Strikes, Protests Rock Israel after Netanyahu Fires Defense Minister
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JERUSALEM, Israel – After a night of nationwide protests, demonstrations and riots surrounding judicial reform and the firing of Israel's defense minister, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly considering a halt to the immediate passage of legislation to rein in the power of the courts and the legal system.
The internal battle has thrust Israel into what many believe is one of the most dangerous times since the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago.
Nearly 12 weeks of protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities intensified Sunday after Netanyahu dismissed Defense Minister Yaov Gallant, who is a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party. He defied the prime minister in a nationwide speech Saturday, calling for a halt to negotiations over judicial reform before the Passover break, which is coming in a little more than a week.
Israel's President Isaac Herzog also called for calm and a halt to negotiations.
Monday morning, Histadrut, the nation's largest union with a membership of 700,000 people, called for a nationwide strike, and departing flights were halted at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. They aim to shut the country down.
For months, the opposition has charged that the coalition's judicial reforms will bring about the end of Israel's democracy. Yet, some believe the conflict is over much more than judicial reform.
CBN News Middle East Analyst John Waage said, "If it had been about judicial reform we would have seen it in October before the (November) elections were happening. But what was it about back then? It was about Netanyahu and getting him out of office. The opposition people, now they're the ones who were saying, we've got to get him out. No matter what kind of alliance we make, we've gotta get him out of office. So that's really the central point.”
Israeli Middle East expert Amir Tsarfati explained, "So, we are definitely seeing something that is going to intensify and definitely, a hundred percent, the attempt here is to throw the Netanyahu government and to get back to have the left ruling with the immunity that it will get from the Supreme Court.”
Tsarfati believes powerful interests want to maintain the power of the Supreme Court, which is widely considered to be unparalleled by any other democracy.
“Look, Israel went through a judicial revolution over the last 25, 30 years. All that the right is trying to do is to reverse it and bring it back to what it was before, because there is no country on planet Earth where the Supreme Court has so much power as in this country. And again, you know, you're touching somebody's, asset and he won't let it go. And therefore they're billionaires, owners of big companies, big tech companies, bank owners, all of these people. With the aid, and of course what they do, they're painting a very terrible picture of Israel becoming (a) dictatorship.”
Tsarfati says the protests, which have been heavily attended throughout 2023, are well-funded.
“First of all, the amount of money that is being poured into that is – I've never seen anything like that before. We're talking about funding that is in the state level. We're talking about countries that are helping. We're talking about foreign affairs ministries that are involved here. We're talking about billionaires and bank owners that are involved here. This is not the common person.”
Netanyahu's coalition may be hard-pressed to hold together, as some Israeli media reports indicate National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has threatened to leave the government if, as is also reported, Netanyahu decides to calm the situation by giving in to the demonstrators' demands and putting the judicial reform legislation on hold.
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