Israel entangled in political crossfire amid judicial overhaul

Photo credit: Soluvo, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens took to the streets over the last few weeks protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to him firing the country’s defense minister.

On March 25, defense minister Yoav Gallant spoke to the Israeli public regarding a judicial overhaul process, calling for its suspension in order to facilitate negotiations with opposing factions.

These controversial judicial reforms, which were drafted in early January, would strictly limit the authority of the Supreme Court in carrying out judicial review and give government officials complete control over the appointment of judges and Supreme Court Justices.

Junior international studies major Jesse Fromer is an Israeli citizen and a member of Chabad, Hillel, and ‘Canes for Israel at UM. Fromer spoke on the matter, addressing the nature of Netanyahu’s governance in Israel.

“This judicial reform not only serves him [Netanyahu] right, in allowing him to eradicate his own corruption probe, but it also serves the interests of the ultra-orthodox a lot better so they can have a lot more influence over Israeli society and implement a lot more religiously-related laws,” Fromer said.

A stark opponent of these reforms, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel has criticized the prime minister for attempting to override judicial authority and place all of the power in the hands of the government coalition.

Following his decision to suspend the legislation, Gallant was summoned to Netanyahu’s office where he was immediately dismissed from his position.

Just a few days later, Israeli citizens from all across the political, economic and social spectrum stormed the streets in protest of Gallant’s dismissal and Netanyahu’s efforts to drastically shift the power politics of Israeli society.

A day of mass protests on March 28 led to the detainment of 38 people in Tel Aviv after demonstrators began to block major roadways and routes into the city. As a response, police used dozens of stun grenades and water cannons in an effort to clear out protestors.

While protests have significantly died down a week later and Netanyahu has raised a suspension on the judicial reform, there still remains an unprecedented divide in Israeli society.

“I think the absolute divisiveness and polarization of his policies and of this current government represents the furthest right-wing shift in Israeli civil society that there’s ever been,” Fromer said. “It really represents a systematic fracture in Israeli society and a divide that our adversaries look at and rejoice in and that’s the really sad part.”

Last week, UM Hillel hosted a luncheon where students had the opportunity to meet with lifelong Jewish activist David Harris, who spoke on the matter.

“At the luncheon last week, I had the pleasure of seeing David Harris speak at the Hillel building,” junior media scoring and production major Jonathan Lonstein said. “He covered many topics including the judicial overhaul, antisemitism on college campuses around the country, how antisemitism spreads in many different forms and how to fight it with Jewish empowerment.”

Harris urged Jewish students at UM to come together to combat antisemitism and empower each other as Israel looks to fan the flames of a political crossfire.