Netanyahu’s Judicial Reform Push Bolsters Opposition and Protests

The far-eight government’s planned judicial reform will “crush” the Israeli judicial system, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut warned at the annual convention of The Israeli Association of Public Law on Thursday evening. “Israel will soon mark 75 years of independence, the 75th year will be remembered as the year in which Israel’s democracy suffered a fatal blow,” said Hayut. “This is an unbridled attack on the judicial system, as if it were an enemy that must be attacked and subdued.”

Hadash activists protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Hundreds of Israeli lawyers rallied Thursday outside the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Nazareth courts to protest against the government’s controversial plans to overhaul the judicial system. The rare demonstration by attorneys follows the justice minister outlining proposals such as allowing politicians to override Supreme Court decisions.

In addition, tens of thousands including many opposition MKs, among them Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz and former legislators Yair Golan and Moshe Ya’alon, and prominent public figures are expected to attend a mass demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night in protest the judicial reforms. “It is the duty of every citizen to join the fight for the homeland, its security and future, for the values of the Declaration of Independence, for equality, for the brotherhood of man, his dignity, his rights and his freedom,” according to a flyer distributed by the Black Flags movement, which is organizing the demonstration. It also included the slogans “No to Dictatorship” and “This is a True Alarm.” Some 30,000 people, among them Hadash lawmakers Ayman Odeh and Ofer Cassif and former MK Dov Khenin, gathered at Habima Square in Tel Aviv last Saturday night to protest the reforms in a first mass rally since the Netanyahu government was formed.

Far-right MK Zvika Fogel called Tuesday for the imprisonment of opposition leaders Lapid and Gantz and former MKs and Ya’alon. In an interview with Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, Fogel accused them of treason and called for “these four to be arrested.” Echoing Fogel’s call, Jewish Power deputy minister Almog Cohen said that if opposition leaders continue “their incitement and desire for bloodshed on the streets, they will be put in handcuffs.”

Now, the objection to the judicial reform pushed by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates could unite opposition parties once. Lapid had taken an aggressive stance against the reform from the beginning. Gantz initially took a more moderate approach, calling on Netanyahu to engage in dialogue with all the parties while implementing his planned reform. However, over the last few days, Gantz has become more combative.

At the start of his faction’s meeting on Monday, Gantz addressed Netanyahu directly, saying, “If you continue along the path that you are taking, responsibility for the civil war bubbling beneath the surface will be entirely on you.” He then called on people to protest, saying, “It’s time to go out in masse and demonstrate.”

Lapid issued a warning of his own a short time later, saying, “We are no longer arguing with this government about politics. We will take the fight to the streets. We will explain to the people again and again what is really happening here, until Israel goes back to being a democratic state. This is a battle for our home, and it is only just beginning.” Just a few hours earlier, in an incident at a student’s demonstration near the university in Beersheba, a man associated with the right attempted to run them down with his vehicle.