Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has delayed his government’s controversial new judicial reforms until the next parliamentary session in the face of widespread protests, strikes, and a refusal by some Israelis to perform mandatory military service.
“When there’s an option to avoid civil war through dialogue, I take a time-out for dialogue,” said the Israeli Prime Minister on Monday.
The political crisis was sparked by the incumbent government’s intention to take full control over the committee which appoints judges. Netanyahu says that the move would prevent the courts from over-reaching their powers but critics have argued that the changes will help him face an ongoing trial for corruption.
Protest in Tel Aviv – Israel has moved to an intense stage of protests after Netanyahu’s sacking of the defense minister. pic.twitter.com/z6P45VlmV4
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) March 26, 2023
Netanyahu faces mass demonstrations and political crisis
On Saturday, 200,000 protestors rallied in Tel Aviv alone, to oppose the government’s judicial reform plans. It was the 12th consecutive week that demonstrators gathered to express their disapproval.
As the country’s largest labor organization declared a strike, Israelis observed their society grind to a halt. Services, ranging from the major airport to shops, banks, and even hospitals, were disrupted.
In the face of these massive protests and strikes, the Israeli Prime Minister announced today that he would pause the second and third readings of the controversial justice bill until the next parliamentary session.
During a televised address to the nation, Netanyahu commented that Israel had been brought to a “dangerous cross roads” and blamed an “extremist minority” for “tearing Israel apart.”
“We are at the start of a crisis that endangers our basic unity” Netanyahu continued. “This crisis requires us all to act responsibly.”
He urged members of the IDF’s reserve forces to resume their service. “Israel cannot exist without the IDF, and the IDF cannot exist with refusals to serve,” said Netanyahu. He said that refusals to serve could result in “the end of the state.”
The decision to delay the judicial reform has bought Netanyahu and his government some breathing space but it has not resolved the issue. Those in opposition to the reforms wanted them to be scrapped entirely.
It would seem that the delaying action has brought about an end to the immediate crisis, given that the country’s national labor union has called off further strikes. However, protests and strikes could just as easily resume if Netanyahu attempts to push through his legislation at a later date.
What are the opposition saying?
Naturally, Israel’s main political opposition leader has weighed in on the crisis. Yair Lapid has expressed his willingness to engage in “genuine dialogue” with the coalition government provided that the judicial reforms are suspended for a an adequate duration.
“We need to let the president determine a mechanism for the dialogue and trust him to be a fair mediator,” Lapid continued. “This is what we have demanded for the past months – genuine and constructive dialogue, by a leadership willing to take responsibility.”
The opposition leader expressed hopes that an honest discourse process would allow Israel to emerge “stronger and more united”.
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