September 22, 2023 11:57 pm

Israel on the Verge of Civil War


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Israel on the Verge of Civil War

Huge protests against the governments judicial reform have been going on for the past 2 months all across Israel.
The protests are getting more extreme and there are many violent clashes with police and supporters of the elected government.

The internal conflict in Israel is at a tipping point.

Israeli president warns of civil war as Netanyahu rejects judicial compromise

Herzog offers alternative to far-right coalition’s changes but PM says it perpetuates current situation.

A compromise proposal presented by Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, on controversial legislative changes has been rejected by the governing coalition, putting a swift end to hopes that the country’s political crisis can be immediately resolved.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday night, Herzog revealed what he called “the people’s directive” aimed at ending the 10-week standoff between Israel’s new hardline government and the large protest movement opposed to the plans, which would give politicians much greater control of the judiciary.

The proposals have been criticised as undermining democratic norms and the rule of law, prompting mass protests that have united what is usually a highly polarised society, including strong opposition from military reservists and the normally apolitical tech sector. Israeli protesters returned to the streets on Thursday, with some holding up placards saying the reforms spelled “the end of democracy”.

“The last few weeks have been tearing us apart,” the president said. “Israel is in the throes of a profound crisis. Anyone who thinks that a real civil war, of human life, is a line that we will not reach has no idea. The abyss is within touching distance.”

Herzog responded to the government’s criticism in a media conference on Thursday morning, describing his proposals as a basis for work, change and precision. “This isn’t the end of the discussion, only its beginning,” he said.

The president’s role is largely ceremonial but he has repeatedly appealed to the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to freeze the expedited passage of the legislative changes through the Knesset in order to open a dialogue with opposition parties.

Those efforts have come to naught, however, as did Wednesday’s second attempt at a compromise plan. Netanyahu, seemingly under pressure from the more radical elements of the government, immediately turned it down.

“Unfortunately, the things the president presented were not agreed to by the coalition representatives, and central elements of the proposal he offered just perpetuate the current situation and don’t bring the necessary balance between the branches [of government]. That is the unfortunate truth,” the prime minister said on Wednesday night before leaving for Germany.

Netanyahu continued to defend the disputed legal reforms on a visit to Berlin, where the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, urged him to reconsider a compromise.

Scholz said he was watching the debate unfold in Israel “with great concern” and said that “as Israel’s friend, we hope that the last word has not been spoken” on Herzog’s proposals for compromise.

Netanyahu put on a defiant front, arguing that his plans merely sought to bring Israel’s democracy “in line with what is common and acceptable in just about every western democracy”. He also hit out at “slanders and falsifications” against his own and his coalition’s intentions.

Among the proposals advanced by far-right members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition are bills that would allow politicians to appoint all supreme court judges, and an override clause that would mean a simple parliamentary majority could quash the court’s rulings.

The changes would probably help the prime minister avoid prosecution in his corruption trial, in which he denies all charges.

Proponents of the plans believe they are needed to counter a perceived leftwing bias in the court’s decisions, but critics say neutering the court, in a country with no formal constitution or second legislative chamber, amounts to a “rightwing coup”.

Ideas in Herzog’s compromise proposal, which has been weeks in the making, include altering the selection committee for the high court to include three ministers, the court president, two judges and two civil servants, who would be agreed on by the court president and the justice minister.

Despite the fact some of the plan is clearly calibrated to appeal to ultra-Orthodox parties and members of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party who are uncomfortable with their new far-right coalition partners, “the people’s directive” was rejected by the government as not far-reaching enough. Opposition parties, many of which have previously stated they will refuse to negotiate over the proposals, greeted it with cautious enthusiasm.

According to Israeli media, Netanyahu delayed his flight to Berlin on Wednesday as he was in talks with coalition members over possible amendments to the planned judicial changes that would not lead to resignations from the government and the collapse of his bloc’s parliamentary majority.

Rumours are also growing that the prime minister, who has managed to extricate himself from several political stalemates in the past, may be seeking to ditch his extremist partners and form a coalition with a centrist party instead, which would not trigger an election.

Israeli protests ramp up as govt rejects compromise on judicial reform

Protesters stage third midweek ‘day of disruption’

Israeli protesters pressed ahead on Thursday with demonstrations against a judicial overhaul by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after the rightist leader rejected a compromise proposal intended to defuse the crisis.

Protesters were kicking off a third midweek “Day of Disruption” since the crisis began, with roads blocked to make way for rallies. In the capital of Jerusalem, protesters drew a red streak on the streets leading to the country’s High Court and a small flotilla of boats was blocking the shipping lane off the coast of the northern city of Haifa.

Protesters blocked the Ayalon, one of the country’s main traffic arteries that passes through Tel Aviv, in several places, though they were eventually cleared by police. At least 10 protesters were arrested as police utilized crowd control measures.

Despite efforts by the country’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, to pave a way out of the political crisis, the sides appeared to be further digging in on Thursday. Netanyahu and his hard-right allies were intent on steamrolling ahead with their original plan despite weeks of mass protests and widespread opposition from broad swaths of Israeli society and dire warnings by Herzog that Israel was barreling toward an “abyss.”

Should the initial proposal pass, it would mean greater government sway in selecting judges and limit the power of the High Court to strike down legislation. One major point of contention in the planned overhaul is an amendment to the way in which judges are selected.

Last week, Netanyahu had to be airlifted to the country’s main international airport for an overseas state visit after protesters blocked the road leading there, brandishing signs that read “don’t come back!” Tens of thousands have been attending weekly protests across the country each Saturday night.

Tel Aviv: Cavalry and security forces are operating and evacuating the demonstrators

Tel Aviv


Opinion pieces don’t necessarily reflect the position of our news site but of our Opinion writers.

Original Source: Israel on the Verge of Civil War

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