The decision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reform the judiciary has caused chaos in Israel and its foreign policy, experts said.
“What’s changing? Besides everything?” said Barak Ravid, an Israeli journalist and commentator at a Zoom webinar at the Middle East Institute.
“The reality is that this government in its first few months is completely dysfunctional and chaotic, and almost any step it takes is not an initiative but a reaction to events.”
The judicial reform measures were approved by a legislative committee of Israel’s parliament in February and have sparked widespread criticism and accusations that they would give almost unchecked authority to the legislative branch.
Since then, thousands of Israelis across the country have demonstrated for the 10th consecutive week in protests against the government’s judicial reform plans, which critics see as a threat to democracy. The largest demonstration, which took place in Tel Aviv, drew about 100,000 protesters, according to estimates given by Israeli media.
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Plans for the judicial overhaul were put on hold after strikes and protests swept the country earlier this week.
‘He hasn’t done anything’
Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, an assistant lecturer at the Hebrew University’s European Forum, says that Israel under Yair Lapid ran much more smoothly than under Netanyahu.
“After ten long years of really bad political relations that have deteriorated under Netanyahu, in the last year and a half of the current government. [Yair] Remaining as foreign minister and then prime minister was a significant improvement,” she said at the Zoom meeting.
Israel’s judicial crisis: What reforms are causing anger?
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In forming a government, Netanyahu defended the inclusion of far-right groups in his coalition, which created a series of controversies not only at home but also between Israel and its allies such as the US.
“They’re joining me, I’m not joining them,” he said in an interview with NPR. “I’ll have both hands firmly on the steering wheel. I will not let anyone do anything to the LGBT [people] or deny our Arab citizens their rights or anything like that.
But according to Ravid, that was not the case. Netanyahu is “not running anything”, he said.
Israel’s prime minister has said he would openly oppose Iran’s nuclear policy and work to expand the Abraham Accords. He also said his government was working on a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia.
“But for the last three months, he has done nothing. Not the first foreign policy goal, not the second goal,” said Ravid. “This is because this judicial reform consumes everything in Israel, which basically redeemed the government’s agenda.”