Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Anti-Government Protests Over Plans To Control Judiciary

Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Anti-Government Protests Over Plans To Control Judiciary
Image sources: Middle East Monitor/Freepik/Arab News

Thousands of Israelis are rallying against the new far right-wing government’s plan to allegedly weaken the country’s judiciary system.

According to Israeli media, among the protesters are it’s Supreme Court lawyers, members of rights groups, and thousands of youths who were gathered outside the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem chanting “death of democracy” and “criminal government”.

The protests emerged across the country after Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government announced last week that it will bring a law to overturn the ruling of the Supreme Court. According to reports, the government will also decide, through the new legislation, the nominations of the country’s top court.

Critics believe that the move will help Netanyahu scrap the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against him.

Israeli media claim that some 80,000 people were gathered in Tel Aviv’s iconic Habima Square on Saturday, and some compared Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government, and Iran’s theocratic administration.

The protest was called by grass-roots activists, and backed by the leaders of Israel’s centrist and left-wing opposition parties.

Several opposition leaders, including former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, attended the protest and said that Netanyahu’s proposal would “crush” the judicial system.

Esther Hayut, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said that Netanyahu’s plan was designed to “deal a mortal blow to the independence of the judiciary and silence it”.

“Constitutional Crisis”

It’s been less than a month since Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn-in as the prime minister of the country for a record sixth time with the help of ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies. The new government has tabled a proposal to give supreme power to the country’s executive wing so it can overturn court decisions with a simple majority vote.

In order to further control the judiciary, the Netanyahu government also wants the parliament to decide the appointment of the judges of the top court.

Amid the nationwide protests, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog has slammed the ruling government and termed the latest move a “constitutional crisis”. Herzog said in a statement that he had been in touch with other political parties against the government’s proposed move that overhauls the country’s judiciary system. 

“We are in the grips of a profound disagreement that is tearing our nation apart. This conflict worries me deeply, as it worries many across Israel and the (Jewish) Diaspora,” said President Isaac Herzog in a statement.

“I am now focused on… two critical roles that I believe I bear as president at this hour: averting a historic constitutional crisis and stopping the continued rift within our nation,” added Herzog further.

According to Israeli media, thousands of protesters also gathered outside the President’s house, chanting “Bougie”, “wake up” and “the house is burning”.

“Will Protect Individual Rights”: Netanyahu

Netanyahu, however, has assured his countrymen that the government will fully protect individual rights, and will restore the public’s trust in the justice system.

“We will complete the reform legislation that will fix what needs fixing,” said Netanyahu while speaking in an interview.

Defending his government’s move, Netanyahu said that the decision to reform the country’s judiciary system was a demand presented by various political parties of the previous government, but nobody talked about the “end of the democracy” at the time.

Last week, on Friday, Netanyahu said in a statement that the Israeli voters had given the government a clear mandate for carrying out judicial reform, and called for calm. The new rules would be made “responsibly and judiciously”, he said, after reaching understanding through a process of dialogue in Parliament.

Only 42 Percent Believe In The Judiciary

Meanwhile, an Israeli survey says that the majority of Israelis think that the Supreme Court should retain its ability to strike down legislation that contravenes the country’s basic laws. 

Amid the protest, Israel Democracy Institute, an independent centre of research and action, said in its report that only 42 percent of people said that they trust in the country’s judiciary system.

Eighty percent of Israelis who define themselves as left-wing, said that they believe in the country’s top court, followed by 62 percent of those in the centre. 29 percent of right-wingers said that they trusted the Supreme Court.

 A Look At Israel’s Far-right Wing Government

On December 29, Benjamin Netanyahu came to power after his Likud Party formed a coalition with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies. Since the new government was sworn-in, the critics have expressed concerns and expect that it will cripple the country’s democratic system and destroy the social fabric. 

They believe that the new hard-line government will allow discrimination against women, non-Jews (especially Muslims) and LGBTQ+ people in the name of religion, especially after joining hands with the country’s extremists and pro-violence leaders like Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and Avi Maoz, just for the sake of power.

The critics also believe that Netanyahu will not only give them a free hand to dismantle the country’s basic structure but will also deteriorate the relationship between Israel and the Arab world. The new coalition government is also expected to fan the flames of the West Bank conflict with the Palestinians.


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