After the Israeli parliament gave its yes to a core element of the controversial judicial reform, the federal government expressed concern about the tense situation and called for dialogue between the government and the opposition. “We very much regret that the negotiations between the government and the opposition, mediated by President Izchak Herzog, have failed for the time being,” said the Foreign Office in Berlin on Monday.
“Out of deep ties to Israel and its people, we view the deepening tensions in Israeli society with great concern. Especially after today’s adoption of the first part of the planned restructuring of the judiciary, it remains important that a broad social debate is given sufficient time and space to enable a new consensus,” it said. All sides, especially the government, would have to make their contribution to this.
USA: Vote “with the smallest possible majority”
The USA also criticized the decision of the Israeli parliament. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly made it clear that major changes in a democracy require the broadest possible consensus in order to be permanent, his spokeswoman said on Monday in Washington. It was “regrettable” that the vote came about “with the smallest possible majority”.
The American government assumes that there will be further talks now and in the coming weeks and months about how a more comprehensive compromise can be found, even if the Knesset is on recess. The US supported the efforts of President Izchak Herzog and other leaders to seek broader consensus through political dialogue.
On Monday, after days of debate, 64 out of 120 MPs voted in favor of a bill that restricts the Supreme Court’s ability to act. The opposition boycotted the vote. The law is part of a larger package. Critics see it as a threat to Israel’s democracy and even warn against the introduction of a dictatorship. Israel’s Justice Minister Jariv Levin, on the other hand, spoke of a necessary “correction of the judicial system”.
With the new law, it will no longer be possible for the Supreme Court to assess a decision by the government or individual ministers as “inappropriate”. Numerous experts fear that this could encourage corruption and thus also the arbitrary filling of important posts or layoffs.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the narrow yes in parliament as a “necessary democratic step”. This enables the elected leadership to govern in the interests of the majority of citizens, Netanyahu said in a speech on Monday evening. The fulfillment of the voters’ will is “the essence of democracy” – and not its end. According to surveys, however, only a quarter of all Israelis were in favor of implementing the judicial reform.
In the evening, thousands of Israelis again protested against the right-wing religious government. According to media reports, at least 34 demonstrators were arrested across the country and several people were injured, among other things by the use of water cannons. In several places, there were clashes between the police and demonstrators. According to reports, opponents of the judicial reform blocked several roads in the country. In Tel Aviv, hundreds marched on a central highway in the evening.
A car crashed into a crowd at a rally in a town north of Tel Aviv. According to the police, three demonstrators were injured. The security forces arrested the driver, whose motive was initially unclear in the evening, after a search.