In Israel, protests continue against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel is facing another week of unprecedented protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his proposed legislative overhaul. Netanyahu has served as Prime Minister of Israel on-and-off for the last 15 years, recently returning to power after being ousted by a coalition government of center-to-left parties. His return to power has come with significant changes, the most controversial of which involve sweeping judicial changes. Netanyahu’s current plans would shrink the power of the judicial system. By hampering the Supreme Court, and preventing it from being able to easily overturn laws made by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, some believe this is Netanyahu’s attempt to erode democracy in the country. According to the head of the Israeli Bar Association, Avi Chimi, “They want to turn us into a dictatorship, they want to destroy democracy. They want to destroy judicial authority, there is no democratic country without a judicial authority.”
While Netanyahu dismisses the protests as just “the left” being unable to handle the results of the November election, his government is the most far-right in Israel’s history, including several far-right, ultra-nationalist parties in the alliance. With members like Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been convicted of inciting racism and sponsoring Jewish terrorism, being named to positions of power, Netanyahu faces opposition across the spectrum. The previous coalition government featured a joint premiership which was split between Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, a center-right party, and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, a center-left party.
Netanyahu recently fired the defense minister, leading to a string of protests, resignations, and mass action to try to sway the government’s opinion. This movement was partially successful, with Netanyahu offering to delay the decisions until the new parliamentary session, a move which could be considered a victory, though considering the far-right’s commanding presence in the Knesset, may not stop the reforms from passing.
However, this process represents only a part of what Netanyahu is committed to — the other part is in his government’s new pivot on the West Bank towards annexation. While no government of Israel in recent memory has been charitable towards the West Bank, Netanyahu’s new coalition of hardliners is far more committed to annexing the territory altogether. With the erosion of Israeli judicial power becoming a second facet to this goal, Netanyahu hopes to expand his power and control of the state in the coming months.