What is the judicial overhaul reform that sparked waves of dissent across Israel?
Benjamin Netanyahu,the Chairman of Israel’s major right-wing party Likud is the only Israeli politician to have ever won 6 elections. He is the longest tenured Prime Minister having served 15 years. As a master manipulator and political sorcerer, how did he fail to anticipate the chaos that his judicial overhaul bill would cause?
Over the past 3 months, Netanyahu has been determined to tighten judicial processes by allowing a package of bills that dictate that a majority in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) could undermine the Supreme Court. At its core, the bill would grant the Knesset more power and therefore the ruling parties more authority over the judiciary. Although the proposed reforms have triggered liberals in Israel who call it a threat to democracy, for decades politicians have been calling for amendments to the judicial system. Since its conception in 1948, Israel has been void of a written constitution, just a series of quasi-constitutional laws inhabited that space. This inflated the power and authority of the judiciary. Nevertheless, apart from the Supreme Court, the Knesset also has no limitations to its power. In defense of their new bill, Netanyahu and his followers posit the argument that the Supreme Court has become an elitist platform that that does not represent the interests of the people, he uses the United States as a paradigm in citing how American politicians appoint federal judges which grants them a degree of control over the judiciary branch.
The decision embroiled thousands of Israelis in protest and turmoil, they took to the streets in agitation against the reform that would empower the Likud and bestow it with the authority to pass laws previously deemed invalid by the Supreme Court. Coerced by the untamed riots, the right-wing prime minister has made the decision to delay the bill; “When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a time out for dialogue,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address on Monday the 27th of March.
The legislation is not the only source of the rift, Israel battles with deeply embedded divisions between the conservative religious wing that supports the Likud party and the secular liberals.
What does this mean for Israel?
Netanyahu who is fondly known by his supporters as ‘King Bibi’, accredits his unprecedented number of terms and his success in consolidating power to his promise of safeguarding Israel from Middle Eastern forces. This tough, militant stance owes to the death of Netanyahu’s brother, Jonathan Netanyahu an army officer who was killed during a raid to rescue hostages in Uganda. So what does the Netanyahu government portend for the future of the Knesset? Reacting to the inundation of warnings issued by President Joe Biden’s administration that Israel should not continue down this path, Netanyahu took to Twitter in indignation to say that Israel was a sovereign nation that would not end to pressures from abroad. He continued that the coalition government now in the Knesset was trying to restore the power balance between the 3 branches of government.