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Israel’s police minister announces postponement of judicial reform


After increasingly violent protests, Israel’s Police Minister Ben-Gvir has announced that the controversial judicial reform will be postponed. Meanwhile, the people of the country are waiting for a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu.

By Jan-Christoph Kitzler, ARD Studio Tel Aviv

Israel is waiting. Awaiting statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on controversial judicial reform. Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has now announced that the controversial project will be postponed until after the parliamentary break at the end of July. A spokesman said he had reached an agreement with Netanyahu on this. In return, a “national guard” will be set up under the leadership of Ben-Gvir. What that meant in concrete terms remained unclear.

Large parts of the country were paralyzed today due to protests against the reform. The trade union confederation Histradrut had called on its approximately 800,000 members to go on strike. At times, no planes took off from Ben Gurion Airport, and shopping centers and kindergartens remained closed.

“What will stop them is your love for the country”

Demonstrations took place in Tel Aviv and elsewhere. At a large rally in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, opposition leader Yair Lapid said: “We have no problem with people who think differently than we do. But if they want us to live together here, they have to respect our values.”

Instead of tackling problems, the government created problems, Lapid said. This legislation endangers the security of the state, destroys the economy, shatters foreign relations and tears the people of Israel to pieces. “Radicals never stop on their own. What will stop them is your love for the country,” he told the demonstrators.

Mass protests in Israel against the ultra-right coalition’s planned judicial reform

Christian Limpert, ARD Tel Aviv, daily news 5:00 p.m., March 27, 2023

Netanyahu’s partners want to push through the reform

Netanyahu’s national-religious coalition partners show that they don’t want to be stopped. The far-right Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, had apparently threatened to resign if the reform were stopped.

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, who recently spoke out in favor of ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestinian territories, is also opposed to the reform being shelved. The reform “to correct the judiciary and strengthen democracy” must not be stopped under any circumstances, he said.

“We are the majority. We must not give in to violence, anarchy, disobedience and wild protests,” said Smotrich. “So let our voices be heard. We’ll all meet today at 6 p.m. in front of the Knesset.”

An escalation may be planned

Smotrich and other politicians have spent the day trying to mobilize pro-judicial reform protesters. There are reports of buses taking settlers to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A right-wing fan group of the Beitar Jerusalem football club, some of which are ready to use violence, also announced that they would come to the demonstrations. An escalation in the protests, which have so far been largely peaceful, may be part of the plan to influence the mood in the country on judicial reform.

Meanwhile, the governing coalition in the Knesset is preparing further parts of the reform for the final vote in the plenum. Among them is a law that gives the governing parties control over the selection of judges.

Netanyahu sacked Defense Minister Joav Galant on Sunday, who had called for reforms to be halted. Because the division in Israel’s society is deepening as a result of the reform project and this is also a problem for Israel’s security, Netanyahu’s supporters are now turning their backs.

“This is not the smart Netanyahu”

Among them is Stella Weinstein, a close associate of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Weinstein said she was certain that the Netanyahu she knew and supported would gallantly say he should stay in office. But the reform will continue. “When he fired him, he lost followers like me himself,” says Weinstein.

She doesn’t understand how the defense minister can be fired at the beginning of Ramadan, at a time when security is sensitive. This is not the smart Netanyahu, says Weinstein. “This Benjamin Netanyahu is just trying to prove who the man is.”

What happens next will depend above all on Netanyahu’s declaration and on whether he stops the judicial reform in whole or in part or just postpones it.

Controversy over judicial reform

Jan-Christoph Kitzler, ARD Tel Aviv, March 27, 2023 5:33 p.m