It was to be, but it was not
Civil society did not let that happen
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Thousands of Israelis protested this week. The afternoon of last Monday, people rallied outside the Knesset, after having arrived there on buses, trains, and convoys of cars. The protestors also blocked motorways. The reasons for the gathering were the proposed right wing measures aimed at jauling the judicial system. There were one hundred thousand demonstrators at the end of the day in the government complex in Jerusalem. However, some of the protestors state there were 250,000. Some Palestinian flags were also waived in the demonstrations. Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, about 1,000 children with their parents also marched there.
On his return, Benjamin Nethanyahu has tried to implement judicial changes, which have been met with some of the biggest protests in Israel in his two months back in office. If the legislations pass, they could curb the Supreme Court’s power and give the government more say over judicial appointments.
The protests have included members of the ultra Orthodox community, army veterans, and high-tech executives, fearing a democratic backslide in Israel. The veterans mention they fear for the future of their grand children. They even stole a tank from the Yom Kippur war, in order to use it in the demonstrations. Workers in the health sector and technology industry also went on strike.
Protestors fear the plans to politicise the judiciary and lead to an authoritarian government, as well as social collapse. State workers, and members of the Histadrut, the largest Israeli trade union, were told not to participate in the protests. Protestors have even called for the Jewish community in the US to intervene in the situation in Israel.
“I’m here because my heart has been torn to pieces seeing what the new government is doing to Israeli democracy”,
said Dore, a lawyer from Tel Aviv.
“You know they are tearing apart the spirit of this country. And they are threatening the power of the legal systems. I cannot see it happening without protesting against it”.
The Knesset voted two bills on a meeting where opposition politicians were forcefully removed last Monday. The first bill will give the politicians greater control over the appointment of Supreme Court justices, and the other will allow a simple majority in the Knesset to override almost all Supreme Court rulings. Critics of the reform say it will undermine democracy, while the supporters state it will stregnthen it.
Israeli politicians have had their say in these protests, supporitng and criticizing them.
“Outwardly, they grin sarcastically, saying that (the) protests won’t change anything, but inside they tremble, as rulers always tremble when they discover that there are people in front of them who are not willing to give up”,
said Yair Lapid, former PM and opposition leader.
On the other hand, President Issac Herzog tried to stop the legislative process, and failed to do it. He said that “Israel is on the verge of constitutional and social collapse”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu criticised the protests. He tweeted calling to stop dragging the country into anarchy.
“Most Israeli citizens don’t want anarchy, they want a discussion that is to the point and they want unity”,
Nethanyahu re entered government in December, and is heading the most right-wing coalition in history. Many members of this coalition want to annex West Bank, limit freedom of speech, and neuter the Supreme Court. There is a possibility that these changes may be a way for the current PM to avoid conviction on his corruption trial. He denies the charges, but doesn’t have the support for his latest moves. Leftists and centrist Israelis are upset at these.
However, not everyone backs the protests. Arab Israelis and leftists say they are for upholding a status quo that oppreses Palestinians and minorities inside Israel.
US President Joe Biden seemed to criticise the proposals, in a rare occasion for a US President to talk about Israeli internal affairs.
Economists fear that democratic erosion of Israel could scare away foreign investment and lower the country’s credit rating.
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