The President of Israel asks the Government to withdraw the judicial reform for endangering “the democratic foundations of the country” | International | The USA Print

The President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, has entered in depth this Thursday into the political and social crisis that the country is going through by asking the Government, in an unusual speech to the nation, to withdraw “forever” its controversial proposal for judicial reform and replace it with a consensus text that has been outlined in recent academic days of different ideologies. In Israel, the president has a formal role, but can abandon it to arbitrate in political crises; and Herzog ―accused of lukewarmness in recent days by critics of the reform― has done so to describe the proposed laws (approved last week in Parliament in the first of three readings) as “wrong, oppressive and a risk to the fundamentals democracies of the country. “Legislation, as it is now, must disappear from the world (…) It must be immediately replaced by a different and agreed plan,” he stressed. He has also said that there is agreement on “the vast majority” of issues around an alternative compromise text on which he works “relentlessly.”

Herzog made his speech (the second in the present crisis, after one in mid-February) at the end of the “Day of resistance against the dictatorship”, as the protest movement against the reform baptized it. In a new pulse to the Government, tens of thousands of Israelis have participated this Thursday in demonstrations, marches and escraches in more than one hundred points of the country.

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The main march has taken place in Tel Aviv, where thousands of people have demonstrated with Israeli flags and chants such as “The time has come to oust the despot.” The coastal city is the epicenter of the protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets in the past two months. If it goes ahead, the reform proposal criticized by Herzog will weaken the Supreme Court and change the system for electing its magistrates to the benefit of the Executive. The Netanyahu government, which was sworn in in December, defends it as a way to give more power to democratically elected institutions against a Supreme Court that they accuse of intervening excessively and with political intentions. His detractors see, instead, an attempt to laminate the division of powers by the most right-wing government in the seven decades of the country’s history, in the style of what happened in Poland and Hungary. They are two countries whose names are frequently chanted by Israelis in demonstrations to make it clear to the Executive that it is not the path they want their country to follow.

The reform would allow Parliament to annul a decision of the Supreme Court and would convert the legal advisers of the Government (today professional positions with binding opinions) into politicians whose assessment would only be advisory. It would also give the Executive a majority in the committee that appoints the court judges and would eliminate a legal tool that allows the Supreme Court to annul those decisions or political appointments that it considers “unreasonable.”

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During the day, a group of protesters blocked the main access to the Tel Aviv airport, Ben Gurion, for just over two hours, with the aim of preventing -unsuccessfully- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from flying to Rome to meet with her Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni. The police diverted traffic without causing serious disruption to the operation of the affected terminal and cleared the area. Some agents used force, but in a timely manner, and did not use the water cannons that they brought to the area. The Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, who had warned in an interview with channel 13 that he would not allow “anarchists to block the airport”, went to Ben Gurion to supervise its operation. “It’s not right to ruin the lives of 70,000 people,” he said, referring to the travelers who were scheduled to use the facilities for the day.

Some passengers have had to walk with their suitcases on the side of the road to get to the aerodrome. Protest organizers had previously warned travelers to check in in advance and arrive early. The traffic jam on the highway from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv was noticeable. “We will not allow the lives of the citizens of Israel to be disturbed (…) We will not allow anyone to cancel the decision of the majority in the State of Israel, expressed in the last elections,” Netanyahu said Thursday afternoon in his Telegram channel. There are 15 detainees in the two main cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

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It is not clear how the prime minister got to the airport. First it was announced that by military helicopter from Jerusalem, but some local media suggest that it was a decoy. What is certain is that the protest forced to modify the visit of the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austin, who had to change his plans and meet at the airport with Netanyahu and his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant.

The protest has also led to partial strikes, pickets at universities and escraches in front of the houses of members of the Executive. In the north of the country, dozens of boats and kayaks have tried to prevent access to the port of Haifa. Several vehicles have also blocked a crossing. Some groups, such as social workers, army veterans, lawyers or employees of sectors such as high technology or health, have staged demonstrations.

A group of protesters blocks a highway in Tel Aviv, this Thursday. ABIR SULTAN (EFE)

Herzog’s speech and the protesters’ new show of force come amid the expansion of the protest to the army, by far the most highly valued institution by Jewish Israelis, in part for its unifying role in a country wracked with numerous fractures. internal. The latest sample is a letter in which some 400 reservists from the Maglan special unit call on Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to use his influence to stop judicial reform in order to “protect the State of Israel,” warning that They will not sit “idly by” if it ends up moving forward, because “it would change the face of the country.” This Thursday, the Air Force has announced its first punishment: the expulsion of a reservist, whom it does not identify, for “failing to comply with the commander’s instructions.”

