Israel government in chaos as judicial reform plans draw mass protests – Middle East Monitor


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition collapsed into chaos on Monday, after mass overnight protests over the sacking of his Defense Chief forced the government to halt its hotly contested plans to reform the judiciary. Reuters reports.

Netanyahu was expected to make a televised statement on Monday morning announcing the plans, which he says are needed to restore balance to the government system but which critics see as a threat to democracy, have been put on hold.

Amid reports that his nationalist-religious coalition was at risk of falling apart, the statement was postponed and Netanyahu met with party leaders.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is leading the process, said that as a member of the ruling Likud party he would respect whatever decision Netanyahu made.

“There is a situation in which everyone does what they want and is liable for the immediate fall of the government and the fall of Likud,” he said in a statement. “We must all try to stabilize the government and coalition.”

Thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, meanwhile, many of them waving the blue and white Israeli flags that were the emblem of the protests.

The night of the protests

Earlier, an official in the ruling Likud party and another source close to the legislation said Netanyahu would suspend the reform, sparking some of the biggest street demonstrations in Israel’s history and drawing intervention rare from the Head of State.

“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately,” President Isaac Herzog said on Twitter.

READ: Israel Ben-Gvir threatens to resign if judicial reform is stopped

The stark warning from Herzog, whose function is largely ceremonial to stand above politics, underlined the alarm caused by the proposals, which would tighten political control over judicial appointments and allow Parliament the Court Supreme control.

It followed a dramatic night of protests in cities across Israel following Netanyahu’s announcement that he had fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for opposing the plans.

A day earlier, Gallant made a televised appeal to the government to stop his plans, warning that the deep rift he had opened up in Israeli society was affecting the military and threatening national security.

With the army reinforcing units in the occupied West Bank after a year of unrelenting violence that killed more than 250 Palestinian gunmen and civilians and more than 40 Israelis, the Minister of Defense dismissed accusations that the government was sacrificing the national interest for her. own.

No confidence motion was broken

During angry scenes in the Knesset early Monday, opposition MPs attacked Simcha Rothman, the chairman of the committee that shepherded the Bill, with cries of “shame! shame!” and allegations comparing the Bill to militant Islamic groups seeking the destruction of Israel.

“This is the hostile takeover of the State of Israel. There is no need for Hamas, no need for Hezbollah,” one legislator was heard saying to Rothman, as the constitution committee approved a key Bill to proceed with ratification.

“The law is fair and good for Israel,” Rothman said.

Although the drama ended, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich submitted the 2023-24 budget to Parliament for a preliminary vote later in the day.

A motion of no confidence from the opposition was defeated, but in a sign of the tension within the ruling coalition, the Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads one of the hardline pro-settlement parties, demanded that the restoration.

“We must not stop the reform of the judiciary and not submit to Anarchy,” he tweeted.

READ: Mass protests and false hope: The Israeli Supreme Court is no friend to the Palestinian people

A counter-demonstration by right-wing supporters of the reforms was expected to be held outside the Knesset in Jerusalem this evening.

General strike call

The shekel, which has seen big swings in recent weeks as political turmoil unfolded, fell 0.7 percent in early trade before recovering ground as expectations of a shutdown grew with the legislation.

By late morning, shares in Tel Aviv were up about 2 percent and the shekel was up about 0.8 percent.

As the opposition expanded, the leader of the Histadrut Labor Union called for a general strike if the proposals were not stopped.

Takeoffs from Ben Gurion Airport were suspended, and Israel’s main ports, banks and hospitals and medical services were on strike. McDonalds branches were also closed as the protests spread across the economy.

“Bring back the sanity of the country. If you do not announce at a news conference today that you have changed your mind, we will go on strike,” said Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David.

Although the government says the reform is needed to restore an active judiciary and to set a proper balance between the elected government and the judiciary, opponents see it as the basis of legal checks and balances and a threat to democracy. Israel.

Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies, has vowed to continue the project.

READ: Israel’s judicial overhaul has caused a split in Netanyahu’s Likud party

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