Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to carry the package through parliament “one way or another” as he put his divisive judicial overhaul plan on the ice this week, but he may have difficulty doing it.
After this week’s about-face, he is now vulnerable and up against a wall of resistance he has never encountered in his three-decade political career.
Every week for nearly three months, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated against the proposal, blocking key thoroughfares and city streets while accusing him of attempting to bring the nation closer to a dictatorship.
Security guards and influential businessmen spoke out against him. The largest union in the nation called for a countrywide strike.
The threat to quit reporting for duty by vital military reservists, particularly Israeli fighter pilots, was perhaps the most concerning for Israel. Important international allies expressed reservations and objections.
Netanyahu had the support of the parliament to implement the plan, but the threat of ongoing unrest and the resulting harm to the economy, diplomacy, and security proved too much for him to bear.
According to Yohanan Plesner, head of the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank in Jerusalem, “he knew that he is in a dead end.”
Netanyahu’s break this week, according to Plesner, did not signify an “internal peace pact” amongst Israelis. Instead, it pauses for possible regrouping, reorganization, and reorientation.
These difficulties do not appear to go away as Netanyahu tries to reorganize. If anything, the effectiveness of their protests seems to have given his opponents more confidence.
On Tuesday, the grassroots protest movement stated that the demonstrators who come to the streets are not ignorant.
According to the statement, the administration won’t be able to enact the judicial coup because the millions of protesting citizens will not give up.
Several anti-government organizations declared a pause in their protests but said they would be ready to resume them if required.
Netanyahu is much to blame for his current situation. A slew of former partners and allies have deserted him since he was charged with corruption in 2019, causing the nation to enter five elections in under four years.
After the most recent poll in November, Netanyahu was finally able to obtain a majority in the Israeli parliament, but he needed the backing of ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist parties to establish the most right-wing administration in the nation’s history.
These supporters have enraged the US and other Western allies, as well as Israel’s new Arab allies in the Gulf, by vehemently advocating for the construction of West Bank settlements and making divisive remarks about the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s attention has been diverted from security and diplomatic problems, which is not unusual given the constant crises.
With demands largely viewed as religious compulsion or violating the rights of LGBTQ people, Palestinian residents, and other minorities, these partners have alienated vast segments of the Israeli population at home, primarily secular, middle-class taxpayers.
For instance, ultra-Orthodox partners want to strengthen a system that exempts them from military service so they can study sacred books. A bill permitting hospitals to prevent the entry of bread into their establishments during the Passover holiday, when pious Jews refrain from eating leavened foods, was passed on Tuesday by Netanyahu’s coalition.
But adopting the government’s judicial reform has been its most divisive action. Proposals that would allow the ruling coalition to choose judges and the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions it disagrees with are among its most essential elements.
Conservative allies of Netanyahu claim that the bill is necessary to control a system of judges who are unelected and overly involved in political matters.
His opponents, however, claim that the reforms amount to a power grab that will undermine the system of checks and balances and consolidate power in the hands of the prime minister and his extremist allies.
Additionally, they claim that Netanyahu has a conflict of interest by attempting to change the country’s legal system while he is still facing charges.
The demonstrations have paralyzed Israel’s main cities, halted Netanyahu’s international travel, and even compelled his wife to leave a Tel Aviv hair salon while heavily guarded by police.
After Netanyahu abruptly dismissed his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who had persuaded the prime leader to postpone the reorganization due to concerns about the harm to the military, the public outrage reached a boiling point on Sunday.