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What to Know About the Protests Happening in Israel

What to Know About the Protests Happening in Israel

Israel is currently in the midst of a significant domestic crisis. At the heart of the issue is the government’s plan to reform the judicial system, which has sparked outrage and protests across the country.

Why is this happening?

Since the beginning of the year, large weekly protests have been held in Israel by people opposed to the government’s plans. The size of these protests has escalated over time, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities across the country. Protesters are calling for the reforms to be scrapped and for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. Even military reservists have refused to report for duty, a development that has raised concerns about Israel’s security.

The main concern for Netanyahu’s opponents is that the reforms will weaken the judicial system, which has historically served as away to ensure checks and balances on the government’s use of power. Critics believe that the reforms will also help the government pass laws without any brakes and shield Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for alleged corruption.

What exactly is the reform?

The reforms center around the power struggle between the government and the courts to scrutinize and overrule government decisions. The government claims that reform is overdue, but the plans go much further than many people would like.

The proposed changes include:

  • weakening the power of the Supreme Court to review or throw out laws, with a simple majority of one in parliament able to overrule court decisions.
  • giving the government  a decisive say over who becomes a judge, including in the Supreme Court, by increasing its representation on the committee that appoints them, and
  • no longer requiring ministers would to follow the advice of their legal advisors, as they are currently mandated to do by law.

One reform has already been passed into law, which removes the power of the attorney general to pronounce a sitting prime minister as unfit for office.

How has the country reacted?

As the crisis has unfolded, Netanyahu has shown defiance, accusing protest leaders of trying to overthrow the government.

The opposition has rejected proposals by the government to alter parts of the package, saying they want a complete stop before they will enter talks.

The government argues that voters elected it on a promise of reforming the judiciary, and any attempts to stop it are undemocratic. It also considers the judiciary to be too liberal, and the system of appointing new judges to be unrepresentative.

What will happen next?

Despite Netanyahu’s tough stance, pressure on the government has been mounting daily, with even his own defense minister speaking out against the judicial overhaul — prompting the prime minister to fire him. The situation remains fluid, and it is unclear whether the government will back down or if the protests will continue to grow.

On Monday evening, Netanyahu announced he would “delay” the reform and would instead engage in conversations with opposition in order “to avoid civil war.”

“When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu gave no timeline for a compromise to be reached in his speech, but shared his hope that the nation would heal and that people would enjoy the upcoming Passover holiday.

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