Israel is facing the largest wave of protests in its history. Today, hundreds of thousands of Israelis are back on the streets protesting proposed judicial reforms in the country. In addition to individual protesters, labor unions in have now joined in, causing Israel’s largest airport to halt outgoing flights. Here’s what you need to know about the protests.
- Why are there protests in Israel? At their heart, these protests center around judicial reform plans that opponents say would give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government inordinate control over the judicial branch. As CNBC reports, under the proposed changes, the executive branch of the government would have control over appointing judges to Israel’s Supreme Court and allow court decisions to be overturned by the government with a simple parliamentary majority. Protesters say these changes would turn Israel into an autocracy.
- What is Netanyahu’s reasoning for the proposed judicial changes? Netanyahu argues that the country’s Supreme Court has become elitist, says CNN. The alleged elite group of justices, Netanyahu’s supporters argue, has ruled on issues it should not have a hand in, and thus it no longer represents the will of the Israeli people.
- What do opponents say about Netanyahu’s reasoning? Most opponents say the judicial changes Netanyahu is proposing come not from a will to protect “the people” but from a will for Netanyahu’s government to overturn any court ruling that would decide Netanyahu is unfit for office—as is one possible outcome of Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
- What’s happened with Israel’s defense minister? It’s important to note that the protests have been going on for months, but over the past 24 hours, the protests have swelled after Netanyahu fired his own defense minister, Yoav Gallant. Gallant was fired after he came out in favor of the protestors, saying on Sunday, “For the security of Israel, for the sake of our sons and daughters: We need to stop the legislative process at this time.” Netanyahu fired him shortly after.
- How large are the protests? Local news reports say as many as 600,000 are in the street protesting. As Monica Marks, a professor of Middle East politics at NYU Abu Dhabi, pointed out on Twitter, that figure represents 6.5% of the entire country.
- Are individuals the only ones protesting? No. As of today, labor unions and even banks have gotten involved with the strikes. One such strike has stopped all flights out of Israel’s Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv today. Port workers are also striking. And due to the strike, McDonald’s has had to close restaurants in the country. Even Leumi, the country’s largest bank, is closing branches as part of the strikes.
600,000 demonstrating is an extraordinary figure. It means approx 6.5% of #Israel‘s population is out protesting tonight, many having literally woken up from their beds when they heard Bibi fired Gallant.
When was the last time 6+% of any country protested? Genuine question. https://t.co/SfAeHq0jNr
— Monica Marks (@MonicaLMarks) March 26, 2023
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