, and blockading roads, with Israeli police spraying water cannons at the protesters to disperse them. To read between the lines protests have intensified since Wednesday when Israeli police fired stun grenades and scuffles broke out in Tel Aviv during nationwide demonstrations.
So far, many former high-ranking officials, members of Israel’s business, academic, legal, and even military communities have warned against limiting the authorities of the supreme court. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, for example, called the plans “an assassination of the Declaration of Independence, which will turn Israel into a dictatorship,” describing the current situation in Israel as “the worst crisis since the formation of the state.”
The political turmoil in Israel has had economic drawbacks as well. Israel’s shekel recorded the lowest value, down nearly 6%, in February and at its lowest against the dollar in three years.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, seems to be deaf to all the opposing voices across Israel. Many times since the start of the protests in January, Netanyahu has labeled the protests as an attempt “to create anarchy” and trigger another election. Good to mention that Israel has held five elections since April 2019.