Israel: Knesset pushes through judicial reform

The governing majority in the Israel's Knesset passed a key element of the controversial judicial reform on Monday. The opposition boycotted the vote. Ex-prime minister Jair Lapid announced that the legislation would be appealed before the Supreme Court, a body which will be weakened by the reform. A major demonstration has been announced for Saturday. Europe's press voices concern.

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Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Netanyahu has tangled with the people

The mass protests show how vibrant the embattled democracy in the country is, raves the Salzburger Nachrichten:

“Citizens who support the occupation of the West Bank stand alongside those who are against it. People from the right-wing camp rub shoulders with people from the left-wing camp - because the lines that divide Israeli society are not that clear-cut. Democracy in Israel is under pressure - and at the same time, it is incredibly alive. Half a million people have taken to the streets in recent days to save democracy in their country. ... Netanyahu has taken on the people - a people that won't tolerate any mistreatment.”

El País (ES) /

Middle East's sole democracy is without defence

The actions of the Israeli government reminds El País of that of other illiberal states:

“Netanyahu not only wanted to regain power, but above all to protect himself from the judicial threat posed by three corruption cases. ... Bibi had no qualms about suspending constitutional control to the extent that the only liberal democracy in the Middle East is now defenceless. ... Without constitutional oversight, nothing and no one will prevent the rights of Palestinians from being even more violated than they are now. ... This increasingly resembles the model of South African apartheid. ... As of this week, Israel's policies resemble those of illiberal democracies like Turkey or Hungary.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

PM shooting himself in the foot

Netanyahu is manoeuvring himself into a corner with the controversial judicial reform, says NRC:

“Especially because he is creating a dangerous precedent by allowing politics to interfere with the powers of an institution that controls and, if necessary, limits its authority. ... Due to the occupation of Palestinian territory, the claim that the country is the 'only democracy in the Middle East' has always been dubious, as not all citizens in the areas administered by Israel enjoy the same level of democracy. With this latest proposed law, that claim is further undermined. An own goal - and a foolish one at that.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Save democracy!

In an opinion piece in La Repubblica, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari warns strongly against judicial reform:

“Solid democracies are based on a separation of powers system, but Israel has no constitution, no upper house, no federal system, and no other body to check the power of the government except one: the Supreme Court. ... We owe it to ourselves, to Jewish tradition and to humanity to prevent the rise of a Jewish supremacist dictatorship. Please stand with us and help us save Israeli democracy!”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Long-term goals even more frightening

Dagens Nyheter fears an escalation of violence in the Middle East:

“Several analysts warn that the long-term goal of the ruling coalition is to effectively deprive the Arab minority of its voting rights - which would secure a parliamentary majority for the right-wing nationalists - and, in the longer term, the annexation of the entire West Bank. This would undermine any chance of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. ... The 'judicial revolution' of the Israeli right-wing coalition on Monday could trigger a new spiral of violence in the Middle East, with incalculable consequences.”

Polityka (PL) /

This is not how democracy works

Polityka challenges the arguments put forward by advocates of the judicial reform:

“This reform will crack the system that has until now guaranteed the balance of power. It will no longer be the courts that control the government, but the government that holds the courts accountable, hypocritically claiming that this strengthens democracy. ... One of the advocates' main arguments was that the changes take power away from a court that is not elected by the people. The problem is that the majority of citizens reject the reform (as the polls show). And what's more, up to 85 percent of them now fear civil war. So who are the prime minister and his henchmen really listening to?”

The Economist (GB) /

Israel facing a tempestuous summer

The judicial reform is plunging the country into chaos, says The Economist:

“Israel may find itself in a constitutional crisis within days. ... The demonstrators who believe their country is on a slippery slope to dictatorship are not going home. Entire reserve units and squadrons could be paralysed. Major business groups have already closed their establishments in protest and the trade unions are considering a general strike. Angry protests broke out following the vote, causing havoc in central Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere around the country. Israel is facing a tempestuous summer.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

The moderates are being marginalised

Netanyahu needs to close a huge gap that has now become obvious as a result of the judicial reform, NRC warns:

“The dichotomy has existed for much longer and is widening due to demographic developments and political radicalisation. Ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist Israelis are having many more children and gaining ever more political influence. Moderate Israelis feel increasingly marginalised, and more and more of them are thinking about emigrating. Germany is currently a popular destination for Israelis who want to escape the 'fascism' in their homeland, as they bluntly put it.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

National security at risk

In Poland, too, there are protests against moves to limit the judiciary's power, Rzeczpospolita reminds readers:

“But compared to the overall number of inhabitants there are far more protesters in Israel than in Poland. Why has concern for the judiciary prompted so many people to demonstrate, make serious statements and take risks? There are many reasons, but the most important seems to be the situation in Israel, which recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence. The security of a country where new laws are being dictated by nationalists and religious extremists is at risk. It is thus becoming more like its Middle Eastern neighbours and moving away from the West.”