Policemen on horseback, during the protest through the streets of Tel Aviv, this Thursday.
Policemen on horseback, during the protest through the streets of Tel Aviv, this Thursday. RONEN ZVULUN (REUTERS)

consensus draft

The draft consensus text to which the president has alluded is the result of a parallel channel that he has created with academics of different ideological tendencies, given that the government and opposition are not formally discussing the reform: the former insists on doing so in parallel to the process parliamentarian and the second demands his stoppage to sit at the negotiating table. according to the newspaper Yediot AharonotIn the revised version, the Knesset (Parliament) could not annul the decisions of the Supreme Court, nor would the Government have an automatic majority to choose judges. Instead, the court would be stripped of the power to strike down basic laws (constitutional in a country without a Constitution) and the “unreasonableness” tool would be limited to “patently absurd” decisions that do not deal with “policies or appointments.”

Protest in the center of Tel Aviv, this Thursday.
Protest in the center of Tel Aviv, this Thursday. RONEN ZVULUN (REUTERS)

The Secretary of the Government, Yossi Fuchs, with tasks similar to those of a chief of staff, has described the proposal on Twitter as “serious” and “basis for negotiation”, with only “some gaps”. Herzog already assured on Monday that the possibility of a framework agreement “is closer than ever” thanks to the negotiations “behind the scenes.” The protest leaders responded, however, that his “sincere efforts are unfortunately doomed to failure.” “Until they (the government) withdraw their intention to transform Israel into a dictatorship, we will not stop our fight to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” they sentenced.

The controversy seems to have begun to generate divisions within the Executive. Public radio has reported that various ministers from Likud, the right-wing party led by Netanyahu, are increasingly insisting that he order the head of Justice, Yariv Levin, to step on the brakes, due to the deterioration of the image that the training.

Meanwhile, violence has continued in the area. During the day, the Israeli army killed three Islamic Jihad militants in a raid on the West Bank town of Jaba, near the city of Jenin, and a Palestinian wounded three people tonight in an attack in Tel Aviv. One of them is in very serious condition. The police have shot down the attacker. Two days ago, Israeli soldiers killed six Palestinian militants in another raid, in the Jenin refugee camp.

The Prime Minister (almost) has no one to transport him

Benjamin Netanyahu, at the weekly meeting of the council of ministers, on Sunday in Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu, at the weekly meeting of the council of ministers, on Sunday in Jerusalem. GIL COHEN-MAGEN (REUTERS)

Netanyahu’s trip to Italy this Thursday has been preceded by a saga that shows the scope of the protest. In the previous days, the national airline, El Al, traditionally in charge of foreign trips for prime ministers, did not find a single pilot willing to take the Netanyahus (Benjamin and his wife, Sara), apparently due to a hidden rebellion, according to local media. Typically, these trips are planned weeks in advance, but those added later to the schedule, like this one, depend on a pilot volunteering to do it outside of normal business hours.

Faced with this situation, the prime minister’s office opened the tender on Sunday to other national airlines. El Al won it again and its first executive, Dina Ben Tal Ganancia, announced that the flight will have personnel “according to the company’s protocols and will take off normally on the scheduled date.” Netanyahu, however, has not flown (as usual and wanted) in a Boeing 777, but in a 737, of which the airline has more in its fleet and, therefore, more pilots trained to fly them. The Business Class of the 777 model is larger than that of the 737 and has seats that fully recline to act as beds.

Although El Al linked the incident to the lack of pilots of the 777 model after the pandemic, the words of Ben Tal Ganancia point in another direction: “We will not throw a cable to any type of boycott, certainly not against the prime minister of Israel ( …). It is a great honor for us to transport the Prime Minister on state trips. It is what we have always done and what we will do in the future.”

Added to this is a Facebook post this Thursday by a translator from Hebrew to Italian, Olga Dalia Padua, in which she claims to have rejected an offer to act as Netanyahu’s interpreter in Rome because she considers his leadership “extremely dangerous in everything related to democracy in the State of Israel” and, above all, because —he stresses— his children would not forgive him. “They always encourage me to take on new jobs. But in this case they were determined: we do not cooperate with those who promote fascist principles and repress freedom (…). I decided to listen to them, ”she concludes her response to the proposal.

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