The protest movement for judicial reform in Israel raised the pulse of the Government this Thursday with what they called “Day of resistance against the dictatorship”, which includes actions in different parts of the country, among which stands out the blockade of roads. and a demonstration at Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion, to try to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from flying to…
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The protest movement for judicial reform in Israel raised the pulse of the Government this Thursday with what they called “Day of resistance against the dictatorship”, which includes actions in different parts of the country, among which stands out the blockade of roads. and a demonstration at Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion, to try to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from flying to Rome to meet his Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni. A group of protesters managed to block one of the access roads to the airfield, although the police diverted traffic without causing serious interruptions in the operation of the terminal. The Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, who had warned in an interview with channel 13 that he would not allow “anarchists to blockade the airport”, attended Ben Gurion to supervise the functioning of the airport.
The protest also foresees for this Thursday partial strikes, pickets in universities and protests in front of the houses of members of the Executive. Convoys of cars and agricultural vehicles will slow down traffic, while groups of protesters will try to disrupt the normal operation of the rail service. Some groups, such as social workers, Army veterans, lawyers or employees from sectors such as high technology or health, will lead marches in different locations. These are the announced actions, as the organizers anticipate that there will be “many surprises”.
The main march takes place in Tel Aviv, the epicenter of the protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets over the past two months. The reason is a proposal to reform the Judiciary that would weaken the STF and change the system for electing its magistrates to the benefit of the Executive. The initiative, promoted by the Netanyahu government, sworn in last December, was approved last week in the first reading in Parliament. He still needs two more. Its promoters defend it as a way to give more power to democratically elected institutions against a Supreme Court that they accuse of intervening excessively and with political intentions. Its detractors see, instead, an attempt to laminate the division of powers by the most right-wing government in the seven decades of the country’s history, in the style of what happened in Poland and Hungary.
The reform would allow Parliament to annul a decision of the Supreme Court and would convert the Government’s legal advisors (now professional positions with binding opinions) into politicians whose evaluation would be only advisory. It would also give the executive a majority on the commission that appoints the court’s judges, and remove a legal tool that allows the Supreme Court to overturn political decisions or appointments it deems “unreasonable.”
The new impetus comes amid the expansion of protest against the Army, the institution by far most valued by Israeli Jews, in part for its unifying role in a country crisscrossed by countless internal fractures. The most recent sample is a letter in which some 400 reservists from Maglan’s special unit ask Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to use his influence to stop judicial reform in order to “protect the State of Israel”, warning that they they will not stand “arms crossed” if it ends up advancing, because “it would change the face of the country”.
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Government and opposition are not formally discussing the reform, because the first insists on doing it in parallel with the parliamentary process and the second demands that it be interrupted to sit at the negotiating table. However, Israeli President Isaac Herzog generated an alternative channel ―made up of academics of different ideological leanings― from which a draft consensus text emerged. according to the newspaper Yediot AharonotIn the revised version, the Knesset (Parliament) could not overrule Supreme Court decisions, nor would the Government have an automatic majority to choose judges. Instead, the court would be stripped of the power to overturn basic (constitutional) laws in a country without a Constitution, and the tool of “irrationality” would be limited to “manifestly absurd” decisions that do not address “policies or appointments”.
The Secretary of the Government, Yossi Fuchs, with functions similar to those of a chief of staff, described the proposal on Twitter as “serious” and “a basis for negotiation”, with only “a few gaps”. Herzog assured last Monday that the possibility of a framework agreement “is closer than ever” thanks to negotiations “behind the scenes”, and abstractly glossed over the benefits of the new text. Protest leaders responded, however, that their “sincere efforts are unfortunately doomed to failure”. “Until they leave [el Gobierno] its intention to turn Israel into a dictatorship, we will not stop our fight to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”, they sentenced.
The controversy seems to have begun to generate divisions within the Executive. Public radio reported that several ministers from Likud, the right-wing party led by Netanyahu, are increasingly urging him to order Chief Justice Yariv Levin to step on the brakes, given the deteriorating image he has been training.
The Prime Minister (almost) has no one to transport him
Netanyahu’s trip to Italy on Thursday was preceded by a saga that shows the scope of the protest. In previous days, the national airline El Al, traditionally in charge of foreign travel for prime ministers, could not find a single pilot willing to board the Netanyahus (Benjamin and his wife, Sara), apparently due to a hidden rebellion, according to the local media. Typically, these trips are planned weeks in advance, but those added later to the schedule, like this one, rely on a volunteer pilot to do so outside of normal business hours.
The prime minister’s office opened the tender last Sunday to other national airlines. The victory went to El Al and its first executive, Dina Ben Tal Ganancia, announced that the flight will be staffed “according to the company’s protocols and will take off normally on the scheduled date”. Netanyahu, however, will not fly (as is customary and desired) on a Boeing 777, but on a 737, of which the airline has more in its fleet and, therefore, more pilots trained to fly them. Business Class on the 777 is larger than the 737 and has seats that recline fully to function as beds.
Although El Al linked the incident to the lack of model 777 pilots after the pandemic, the words of Ben Tal Ganancia point in another direction: “We will not launch a telegram to any type of boycott, much less against the Prime Minister of Israel […] It is a great honor for us to transport the Prime Minister on state trips. It’s what we’ve always done and what we’ll do in the future.”
Added to this is a Facebook post this Thursday by the translator from Hebrew to Italian, Olga Dalia Pádua, in which she claims to have rejected an offer to act as Netanyahu’s translator in Rome because she considers his leadership “extremely dangerous in every way”. what is related to democracy in the State of Israel” and, above all, because -he says- his children would not forgive him. “They always encourage me to accept new jobs. But in this case they were determined: we do not cooperate with those who promote the principles fascists and repress freedom. […] I decided to listen to them”, concludes his response to the proposal, which he disclosed omitting the identity of the recipient.
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