The State of Israel has been trembling since January 4th. That day, only seven days after the composition of the new government of Binyamin Netanyahu, his Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, announced his plan to brutally reform the Israeli legal power. This reform, defined by its opponents as a change of regime, aims to curb the powers of the Israeli Supreme Court and to greatly reduce its control over the legislative power.
In a country where there is no Constitution, where the president has only honorary powers and where the executive power exercises its majority in Parliament, such a reform means an all-powerful government. On July 24, the first law of the reform was promulgated, and according to Levin, “this is only the first stage of this historic process” led by his government.
The most right-wing government in the country’s history
Netanyahu’s government, it must be remembered, is the most right-wing government that Israel has ever known: all the parties that make it up are right-wing or extreme right-wing. Netanyahu, at the head of the Likud party, leaning more and more towards the extreme right since 2009, chooses as allies the two ultra-Orthodox parties as well as the list which he himself helped to create, religious Zionism. This list is composed of three Jewish supremacist parties, openly racist, xenophobic and homophobic. The announcement of the composition of the government and then that of the judicial reform are alerts for a large part of Israeli society, those that have turned everything upside down.
It was three days after Yariv Levin’s press conference that several organizations opposing the Israeli occupation in the West Bank demonstrated for the first time against the reform. They know that the first targets of the government’s plan would be the Palestinians, both those from the Occupied Territories and those holding Israeli nationality. At the protest, activists wave Palestinian flags and speakers speak of equality for all people living from the sea to the Jordan River. The course of the demonstration is not well received by people from the Zionist center and left. The following week, they are the ones who take over and since then they have been at the head of the dispute.
29 weeks later…
For more than twenty-nine weeks, every Saturday, dozens of demonstrations against the reform have been organized in the country. These gatherings, notably the one in Tel-Aviv, are very different from the first demonstration. The discourse now focuses on Jewish-Israeli society, relegating the occupation and the Palestinians out of the discussion. The Israeli flag is becoming one of the symbols of the protest, with protesters seeing it as a reclaiming of patriotism that has long been associated only with the right and Netanyahu’s supporters.
Finally, the elites of several fields, in particular Hi-Tech and the army, have gained the upper hand and are leading the protest. These changes are intended to bring the protests closer to the Israeli consensus, and it seems to be working as the protest widens from week to week. The bloc that organized the first demonstration is now called the “anti-occupation bloc” and continues to demonstrate as well, although often apart from the others.
The crisis is getting worse
March 27 is a key moment for protesters. The day before, Benjamin Netanyahu decided to dismiss his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, after the latter publicly declared that the reform must be put on hold, the protest having created an internal crisis in the army and put the army at risk. country security. Following the announcement of Gallant’s dismissal, tens of thousands of people took to the streets spontaneously.
In Tel Aviv, they block the main highway and seem more determined than ever. The next day, a general strike is announced, bringing the country to a standstill. Netanyahu finds himself in a very complex situation: he is obliged to negotiate with his allies to put the reform on hold, but the latter refuse and threaten to bring down the government. After hours of negotiations and big promises, Netanyahu finally manages to put the reform on hold – a big victory for the protesters.
No counter power
However, in July, the government announced its intention to enact one of the main laws of the reform – the removal of the reasonableness clause. This change would have the effect of depriving the judiciary of the possibility of pronouncing on the “reasonable” character of the decisions taken by the government. For example, if the government decided to take discriminatory action against a group in society, the Supreme Court could not point out the unreasonableness of this decision and therefore overturn it.
Nor could it cancel an unreasonable appointment, as was the case in January when it prevented the appointment of Arie Deri, convicted of tax evasion, as head of the interior ministry. In short, the removal of this clause would lead to a government whose decisions could not be controlled by any counter-power.
A plan for annexation and apartheid
Those leading the protests call the government’s strategy the “salami method”, an approach previously employed in Poland, which involves enacting reform bit by bit so that it goes unnoticed. By pointing it out, they’re asking for the opposite effect, and that’s what they get. The protests are gaining new momentum and are bigger than ever. They take place on Saturdays but also during the week, and the violence on the side of the police is becoming more and more important.
The situation is getting worse. It has repercussions on the country’s economy, which is destabilizing, as well as on the internal conflict within the army, created due to the announcement of hundreds of key people refusing to perform their duties. Israeli society appears more divided than ever. Despite these tensions and protests, on July 24 the repeal of the reasonableness clause was passed in the Knesset, and this seemed to be only the beginning of the reform process.
It should be noted that the judicial reform carried out by the government aims to accompany a reform that is currently invisible to the eyes of the majority of Israelis. Destroying the Supreme Court is not the end but the means. Israelis challenging the reform are only gradually discovering this. The radical right in government is carrying out a well-considered plan which will be facilitated with the disappearance of the control of the Supreme Court. This plan, published in writing by Minister Bezalel Smotrich in 2017, provides for the annexation of the West Bank, the massive expansion of colonization and the formalization of the apartheid regime from the sea to the Jordan River and it is already in progress.