Israel: Protests Put Benjamin Netanyahu on the Ropes. Are Changes on the Horizon with Palestine?

Benjamin Netanyahu's ultra-nationalist government is bowing to the pressure of the protests. Are changes in Israel and its conflict with Palestine on the horizon?

Benjamin Netanyahu

Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Israel: protestas ponen contra las cuerdas a Benjamin Netanyahu. ¿Vienen cambios con Palestina?

Israel celebrates more than 3 weeks of historic protests. The unions of the country demonstrate against a controversial judicial reform that many classify as an affront against democracy and justice. But this protest is not only a victory against these policies, but a sign of the discontent of the Israeli people against the coalition government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultranationalist government.

Movements organized by unions, left-wing movements and opponents of the government have managed to summon hundreds of thousands of protesters, in a country with close to 10 million inhabitants. Even, according to the BBC, reservists (the bulk of the Israeli armed forces) have shown their discontent and have refused to report for military service.

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What Does the Reform Say?

Judicial and political reform is of paramount importance to the Netanyahu government. Not only because it has important policies in its favor, but because they are the cornerstone that allowed it to form a coalition with the most ultranationalist movements. The reform has several critical points that are the ones that the Government hopes to pass, but they are the ones that find the greatest rejection in the streets.

For example, the new norm would allow the executive to have direct influence in the election of judges and limit the capacity of autonomy of the Supreme Court. It would give the Knesset (Israel's legislature) greater power over the judiciary, being able to overthrow any Supreme Court ruling with a simple majority in Parliament.

A Setback to Israel's Strongman

Netanyahu is not only the current Prime Minister, he has also held office from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 to 2021. He is the Chairman of the right-wing Zionist-conservative Likud party. Under his government, many illegal settlement programs have been carried out in Palestinian territory. Who has been part of the Israeli political elite for more than 3 decades, today faces a clear show of opposition.

A Little Negotiating Government

On Sunday night, the Israeli government announced the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had previously criticized the reform. Right now, analysts believe that Netanyahu does not have a way out and any option would have political costs. On the one hand, there is continuing with the reform, which could lead to much larger protests. But if he gives in, his coalition government would be in jeopardy and could be out of power.

Consequences for the Palestinian State

Although today the debate focuses on internal politics, the consequences or results could influence the conflict or relations between Israel and Palestine. A victory for the most extremist wing of the government would give more force to the conflict. When referring to the most extreme wing, we are talking about politicians who propose to permanently annex the West Bank. Today, the territory of the West Bank belongs to the Palestinian government and is recognized by all countries as foreign territory to Israel. However, for several years (decades) the Israeli government has sponsored illegal settlements of its citizens in this area. An annexation would be a final blow to the possibility of a negotiated exit with Palestine.

For now, Netanyahu should have given in, but it still cannot be interpreted as a defeat for Likud and its far-right allies. "Out of national responsibility, I decided to suspend the second and third reading of the law in this session of the Knesset to give time to try to reach a broad agreement." This shows that you have not given up on your project, but you do know that you are not in a favorable position.

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