Rarely has the visit of an Israeli prime minister encountered so much headwind. The reason: Under the new, old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel is experiencing a massive shift to the right. Critics fear for Israel’s basic democratic order.
First in Rome, now in Berlin, soon in London. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands on his brief tour of Europe, he leaves a deeply divided country in his wake. An overview.
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What is the judicial reform all about?
The right-wing coalition wants to overhaul the Israeli judicial system, but critics see it as an erosion of the basic democratic order. Conservative forces complain that chief justices all too often interfere in political decisions. In their opinion, a simple majority in parliament should be able to pass a law, even if the Supreme Court considers it to be in violation of the Basic Law. In fact, Justice Minister Jariv Levin not only wants to change the composition of the body, but also give Parliament control over the appointment of judges. The result would be the absolute power of the majority, possibly the beginning of the end of the division of power.
The head of Israel’s Supreme Court, Esther Chajut, spoke in January of a “deadly blow” to the independence of judges, an “unbridled attack on the legal system as if it were an enemy that must be attacked and subjugated”.
To what extent is Israel currently experiencing a shift to the right?
Benjamin Netanyahu is at the helm of Israeli democracy for the sixth time. However, according to reports and experts, precisely this democracy is in acute danger. In order to secure the necessary majority, this time “Bibi” has entered into an alliance with right-wing religious forces, including some politicians from the extreme right.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, for example, recently called for the “wiping out” of a Palestinian village. The current Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, who was convicted in the past for racist incitement and support for terrorism, is regarded as an inciter and inciter to violence against Palestinians.
Observers believe that Netanyahu wants and has to satisfy his new, arch-conservative partners with the judicial reform. On the other hand, the changes in the law also played into his own hands – after all, he should be able to avoid being convicted in corruption proceedings against him.
Did the protests make a difference?
Tens of thousands of people in Israel have been taking to the streets for weeks to protest against the restrictions on judicial rights under Netanyahu’s right-wing religious government. Up to half a million people demonstrated at the weekend, the organizers spoke of the largest street protests in the country’s history. Also among the ranks of the protesters are many familiar faces, such as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, one of the country’s most decorated military officials, Netanyahu’s predecessor and opposition leader Yair Lapid, and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
None of this has helped so far – Netanyahu’s government remains stoic. By the end of the month, she wants to push through the most important points of the reform. On Tuesday night, the parliament in Jerusalem approved amendments to several key points in the first reading. Two more readings are needed for the changes to finally come into force. Parliament also approved a first-reading amendment to the law that would make it significantly more difficult to declare a prime minister incapacitated. This would require a three-quarters majority in Parliament in the future.
What about Israeli-Palestinian relations?
With the filling of key positions by right-wing politicians, the already tense relationship between Jews and Muslims was dangerously tipped. In December, the nationalist-religious alliance published a list of guiding principles in which the authors wrote of the “exclusive and incontestable right of the Jewish people to all areas of the Land of Israel” and called for increased settlement building in Palestinian areas. The government has already approved the construction of more than 7,000 settlement units in the West Bank, almost twice as many as last year, reports the US magazine “Vox”.
The last few weeks have seen the most violent clashes in a long time. Only on Sunday did the Israeli army announce that three armed Palestinians had been shot dead near the West Bank city of Nablus. Since the beginning of the year, 13 Israelis and one Ukrainian have been killed in Palestinian attacks. During the same period, more than 79 Palestinians lost their lives, for example in confrontations with the Israeli army or in their own attacks.
What are the reactions to Netanyahu’s planned visit to Berlin?
The visit of an Israeli head of government has never been so controversial. Several protest demonstrations had been announced in Berlin, the largest rally was registered with 1000 participants.
In a letter to the German and British embassies, around 1,000 Israeli artists, writers and academics called for the cancellation of Netanyahu’s upcoming visits. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that they had written that Israel was in the worst crisis in its history and was “on the way from a vibrant democracy to a theocratic dictatorship”. Israel expert Volker Beck has called on Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse his controversial judicial reform. He hopes that Scholz “does not mince his words,” said the former member of the Bundestag for the Greens and current President of the German-Israeli Society on Thursday on rbb24 Inforadio.
Sources: ; “”; with DPA.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.