Netanyahu postpones judicial reform after protests

In the wake of violent mass protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for now put a halt to the controversial judicial reform. He wants to avoid civil war through dialogue, Netanyahu explained on Monday, saying that the second and third readings of the bill would be postponed. Commentators wonder whether this will be enough to calm the situation.

Der Standard (AT) /

A lesson in democracy

Israel’s prime minister underestimated the power of popular resistance, writes Der Standard:

“Israel has taught the world a lesson in democracy. The hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets for weeks in all weather conditions to save their country from a power-hungry, partially corrupt government have shown that democracy does not end with elections. ... The fact that Benjamin Netanyahu has now fired the minister [defence minister Yoav Gallant] only shows how desperate he is: Israel’s longest-ruling prime minister made the wrong calculation: he underestimated how powerless he is when the people on the street mean business.”

Maria Sterkl
Spotmedia (RO) /

The opposite of what was intended

Netanyahu has gravely miscalculated, Spotmedia puts in:

“Benjamin Netanyahu expected that the people would be preoccupied with other problems and that the protests would disperse, but with this attitude he’s triggered a boomerang effect. ... The demands now go far beyond the issue of judicial reform. Political scientists in Israel are talking about the need for a clear and robust constitution to prevent future abuses of power and to punish radical lapses by the government.”

Magda Gradinaru
Cicero (DE) /

Both sides need to move closer

A reform of the Supreme Court is nonetheless necessary, Cicero stresses:

“Israel has no written constitution, so the chief justices refer to various individual ‘basic laws’, which, however, do not have constitutional status. ... This means that the court’s judgements reflect above all the subjective political convictions of the judges, who are recruited almost without exception from the left-liberal, European-influenced middle classes. ... And since the court even has a right of veto on the appointment of new judges, it itself ensures that this remains the case. ... Reason enough, then, for the government and the opposition to move closer to each other and find a compromise that makes the necessary reforms possible and avoids the excesses of the government’s proposal.”

Ingo Way
Politiken (DK) /

Israel needs a constitution

For Politiken, this is a step in the right direction:

“However, even if the battle was victorious, the war for Israel’s future is not yet won. The crisis has exposed the major weaknesses in Israel’s structure and democracy that need to be addressed. ... The country is no longer a young pioneer state, but a regional superpower. It is unacceptable that Israel has no constitution that establishes once and for all the separation of powers between the parliament and the courts. It must correct this sin of omission now. And once this has been done, the Israeli population in general must take up the fight against the settlers and the ultra-Orthodox Jews on both a political and a moral level.”

Denik N (CZ) /

Postponement won’t end the crisis

Netanyahu will stick to his reform plans, fears Deník N:

“The obstacle preventing a calming of the situation is the longest-serving Israeli prime minister himself. ... Netanyahu, who unlike David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the modern state of Israel, wasn’t capable of leaving politics at the right moment, has above all a personal reason for the reforms — he himself stands accused of corruption and abuse of power. A judicial reform would free him from his problems with the law and allow his radical partners to push through the changes they have long dreamed of but which the Supreme Court has so far denied them. The price of their cynical domestic policy is to put the only functioning democracy in the Middle East at risk.”

Markéta Boubínová
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

New national sentiment as a driving force

Corriere della Sera notes:

“For almost four months, hundreds of thousands of people, including families who until the day before were apolitical, have been demonstrating alongside activists, representatives of the opposition and even the most moderate among the conservatives. And more come every day. The organisers of the protests, representing a centre-left that for years has been suspected of not understanding patriotism, admit that they have rediscovered the colours of the national flag. And it is this recourse to a fabric of identity which until now was claimed exclusively by the forces of the right that makes what is happening in a country that has never faced such radical internal confrontation so extraordinary and dramatic.”

Barbara Stefanelli