Israelis brace for disruption amid renewed push for judicial overhaul | Israel #Israelis #brace #disruption #renewed #push #judicial #overhaul #Israel

Israelis are bracing for a turbulent week of protests and potential strike action as the country’s governing coalition races to pass a key component of its wide-ranging judicial overhaul before the parliamentary summer recess.

The Knesset’s constitution, justice and law committee on Monday discussed sending a bill eliminating the “reasonableness” standard that allows the supreme court to overrule government decisions back to the plenum for its second reading.

While opposition lawmakers submitted an unprecedented 27,000 reservations to the committee in an attempt to delay the bill, both the second and third, final votes are still expected early next week, ahead of the Tisha B’Av day of mourning and the close of the legislature’s summer session.

In response to the government’s renewed push, leaders of the nationwide protest movement declared a “day of disruption” for Tuesday. Similar action over the past seven months has blocked major highways and access to Tel Aviv airport, and led to clashes between demonstrators and police using horses and water cannon.

The crisis sparked by the judicial overhaul, advanced by the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right and ultra-religious coalition partners, has exposed deep ethnic and socio-economic divides in Israeli society. It has also sent the value of the shekel tumbling, scared away foreign investment, and led to public concern for Israel’s democratic health from key allies such as the US.

Military reservists in elite units, including pilots, special forces and intelligence officers, have stepped up their opposition to the government’s plans this week, with a growing number publicly announcing they would not show up for duty if the overhaul moved ahead.

The defence minister, Yoav Gallant, concluded during an assessment with military commanders on Sunday night that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF)’s operational capability was not significantly affected by the reservists’ protests. Israeli media, however, has suggested the army was downplaying the severity of the crisis.

Netanyahu, a former commander in an elite special forces unit, has been critical of the opposition within the military. He said on Sunday: “In a democracy, the military is subordinate to the elected government and not the other way around.”

Pressure from protest leaders is also mounting for Israel’s largest trade union to call for strike action on Tuesday. Wildcat strikes in March backed by the Histadrut – a spontaneous show of anger at Netanyahu’s decision to fire Gallant after the defence minister called for a pause to the judicial changes – succeeded in shutting down much of the country.

The strikes, along with the military criticism and opposition from leaders in Tel Aviv’s vaunted hi-tech sector, forced Netanyahu to announce a freeze to the overhaul on the eve of the Passover parliamentary recess.

Compromise talks with opposition parties, brokered by the figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, have since collapsed.

Netanyahu returned to office at the end of 2022 at the head of the most rightwing government in Israeli history, which soon announced the wide-ranging judicial legislation aimed at curbing the outsize power of the supreme court and its perceived leftwing bias.

Critics have raised fears of democratic backsliding and say the changes will aid Netanyahu’s fight against graft charges, which he denies.

An estimated one in four Israelis say they have participated in the protests, according to a poll published by the Israeli Democracy Institute, with 10% of those identifying as rightwing.

If the civil unrest escalates this week, Netanyahu may be forced once again to push the legislation until after the summer recess – a decision that would anger his coalition partners, and threaten the stability of his government.

#Israelis #brace #disruption #renewed #push #judicial #overhaul #Israel

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