Judicial reform divides Israel

In recent days, thousands of Israelis have again demonstrated and gone on strike to protest against the government's planned reform of the judiciary under which, among other things, new laws could be passed even if they are ruled unconstitutional by the courts. Parliament has been rocked by violent riots over the reform. Commentators are alarmed.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

The country is at a crossroads

Peter Münch, the Tages-Anzeiger's correspondent in Tel Aviv, says Israel has gone off the rails:

“Israel's political scene is like a madhouse these days. The Knesset is the scene of tears and turmoil, and outside the masses gather in angry protest. There is talk of a coup d'état, warnings of bloodshed and civil war. In short, a battle is raging in and over Israel - and this battle threatens to become more dangerous for the Jewish state than all attacks from outside. ... In the 75th year of its existence, the State of Israel is indeed at a crossroads.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Pillar of the rule of law in jeopardy

The government's plan is a fundamental attack on democracy, warn legal experts Sir Jonathan Faull and Joseph H. H. Weiler in Le Monde:

“The cumulative effect of the planned reform is to dismantle fundamental features of the separation of powers and of the checks and balances. It would remove certain judicial and legal controls designed to prevent a legislature, even if democratically elected, from establishing a 'tyranny of the majority'. It would allow the government to take measures that are subject to a fatally weakened judicial control - the government, which has recourse to the police, the tax authorities and all other administrative authorities. The whole reform is a certain defeat for democracy. The protection of basic and minority rights is particularly at risk.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Civil society needs support

Their past notwithstanding, Vienna and Berlin must support the democrats in Israel, Der Standard insists:

“Civil society will not succeed on its own in standing up to the far-right government's will to stay in power. It needs backing from abroad. Germany and Austria are still waiting to see what happens. ... It is problematic when countries where Nazi regimes were once in power try to explain to Israel how democracy should work. But the time has come for Vienna and Berlin to ask themselves whether it is enough to affirm Israel's unconditional right to exist when the forces that govern there today threaten to endanger this existence. Those who really want to support Israel must bolster the democratic camp.”