Demonstrators took to the streets across Israel on Saturday to keep up the campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the country’s judicial system after a major vote last week scrapped the “reasonableness law” that allows the court to keep the Knesset in check.
More than 170,000 people held rallies in Tel Aviv alone, according to Israel’s Channel 13. The AFP reported that demonstrators waved flags and blocked traffic. Medics in the country held a brief walkout and some held signs that read, “We refuse to serve a dictatorship.”
Members of Israel’s military have also announced that they will not serve given what they see as an extreme overreach by the government. The protests on Saturday marked the 30th consecutive week of disruptions.
Netanyahu’s government has criticized the bench for becoming too politicized and has insisted that it is following the will of the people. Protesters call the bill an attack on democracy itself and said they will not relent. The “reasonableness bill” allows the Supreme Court to overrule legislation it deems unreasonable. It was the first part of the reform package to be ratified by the parliament.
A reporter from Al Jazeera who was on the ground in Tel Aviv said the protesters on Saturday seemed to be more determined than earlier demonstrators because they’re realizing that the Netanyahu government is serious about these reforms.
The judicial reforms have drawn criticism from the White House and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Biden administration last week called the bill’s passage (64-0) “unfortunate.” (Dozens of lawmakers refused to take part in the vote.)
Protesters say these plans will completely undermine the country’s democracy.
Yair Lapid, the former prime minister and leader of the opposition, has spoken out against these judicial reforms and called for an 18-month pause, and then a return to negotiations, The Times of Israel reported.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party said it will not agree to a pause and blasted Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party for being more willing to hold discussions with Palestinian leadership.
The paper noted that Lapid has claimed that Netanyahu was close to a compromise earlier this month, but was pressured by Yariv Levin, the justice minister, and Itamar Ben Gvir, the national security minister.
He said the two slammed their fists on the table and “threatened to dissolve the government.”
“The prime minister panicked, surrendered to them, and the ‘reasonableness’ law was passed in the most extreme format possible,” Lapid said, according to the paper.
He said the opposition would not negotiate if the talks were nothing more than an empty show.
Netanyahu said he will give the opposition until mid-November to come up with a compromise. The Knesset enters its recess on Sunday and will not return until mid-October.
Looking for More
The passage of the “reasonableness law” could lead to more changes to the country’s judiciary and there’s no evidence that Netanyahu will take his foot off the gas.
He said in an interview last week that he will steamroll these changes if the opposition party refuses to come on board.
“Now that they can see we’re prepared to move without them—we have the majority—maybe we’ll be able to move with them.”
Netanyahu has said that the government was elected by the people and these judicial reforms were discussed before the election.
A WSWS report called the “reasonableness law” unprecedented and gives the hardline Knesset “untrammeled power” because the parliament can reject court rulings with a simple majority.
“At a stroke, this removes any separation of powers between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary,” the report said. “From now on the government can politicize the selection of judges, appoint convicted criminals to the highest offices of the state, and allow Netanyahu, currently on trial on corruption charges that could put him behind bars for years, to evade conviction.”
The protests on Saturday, although fanned out across the country, were not as large as the ones on Tuesday—which occurred in response to the Knesset’s vote.
TRENDPOST: Evidently, Israel’s Supreme Court, which has sided with the government in its yearslong effort to suppress Palestinians, is not racist enough for Netanyahu’s government. (See “IT’S PAST TIME TO BE HONEST ABOUT ISRAEL” 25 Jul 2023, “WHAT APARTHEID? U.S. HOUSE GIVES ITS BLESSING TO ISRAEL AFTER RECENT ATROCITIES” 25 Jul 2023, “ISRAEL RAMPS UP KILLING SPREE” 11 Jul 2023, and “UN: OK FOR ISRAEL TO KILL PALESTINIAN CHILDREN, BUT SHAMES RUSSIA FOR KILLING CHILDREN IN UKRAINE” 27 Jun 2023.)
The aim of Netanyahu’s ultra-religious government is to completely annex the Occupied West Bank and cleanse the country of Palestinians. Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, warned that the government power-grab is a serious threat to the viability of the country and said Israel is headed to a “civil war.”
Indeed, Netanyahu supporters say the overhaul actually protects democracy from an extremist court, which is comprised of unelected judges.
“Nobody wants, heaven forbid, civil war,” Ariel Kahana, a political commentator, wrote in the right-wing Israel Hayom, according to The Times. “Nobody is gloating.”
Netanyahu’s government is considered the most extreme in Israel’s history. (See “NETANYAHU’S GOVERNMENT TO STEAL MORE PALESTINIAN LAND,” 20 Jun 2023.)