- BBC News World
Israel has recently been in chaos.
After weeks of historic protests, union leaders called for a general strike against the controversial judicial reform proposal of the coalition government led by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahuwhich critics see as undermining democracy and justice.
Finally, on Monday night, Netanyahu announced a pause on the legislation, to avoid “a rift between our people.”
The decision was announced after one of the most intense days of protest on Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets to express their discontent against the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had spoken out against the reform .
However, it is not clear what this delay can achieve, beyond buying time.
Before the break was announced, Isaac Herzogpresident with mainly formal functions, had asked Netanyahu to stop the legislation to calm the situation.
The White House in the United States had also issued a statement urging the parties to seek a consensus as soon as possible.
According to experts, Netanyahu is at a “crossroads.” On the one hand they press the street and the opposition. For another far right factions from his coalition asking him “not to give in to anarchy.
The solution looks difficult. Are 3 keys explain the crisis.
1. Controversial judicial reform
Judicial reform is the “cornerstone of the politics of the new nationalist-religious coalition of Israel led by Netanyahu” that was formed in December, as reported by Yolanda Knell, a BBC correspondent in Jerusalem.
“The aim of the reforms is to give the government decisive influence over the choice of judges and limit the ability of the Supreme Court to rule against the executive or annul legislation,” he added.
Under the proposals, politicians would play a dominant role in the selection of judges and would allow the Knessetthe Israeli Parliament, annul the Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority and remove some laws from judicial review altogether.
Netanyahu defends that the reform is designed to limit courts from exceeding their powers and that it was voted for by the general public in the last elections.
Critics say this jeopardizes the political system of checks and balances, as Israel has no constitution and only a parliamentary house controlled by the ruling coalition.
The reform has been the trigger for the most massive protests in Israel’s history since the beginning of this year. In a country of 10 million inhabitantsHundreds of thousands took to the streets in the most intense days.
Netanyahu’s political rivals have stirred up the protests, though fierce opposition to the reform has manifested itself on several political fronts.
a growing number of reservists, the base of the Israeli armed forces, he has shown his discontent by refusing to report for military service.
Israel is located in one of the most volatile regions in the world and the military’s pulse is worrying because it directly threatens the security of the country.
2. Netanyahu’s crossroads
Benjamin Netanyahu, who has dominated Israeli politics for the past 20 years, is at the center of this controversy.
Despite faces trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trustwhich he denies, was re-elected in November 2022 after 18 months in opposition.
This is his sixth term as prime minister and he now has a majority in the Knesset (Parliament) heading a coalition government of far-right and religious parties.
The position of his government partners and the fury in the streets now put Netanyahu at a difficult crossroads.
“Obviously now it’s a matter of political survival“, says Professor Yuval Shany, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, for the BBC.
Shany explains that the real problem for the prime minister is that “you will be doomed if you stop the reform, but also if you go ahead“.
The pressure on Netanyahu is such that “he really has no political choice but to stop or at least pause the legislation,” something he announced on Monday.
The specialist adds that this could cause “some far-right factions to leave the coalition and the Justice Minister to resign.”
3. Political instability and social divisions
The charges against Netanyahu have caused a division over his ability to lead the country.
Since 2019, Israel has held five elections where politicians from different spectrums have not been able to form stable governments.
In November 2022, a bloc of extremist religious parties led by Likud, Netanyahu’s party, won a clear majority in the elections. Is the most religious and hard-line government in the country’s history.
That election, according to time journalist Anshel Pfeffer, exposed a clear trend.
“The internal identity or culture war in Israel between what some see as the more liberal and open side of Israeli society against the more religious and extreme section of Israel and Jewish society,” he said.
Within the political agenda of this coalition are controversial debates such as the promise to annex the West Bank.
Netanyahu’s associates reject the two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestiniansthe international formula that proposes an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank alongside Israel, sharing Jerusalem as its capital.
There have also been concerns about the rigid stances of some ministers on the application of Jewish law and respect for LGBT rights.
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