Netanyahu Paused His Judiciary Overhaul amidst Ongoing Mass Protests against His Government
March 27, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on national TV tonight to announce that his government would delay its push for judicial so-called “reform”—a move to de-power the courts—just as protests were reaching a climax. They started immediately yesterday, when Netanyahu fired his Defense Minister Gallant, who expressed favor for such a delay.
According to Israeli press reports, Netanyahu said tonight that he decided on suspending the legislation in order to avoid a civil war. “Out of national responsibility,” he specified, he is delaying the final readings of the judicial appointments bill—under which the coalition would take almost complete control of the appointment of Israel’s judges—until the next Knesset session a month from now.
“We insist on the need to make the necessary corrections to the judicial system,” but this is “a chance to achieve this via dialogue,” he said. To that end, “I have decided to suspend the second and third readings in this Knesset session” of the judicial selection bill “to give time for broad agreement” before moving ahead with the legislation in the next Knesset session.
He stressed that the overhaul will end up passing “in one form or another.” The “lost balance” between the branches of government will be restored, and individual rights will be strengthened, he says.
Netanyahu’s announcement came after he extracted an agreement from Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party leader and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to put the judicial reform legislation on pause. In return, Netanyahu has agreed that the formation of a civil “national guard” sought by Ben Gvir to boost public safety will be approved in the upcoming cabinet meeting, according to a statement issued by Ben Gvir’s party. The new guard will be placed under Ben Gvir’s National Security Ministry, the statement says, attaching a written promise by the premier. Ben Gvir was threatening to leave the coalition and thus bring down the government.
Netanyahu is a long way from securing his political position, however. While opposition politicians praised his decision to suspend the legislative push with promises to join the dialogue, some also denounced his agreement with Ben Gvir as tantamount to giving him his own private militia. Ben Gvir “has formed a private militia for his political needs. He’s dismantling Israeli democracy,” said former police chief Moshe Karadi. “The Ben Gvir law is dangerous and is a distinct characteristic of turning Israel into a dictatorship.”
The mass protests that followed Netanyahu’s firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on March 26, were followed by even larger protests in the morning of March 27 and a general strike called by Histadrut trade unions, which shut down businesses, health care services, schools and transportation, including Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Even municipalities and other local governments joined in. Following Netanyahu’s announcement, a second day of the general strike was called off for tomorrow but the protests will continue. A demonstration against the judicial legislation outside the Knesset in Jerusalem was estimated by police to have drawn as many as 100,000. A counter-demonstration by supporters of the legislation ostensibly drew “tens of thousands.”