The strong protest in the street and the appearance of tensions within his majority will have finally been too strong for Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister on Monday announced a “pause” in the justice reform project that is dividing Israel.
Affirming that he wants to give “a real chance to a real dialogue”, Benjamin Netanyahu thus wishes to “reach a broad agreement” on the reform at the next parliamentary session to open after Jewish Passover (from April 5 to 13). Israel’s strong ally, Washington, which had repeatedly expressed its concerns, welcomed a decision which “gives more time to find a compromise”.
Histadrut trade union ends general strike
Two of the main opposition leaders have said they are ready to dialogue with the government, but within the framework of the mediation proposed for several weeks by President Isaac Herzog, while warning the executive against any attempt at deception. “We (must) first make sure there is no trickery or bluff,” reacted opposition leader Yair Lapid (center). “Better late than never,” said Benny Gantz (center-right).
Quickly after the Prime Minister’s speech, the big Histadrut trade union center announced the end of the general strike it had called in the morning with the stated objective of stopping the reform. In civil society, the organizers of the protest, which for weeks has established itself as one of the largest popular mobilization movements that Israel has known, have on the other hand been much more circumspect, calling for the demonstrations to continue as long as that the project is not “totally stopped”.
Since the announcement of this project at the beginning of January, tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated every week to denounce it and shout down the government formed in December. The pace of protests has intensified since mid-March and tension was still rising on Sunday after the announcement of the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had spoken publicly the day before for a “pause” in the reform. Thousands of Israelis then took to the streets in Tel Aviv, which led to clashes with the security forces during the night.
Opponents fear an authoritarian drift
Again on Monday, tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv and around the Parliament building in Jerusalem to protest against the reform. In the evening, a counter-demonstration, the first of its kind, gathered several thousand people near the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.
For the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the reform aims to rebalance powers by reducing the prerogatives of the Supreme Court, which the executive considers politicized, in favor of Parliament. The protesters believe, on the contrary, that it risks leading to an illiberal or authoritarian drift.