Protest against judicial reform in Israel seems as strong as the government is motivated to see it through to the end. The coalition parties headed by Benjamin Netanyahu stepped on the legislative accelerator, despite appeals from President Isaac Herzog and the last major demonstration “with around 250,000 participants, according to local media; 500,000, according to the organizers – the p…

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Protest against judicial reform in Israel seems as strong as the government is motivated to see it through to the end. The coalition parties headed by Benjamin Netanyahu stepped on the legislative accelerator, despite appeals from President Isaac Herzog and the last major demonstration “with around 250,000 participants, according to local media; 500,000, according to the organizers – last Saturday. In the early hours of Tuesday, Parliament gave the green light at first reading to two laws in the reform package, one of which is particularly controversial due to its clear impact on the separation of powers. Netanyahu asked on Sunday “that no one make a mistake” about his will to carry out his initiative, against which hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated for more than two months, in one of the biggest protests in the country’s history.

One of the amendments approved by the Knesset (Parliament) removes from the Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority in the country, the possibility of repealing ordinary laws. I would just save it for the 14 basic laws that work in fact like the Constitution that the country lacks. Of course, it could annul, modify or limit these regular regulations if they “clearly violate” any of the basic laws and with the Yes of 12 of its 15 members (and that all go to appeal). Now they can overthrow by simple majority those they consider to be infringing a fundamental law, in the manner of the Constitutional Court in Spain. It is a prerogative that the Supreme Court of Israel bestowed upon itself in the 1990s and which it has used to a very limited extent. The proposal, which received 61 votes in favor and 52 against, will now return to the Law Commission to prepare the other two readings that need final approval.

Parliament approved an even more controversial element. This is a clause that would “immunize” a law from possible judicial review, even if it violates a basic law. It would be enough for the proposed law to receive the support of at least half plus one of the deputies and specify in its articles that it said “immunization” to circumvent the STF filter. Furthermore, the Knesset could re-enact, also by a simple majority, laws previously annulled by the Supreme Court. The clause would be in force during the legislature in which the law was passed, plus the first year of the following one. Later, Parliament would decide on its indefinite extension.

“Banks in the Trash”

The Knesset also approved, again at first reading, a law that removes any legal body from the possibility of assessing or approving the prime minister’s “incapacity” to govern. If the text moves forward definitively, it will become the responsibility of the Prime Minister himself or his Government, with the affirmative vote of 75% of the ministers. If, after this phase, the Prime Minister insisted on keeping the post, the decision would be up to Parliament, which could incapacitate him with a supermajority 75% of deputies. Today, the law does not specify the reasons that allow resorting to the “incapacitation” tool. The new proposal limits them to a physical or mental circumstance that prevents the Prime Minister from continuing to carry out his duties.

Behind the shield proposal seems to be the nothing-hidden conflict between the government’s legal adviser, Gali Baharav-Miara, and the Prime Minister. Netanyahu fears suspension for promoting reforms while he is indicted on three criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Baharav-Miara asked him, moreover, to stay away due to a potential conflict of interests, in a decision that the Prime Minister considers guided by ideological reasons, not professional ones. “The citizens of Israel did not vote for Baharav-Miara, who thinks that the election of 2.3 million citizens of Israel can simply be erased. It does not have the authority to annul the elections, to throw away the ballots that the citizens of Israel have deposited,” the prosecutor of the law, Ofir Katz, from the Likud party led by Netanyahu, told the Chamber, referring to the electoral victory of last November. , which governs in coalition with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox formations.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, this Monday at the Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem.Ohad Zwigenberg (AP)

The approval of the laws sparked small protests in front of state institutions on Tuesday morning. Four people were arrested for blocking – connected with plastic pipes and iron chains – access to the Bank of Israel, in Jerusalem. The police forcibly removed them.

After weeks of leaks suggesting he was trying to rein in the coalition’s far right, not only has Netanyahu failed to do so, but he seems particularly radical and combative these days. On Sunday, he accused the opposition of using the reform as an “excuse” to “create anarchy and overthrow the elected government”. A day later, he devoted a large part of his speech at a Likud meeting to sharply attack the “left-wing media”, which he accused of launching “an unprecedented attack on the government”, of spreading “fake news 24 hours a day” and being “totally” on the side of the demonstrators.

The battery of measures had a centripetal effect among the reform’s detractors, both on the streets and in Parliament. On the one hand, the organizations leading the demonstrations issued a joint statement in which they warn that they will reject any “compromise agreement drawn up in the dark” that affects democracy and judicial independence, and that does not address “the equitable distribution of burdens [en alusión a los ultraortodoxos] and the protection of women’s rights and the separation of powers”. Also on Monday, three jurists presented a consensus project to the Knesset Committee on Legislation. The president of the Commission and a great promoter of the reform, Simja Rothman, qualified it as a “basis” to negotiate.

On the other hand, the four Jewish opposition parties with a presence in the Knesset agreed to speak with one voice. After meeting in Parliament, its leaders ―Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Benny Gantz (National Unity), Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beitenu) and Merav Mijaeli (Labour)― released a joint statement on Monday in which they announced that they would boycott the next vote on the amendment in the Supreme.

Negotiation

The political opposition demands the paralysis of judicial reform in order to sit down and negotiate, while the Government urges dialogue during the parliamentary processing of the laws. In this context, the newspaper Yediot Aharonot informs this Tuesday that Likud is preparing a plan B which consists of unilaterally downgrading the text slightly before final approval. “There is nobody to talk to, so we will make concessions to ourselves on the reform laws,” an unnamed party leader told the newspaper.

The president, who last week asked the Executive to withdraw the reform “for good” because it endangers the “democratic foundations” of Israel, reiterated his concern on Monday, describing the situation as “very serious”.

As Herzog works on a consensus proposal, protesters prepare for further protests. On Wednesday, they will try to stop Netanyahu from flying to Berlin from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, as they tried – unsuccessfully – last week when he traveled to Rome. And Thursday will be another day of actions that disrupt everyday life.

As part of the protest, hundreds of reservists refuse to participate in training or carry out certain tasks, in an unusual escape for the Armed Forces from the political crisis. On Monday, some thirty former generals from two organizations of Israeli army veterans of different ideologies – Commanders for Israel Security and the Israel Defense and Security Forum – agreed to show their “strong disapproval of any non-compliance by part of the Army reservists.

Intellectuals and academics call on Germany and the UK to cancel Netanyahu’s visit

David Grossman at the Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona,​​in 2015GIANLUCA BATISTA

About a thousand Israelis from the cultural, academic and intellectual world asked Germany and the United Kingdom to cancel the visit that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to carry out from this Wednesday. “The State of Israel is going through the worst crisis in its history, in an accelerated and dangerous process of transformation from a prosperous democracy into a theocratic dictatorship”, they underline in an open letter, released this Tuesday and signed, among others, by David Grossman, the most important living novelist in the country.

The signatories accuse Netanyahu of “conspiring against the State of Israel and all its citizens”, whether they live inside or outside the country, at the hands of “anti-Zionists, fundamentalists and messianists who promote racist, homophobic and anti-democratic agendas, and with convicted Jewish terrorists “. , in order to escape the legal proceedings in which he is accused.

Therefore, they consider that the two European countries should “immediately cancel” the reception to the prime minister, which begins this Wednesday in Berlin, in the face of his “dangerous and destructive leadership” and the opposition of hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the judicial reform. “Since Israel has existed [1948], Germany and the United Kingdom showed their support for the country as a democratic home for Jews. Today, more than ever, we need your voice.”

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