The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, asked this Sunday “that no one be mistaken”: he will fulfill the “clear mandate” he received in the elections last November – after which his party, the Likud, governs with the extreme right and the ultra-orthodox – and which includes the approval of a judicial reform proposal that has generated one of the largest protest movements in the country’s history. “The fact that for two whole months our repeated calls for dialogue have not received a response from the opposition proves that it is not interested in reform, but in creating anarchy and overthrowing the elected government. The reform is just an excuse ”, he pointed out at the beginning of the weekly Council of Ministers, in a speech full of criticism of the media.
Netanyahu has pronounced these words half a day after another massive protest, in which between 250,000 and 300,000 people participated, according to the calculations of local media (500,000, according to the organizers) in different parts of the country, with Tel Aviv as the epicenter. The protesters have already advanced that next Wednesday they will try to prevent Netanyahu from reaching the Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, to fly to Berlin, as they already tried -unsuccessfully- last Thursday when he traveled to Rome. For this Thursday, they have called another Day of Resistance.
The reform seeks to weaken the Supreme Court, allow Parliament to overturn some of its decisions and change the system of election of court magistrates to the benefit of the Government. The Executive defends it as a way to give more power to democratically elected institutions against a Supreme Court that they consider political and interventionist, while its detractors see an intolerable attack on the separation of powers with the aim of eliminating obstacles to the Executive.
This Sunday two key amendments of the initiative are being debated in the Constitution, Law and Justice Commission of Parliament, to which they have returned after being approved last month in plenary session in first reading (of three). The other two will foreseeably take place before the end of the month, unless they are postponed to the next period of parliamentary sessions to accommodate the dialogue.
Last Thursday, in a speech to the nation, the country’s president, Isaac Herzog, asked the government to withdraw the proposal because it jeopardized “the democratic foundations of the State of Israel.” This Sunday, Amijai Shikli, Minister of Diaspora Affairs and the Fight against Anti-Semitism and Social Justice, responded that this speech was “hysterical”. “I respect the president a lot, but his speech on Thursday was hysterical and did not help calm things down (…). Unfortunately, the pressure they put on him is working. The right thing would have been for him to express himself in a more moderate way, ”Shikli, from the right-wing Likud party led by Netanyahu, told Israeli military radio. Herzog comes politically from Labor, which opposes judicial reform. His role as president is mainly representative, but he can arbitrate political crises in the way he deems most beneficial for the country as a whole.
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Israel has been in demonstrations for more than two months in which hundreds of thousands of people have participated. Hundreds of reservists have also announced that they will carry out only the minimum tasks or will not participate in training, despite the fact that the army, Israel’s most respected institution, is often left out of political brawls.
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