Since the fourth of last January, Israel has been experiencing one of its worst political and judicial crises.
While tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated again yesterday, Saturday, in Tel Aviv, against the controversial plan to reform the judicial system, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called for freezing this government project, saying that the raging dispute over it represents a threat to the country’s security.
He also warned, in the first clear public objection from a prominent member of the government, against “a worsening internal division leaking into the army and defense institutions, in a clear, direct, and real danger to Israel’s security.”
The prime minister of the far-right coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies, is under pressure from others in his ruling coalition who want him to move ahead this week with a bill that would give them more influence in choosing judges.
What is controversial about this law?
Netanyahu seeks to introduce radical changes to the judicial system, especially since many right-wingers in Israel see the Supreme Court as leaning to the left, elitist, and too meddling in political affairs, as well as often putting minority rights ahead of national interests.
Therefore, the government is pushing for changes that would limit the powers of this court in issuing rulings against the legislative and executive branches, while giving parliamentarians greater power in appointing judges, which currently requires the approval of politicians and judges who are members of the relevant committee.
These various current proposals would change that, giving the government much more leverage.
years in prison?!
However, some opponents believe that Netanyahu’s motives are personal, especially since he faces 3 criminal charges of corruption.
They also consider that his goal is to abort the Supreme Court, so that he does not face the possibility of spending many years in prison!
Also, another section of them insinuates that Netanyahu’s nationalist allies want to weaken the Supreme Court in order to establish more settlements on land where the Palestinians seek to establish their state.
Benjamin Netanyahu (archives from France Press)
They also point out that the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition are seeking to pass a law that exempts their sect from serving in the army, and they fear that the court will spoil this if its powers are not curtailed.
In addition, some critics of the bill believe that the changes it will introduce to the judiciary will weaken if approved by the courts and hand over the absolute power of the government, which endangers civil liberties with catastrophic effects on the economy and relations with Western allies, according to Reuters.
Viewing the judiciary as non-independent would strip Israel of one of its main lines of defense in international legal cases.
But despite all these objections and demonstrations, the ruling coalition, led by Netanyahu, insists on final ratification of the changes by the second of next April, when the Knesset begins its spring recess.
While the discussion of some changes was postponed, after others were approved in the plenum of the Knesset in the first out of three readings required for ratification, until Parliament meets again on April 30.
But fears are rising of a serious actual division in the country, especially after calls from within the Likud Party for rebellion, and from the ranks of the army as well!