Israeli protesters continued their demonstrations Thursday against a controversial government plan to reform the judiciary, rejecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he rejected a compromise proposal that was intended to defuse the crisis.
Despite the efforts of the country’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, to find a way out of the impasse, the parties seemed to be becoming more entrenched. Netanyahu and his allies were willing to go ahead with their original plan despite weeks of mass protests and widespread protests. opposition from all of Israeli society and beyond, as well as Herzog’s warnings that Israel was heading towards an “abyss”.
Protesters were kicking off a third day of riots since the crisis began, with roads closed to make way for protesters. Protesters in Jerusalem drew a red line on the streets leading to the country’s Supreme Court and a small flotilla of boats blocked the shipping lane off the coast of the northern city of Haifa.
Last week, Netanyahu had to be airlifted to the country’s main international airport for a state visit abroad after protesters blocked the road leading there, holding signs reading «Don’t come back!» Tens of thousands have been attending weekly protests across the country every Saturday night.
The reform, pushed by a prime minister on trial for corruption and Israel’s most right-wing government, has plunged Israel into one of its worst internal crises. It has sparked an uproar from top legal officials, business leaders warning of the economic effects of the plan and from within the country’s armed forcesit is the most trusted institution, where reservists have pledged not to serve under what they see as imminent regime change.
The government says the plan will correct an imbalance between the judicial and executive branches that it says has given the courts too much influence in the way Israel is governed. Critics say the reform upends the country’s system of checks and balances, giving too much power to the prime minister and the government and stripping them of judicial oversight. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and taking bribes, could find an escape route from his legal troubles through reform.
Herzog had been meeting for weeks with actors from both sides of the divide to try to reach an acceptable middle ground, and his proposal seemed to offer incentives to both sides.
But Netanyahu quickly rejected the plan when he boarded a plane to Germany, saying it did not rectify the problem of balance between the branches. Protests were also expected in Berlin during Netanyahu’s official visit there.
The embattled Netanyahu, once a staunch supporter of the independence of the courts, returned to power late last year after more than a year as opposition leader, amid a political crisis over his fitness to rule while in office. trial that sent Israelis to the polls five times. in less than four years.
He formed a coalition with ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies who have long sought to rein in the powers of the judiciary. Parties that support settlements in the West Bank see the court as an obstacle to their expansionist ambitions, while religious factions are forced to limit the court’s ability to rule on issues they fear could disrupt their way of life.
But critics say there are also personal grievances involved in the effort. Beyond Netanyahu’s charges, which he says are unrelated to reform, a key Netanyahu ally was barred by the Supreme Court from serving as a cabinet minister due to prior convictions for tax violations. Under the reform, each of them has laws that could protect their positions from any intervention by the courts.