Israel woke up this Thursday to a day of “escalation in resistance to the dictatorship”, an expression used by the organizers of the national protest that is expected to take hundreds of thousands of people to the streets with “disturbances” planned in 150 locations. The day of contesting the judicial reform of the government coalition began hours after Benjamin Netanyahu refused a compromise proposed by the President, Isaac Herzog. “Anyone who thinks that a real civil war, of human life, is a line we won’t reach has no idea”, warned Herzog.
As in the previous two weeks, there are protesters blocking some of Israel’s main roads and highways and protests outside universities, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem and the US consulate in Tel Aviv. At least seven protesters were detained during the morning, including five who had painted a red line to the Supreme Court.
There are also reservists on the streets of Haifa and groups of religious people who have gathered in Tel Aviv with signs that read “Judaism and democracy, one voice”. But in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox city that on Tuesday night was the scene of clashes between supporters and opponents of government reform, there are reservists who are chanting “Go into the Army” – the ultra-Orthodox, an ever-increasing percentage. population, are not obliged to fulfill the mandatory military service of almost three years for men and two for women.
“The abyss is so close that we can touch it”, warned Herzog in his address to the country, broadcast on television, on Wednesday night. Israel, said the head of state, is “in the midst of a real crisis”, but also “in front of an enormous opportunity”. Most Israelis, he stressed, “want a plan that brings justice and peace.” The presidency is an essentially symbolic position, but given the current crisis, Herzog has been trying to mediate negotiations between members of the coalition, which includes the most extreme right-wing parties in Israel (extreme right and ultra-Orthodox) and the opposition.
The so-called judicial reform intends to give the government more control in the appointment of judges, which would be made by a committee composed of three ministers, the president of the Supreme Court, two judges and two civil servants (chosen by agreement between the president of the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice). At the same time, the Supreme Court would lose power to overturn laws that it considers unconstitutional – the country has no Constitution, but a set of basic laws that function as such –, with Parliament, that is, the majority that is in power, being able to reverse your decisions.
“Unfortunately, the representatives of the coalition did not agree with the President’s proposals,” said Netanyahu. “The central element of the proposals he offered only perpetuates the current situation and does not bring the necessary balance between the powers [executivo e judiciário]. That is the unfortunate truth”, said the prime minister before flying to Berlin, a trip that was delayed because of the talks and from which he will return ahead of schedule, already this Thursday (hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the airport trying to prevent your departure).
Despite the intransigence of the Government, the first dissenting voice emerged, with David Bitan, deputy and veteran member of Likud (from Netanyahu) proposing that the legislation be frozen to “calm the country” and allow the coalition to rethink the plan. “A delay is not a problem,” he said in an interview with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Although he is the first member of the alliance that supports the Government in Parliament to come forward with a proposal in this sense, Bitan also disagrees with what was presented by Herzog to the parties.
“You will only be able to understand who you are and what you want to do if Israel continues to be a free and democratic country with equality”, said this Thursday morning the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Justice Tzipi Livni (it was member of Likud before forming his centre-left party, Hatnua), addressing protesters in Tel Aviv. “This is what we are fighting for. This is our country, this is our flag. We live here and we will keep this country democratic.”