By Andrew Raynus — News Editor
Political unrest in Israel has been growing in response to Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed reforms on the judicial branch and international tensions.
Netanyahu began his sixth term as Israeli prime minister in December 2022 replacing centrist Yair Lapid. He regained this post by forging a coalition between his own right-wing party, Likud, and other far-right and ultra-religious parties that had been on the fringes of Israeli politics. Netanyahu and his government have been promoting several bills in Israel’s Knesset (parliament) since January that would shift the powers between the different branches of government. The result would be almost unlimited power to Israel’s ruling coalition in the executive branch and a cut to the judicial branch’s power.
Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Galant, was informally dismissed from his post for calling on the government to halt this legislation, which prompted Israelis from all walks of life to protest across the country. Workers have also been striking, affecting Israel’s production. These people see these laws as threats to their nation’s democratic system.
The recent attacks between Israel and its neighbors, which have occurred because of Israel’s presence in the Palestinian Territories as well as the reforms, have angered Israelis into further demonstrations in opposition. Since the protests began, the Israeli police raided and attacked civilians at the al-Aqsa mosque in Palestine during the holy month of Ramadan. There have also been ramped up terror attacks in Israel, such as a shooting that killed three Israelis and a car-ramming.
Netanyahu mobilized police reserves and issued a plea to the protestors to stop for security purposes, which they ignored. “Security is one thing but reform is another. We’re still going to come here and say loud and clear that we will not let this reform pass,” said Israeli student Amitay Ginsberg.
Netanyahu has agreed to negotiations since the protests began, but many are skeptical of his true intentions. “We don’t believe anything that comes out of Bibi’s [Netanyahu’s] mouth. We believe it’s just a political stunt aimed at stopping the protest,” said protestor Emmanuel Keller in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
Others say that the reforms are to put checks on the overly powerful Supreme Court and that the government is open to constructive dialogue to ensure a positive outcome for all sides. “This is the right time for frank, serious, and responsible discussion that will lead urgently to calming spirits and lowering the flames,” said Israeli president Isaac Herzog.
Defense Minister Galant has since been reinstated by Netanyahu because of the effects of the protests. “I decided to put the differences we had behind us. Galant remains in his position and we will continue to work together for the security of the citizens of Israel,” said Netanyahu in a statement on April 10.
The passing of this legislation could have deeper implications for Israel in all spheres of life as Netanyahu’s political base will likely lead him to pass new conservative and nationalistic laws. “We can expect that after this reform is passed, Arabs will be discriminated against, there will be a separation between men and women, there will be laws and maybe verdicts in the Supreme Court that will take away rights of the LGBTQ community. Material democracy will be harmed,” said Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute.