As of 03/23/2023 11:01 PM
Despite weeks of protests, the Israeli parliament passed a law protecting the prime minister from accountability. In the evening thousands took to the streets again. Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to calm down.
The Israeli government is moving ahead with its plan to further weaken the judiciary. Parliament in Jerusalem passed a law that will make it more difficult in the future to declare the prime minister incapacitated. This is the first change in the law as part of a highly controversial judicial reform by the new right-wing religious government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the evening, thousands took to the streets across Israel to demonstrate against the change in the law. There have been occasional confrontations with the police. In the coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, among others, forces used water cannons to take action against protesters. Media reports said dozens were arrested across the country.
Netanyahu postpones his trip to London
A large crowd demonstrated in front of Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. The head of government has postponed an official trip to the UK until early Friday morning and promised in a televised speech to “heal the rift” running through the country.
“We will guarantee the basic rights of all Israeli citizens – Jews and non-Jews, secular and religious, women, the LGBT community, everyone without exception,” Netanyahu said. I will do whatever it takes to calm the waters and heal the rift in the nation because we are a family.” However, he made it clear that he intends to push the bill even further.
The protest movement immediately rejected Netanyahu’s remarks. “Tonight we saw a dictator in the making who continues his hostile takeover of the Supreme Court instead of stopping the legal coup,” she said in a statement.
Lapid: Not interested in dialogue
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu had made it clear he had no intention of “any real dialogue”. Opposition politician Avigdor Lieberman announced that he would take action before the Supreme Court. Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “Either Israel will be a Jewish, democratic and progressive state, or a failed, isolated and closed totalitarian theocracy.”
The law passed states that an Israeli prime minister can only be declared unfit to rule on health or mental health grounds. At the same time, this decision can only be made by the incumbent or his government. Suspicion of corruption or conflict of interest are not sufficient grounds for such a step. Critics say the law was designed for Netanyahu, encourages corruption and deepens rifts between Israelis over judicial reform disputes.
A gap between secular and religious Israelis
Claims by the country’s attorney general to declare the prime minister unfit to rule because of his legal troubles have been mounting previously. The attorney general had already barred Netanyahu from participating in the judicial reform because his corruption case could lead to a conflict of interest.
Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, embezzlement and taking bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and powerful media moguls. He denies any wrongdoing and rejects allegations that he was trying to circumvent a process through the legal reform his government is pushing for.
The crisis has exacerbated a long-running divide between secular and religious Israelis over the role religion should play in their daily lives. The government rejected a settlement proposal to defuse the crisis earlier this month. It announced it would delay most of the vote until after the month-long parliamentary recess in April. However, the government is pushing ahead with the core of the reform: its control over the appointment of judges.
The Knesset passes the impeachment law – Netanyahu could benefit
Julio Segador, ARD Tel Aviv, 3.23.2023 11:34 Uhr