Will democracy survive Netanyahu?

Will democracy survive Netanyahu?

UPGRADE DAY

Israel is in turmoil. More than 100,000 people demonstrated yesterday in the streets of Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial reform considered a threat to Israeli democracy. She would allow her far-right coalition to overrule Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority in parliament. 

In an unprecedented defense of the justice system, nearly all State attorneys who have served for the past half-century have, in an open letter, warned that these reforms would “destroy” judicial independence. The Israeli ambassador to Canada announces that he will resign, his personal and professional integrity forcing him to leave his post.

Opportunity knocks 

Israel's Supreme Court has just ruled that Netanyahu's dual appointment of Aryeh Deri as interior and health minister was “grossly unreasonable” considering his past financial crimes. In 2000, Deri was sentenced to three years in prison for corruption, fraud and breach of trust when he was interior minister in the 1990s. He served 22 months of his sentence. Netanyahu himself was indicted in 2019 for breach of trust, fraud and bribery. The first head of government to be in office in the history of Israel. 

Complying with the High Court's ruling, Netanyahu this morning fired Deri from his cabinet, telling him he was removing him from his post with “a heavy heart and great sadness.” The leader of the Shas party will, however, retain his title of deputy prime minister of the coalition made up of ultra-nationalist, ultra-Orthodox and racist parties. Shas is the third largest party in government.

Yisrael Frey, an ultra-Orthodox Israeli journalist, is pessimistic about the trajectory of current Israeli policy. He fears the steps the coalition is willing to take to keep Netanyahu out of jail. He told the Middle East Eye website: “These are not ordinary times; we are talking about a racist government that plans to tear down the judicial system. 

The Abraham Accords in Danger

Events in Israel since the far-right takeover have negative repercussions abroad for the Jewish state: most members of the Israeli government are opposed to the establishment of the Palestinian state. 

The US-sponsored Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, are under threat. The Palestinians condemned them as a 'stab in the back.'

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Saudi foreign minister says Riyadh will not normalize relations with Israel without a Palestinian state.

Washington is also concerned about the situation in Israel. Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem to raise with him the issue of overhauling the country's judicial system that could damage US relations with Israel.