Finally, the Knesset has done what Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, 73, had always wanted it to do. The unicameral legislature of Israel approved, on 23 March, the judicial changes needed to make Bibi (Mr Netanyahu’s nickname) stronger and more secure. The Vaudevillian democratic tragedy went on the legislative stage, even as scores of Israelis were being rounded up, around the same time, for protesting against Mr Netanyahu’s devious plan to destroy Israel’s courts and democracy.
At long last, Mr Netanyahu has begun implementing his far-right agenda. On the ‘day of disruption,’ at least 75 protesters were arrested across Israel. The anger was in the air and palpable. Mr Netanyahu has got the judicial-reform laws passed to protect him and his position. This at a huge cost to Israeli democracy. Despite what looks like his victory, Mr Netanyahu has not been able to halt the two-month-old protests and the ensuing social turbulence. The protesters are in no mood to go back. The protests are now hitting a peak. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/23/israel-ratifies- law-stipulating-conditions-for-a-netanyahu-ouster
Video Courtesy: YouTube/NBC News
Insensitive Bibi Waxing Eloquent
As protests continue to snowball, the unrest is already showing signs of blowing up into a civil war. A civil strife will tear up Israel for sure. Scarily, the first part of the controversial judicial amendment is now an adopted law. Though the amendments were okayed by the parliament, albeit after a fiery debate, they do not have the nation’s approval. Ironically, after what is a pyrrhic victory, Mr Netanyahu called for protection of ‘civil rights’ and ‘democracy’.
Mr Netanyahu’s duplicity was not lost on the protesters. Yet, an insensitive Netanyahu went on waxing eloquent on his democratic ideals and concern for accommodating the interests of all Israelis. He was insinuating that the attorney general, who tried to block his judicial overhaul against the backdrop of his corruption trial, was not accommodative. Mr Netanyahu declaimed: “Until now, my hands were bound. Now, I am getting involved.” An irony there, again. In fact, it is Mr Netanyahu’s involvement that spells danger for Israel and its democracy. The truth has never been starker. The reality has never been scarier. https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/netanyahu-im-getting-involved-in-judicial-overhaul-legislation-to-choose- judges-will-go-ahead/
Can Hurt Future Generations More
Enraged Israelis are now seeing through this hypocrisy. They are aware of the extent of democratic destruction the approved judicial reforms could cause. They can smell the approaching constitutional crisis. As an unrepentant Netanyahu is determined to tear Israel’s social fabric as well, by virtue of destroying its democracy, a bigger storm is set to hit Israel soon. The storm will sweep Mr Netanyahu and his far-right cronies away. However, Mr Netanyahu is unmindful of the storm’s impending arrival.
Storm or no storm, Israelis are worried over the fast-deteriorating peace in Israel’s society. They are sure the approved amendments can hurt the future generations more. The first part of the amendments makes it clear Gali Baharav-Miara, Israel’s attorney general, will lose her powers to declare Mr Netanyahu unfit for holding office. She continues to believe Mr Netanyahu is using the amendments to snuff out the criminal charges against him. This explains Mr Netanyahu’s hate for the fearless and outspoken Ms Baharav-Miara. https://www.jpost.com/tags/gali-baharav-miara
The New Corrupt ‘Incapacitation Bill’
Sad, Ms Baharav-Miara will not succeed now in her ‘Incapacitate Bibi’ mission, as the amendments are approved laws now. Thanks to this approval, Mr Netanyahu cannot be removed with ease. As much as three-quarters of the cabinet are needed to declare Mr Netanyahu unfit to hold office. This is why Mr Netanyahu and his far-right cronies had always seen Ms Baharav-Miara as a major pain in the neck. They were sure she would, at her first opportunity, incapacitate Mr Netanyahu from holding office. The idea has always been to eliminate her. In this, Mr Netanyahu has succeeded, at last.
This is why the ‘incapacitation bill’ was at the top of the agenda before the Knesset. The new Incapacitation Law, which went through, with 61 votes to 47 in the 120-seat Knesset, has enraged many. Opposition chairperson Yair Lapid exploded: “Like thieves in the night, the coalition has now ratified a contemptible and corrupt personal piece of legislation.” Mr Netanyahu let Mr Lapid’s words roll off his back, as the bill was finally adopted into law. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-23/israel- passes-first-bit-of-judicial-plan-as-thousands-in-streets
Planning More Anti-Democratic Manoeuvres
Overjoyed will be Mr Netanyahu now. So will be his far-right allies in the coalition, who were holding him hostage to their deviously divisive plans. As Mr Netanyhau’s proposed judicial changes have turned into laws, it was becoming clear his allies had a major role to play in the Knesset approval drama. Mr Netanyahu had two prominent partners, ardent admirers both, who aided the bill’s passage: Likud party’s justice minister Yariv Levin and Simcha Rothman, the extremist who chairs the Knesset’s Law and Justice Committee. https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-march-19- 2023/
Encouraged, Mr Netanyahu and his far-right allies are now planning more anti-democratic manoeuvres. They want to get bills passed to enable them make direct appointments to Israel’s Supreme Court. They are hungering for power to deny the Supreme Court the ability to overturn laws. Mr Netanyahu and his far-right friends insist they want these changes for eliminating left-wing biases in Court decisions.
Dark and Dismal Days are Nigh
The scariest reality here is this. Israel has neither a formal constitution nor a second legislative chamber. This improves Mr Netanyahu’s chances of ushering in the changes he has been hankering after. This portends darkness for Israel’s democracy. The fear is palpable, not only in Israel, in the United States as well. More so in Israel-occupied territories in Palestine. As these fears grow, anti-Bibi protests are sure to turn more intense.
This is quite possible, as a mere 25 per cent of Israel’s voters back Mr Netanyahu’s outrageous judicial reforms. Tomorrow, this number is set to dip. That is when the current constitutional paralysis in Israel will be total. The dark and dismal days are quite nigh. Yet, Mr Netanyahu’s Likud Party is painting the amendments as democratic blessings. Ofir Katz, a Likud Party man, says the approved amendments would stabilise Israeli politics by making it difficult to remove a prime minister against the party’s will. Doublepeak at best. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-03-15/ty- article/.premium/knesset-passes-amendment-to-allow-fired- shas-minister-to-return-to-posts/00000186-e48b-decd-a1e6- fdaf95710000
Going a step further, the Likud Party is arguing the amendments will prevent judicial overreach. However, the sad reality is different. The amendments will rob the Supreme Court of its independence. They will render the Court impotent. The Court will end up naked, stripped of its critical power to strike down legislations. However, the anti-Bibi lobby is denouncing the atrocious amendments as a “regime coup”. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/03/23/middleeast/israel- judicial-reforms-prime-minister-law-intl/index.html
A regime coup or not, the Bibi juggernaut is stoking the flames of a civil war and pushing Israel to a breaking point. In the process, Mr Netanyahu may succeed in slipping out of his corruption charges. He may thus get his trial scrapped. However, in the process, Mr Netanyahu is sure to render Israel’s legal machinery impotent to act against corrupt politicians in power. Plus, enable Mr Netanyahu escape unscathed, to reign happily ever after. That will be a bigger Vaudevillian tragedy for Israel and its decrepit democracy.