Netanyahu sparks protests

By Peter Melahn, Staff Writer

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis continue to protest against controversial judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political coalition.

Netanyahu, sworn in for his sixth term as Prime Minister in December 2022, has proposed legislation which would substantially weaken the power of the country’s judicial system. Notable components of the proposed judicial overhaul would give the nation’s legislative body, the Knesset, a boost of power and influence within the nation’s government.

Currently, for the Knesset to override judicial decisions, a supermajority must be reached. The proposed legislation would give the Knesset the power to override the court’s decisions with a simple majority. Protestors fear that this would present a danger to the systems of checks and balances built into the nation’s government system. Parties in opposition to the prime minister fear that the National Liberal Movement, Likud, would gain an unreasonable advantage in its ability to strike down legislation.

Since the party of the prime minister is the majority party of the Knesset by nature of the parliamentary system, creating a judicial override which relies on a simple majority would give that power solely to the majority party. Many fear that this would give the executive and Netanyahu an unreasonable amount of political power.

Netanyahu currently faces corruption charges from the judiciary. Respresentatives of certain factions believe that his faction’s pushes to control the judiciary aim to get these corruption charges dropped. In addition to strengthening the Knesset’s ability to override judicial decisions, the new legislation would make it easier for the majority party to appoint its own judges. This would give Netanyahu and his allies the ability to appoint judges that are friendly to their rule and who would likely drop pending corruption charges against the prime minister.

In addition to these changes, the legislation would also eliminate the court’s power to strike down any executive appointments they deem inappropriate, further allowing Netanyahu and his party to concentrate power.

Many Israelis have passionately expressed their discontent since as early as January, while others continue to join the protests. Approximately 500,000 protesters took to the streets last week, more than 200,000 of whom made a display in Tel Aviv alone. In addition to civilian protests, encouraged by party leaders in opposition to Netanyahu, representatives from the nation’s military has also expressed discontent. Many officials and reserve officers have stated that they will refuse to serve if the proposed legislation passes, further straining relations not only within the nation, but also with Israel’s neighbors and allies.

“We are done being patient,” Israeli physicist and protest leader Shikma Bressler said.