Israel is in turmoil. More than 100,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Tel Aviv yesterday against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judicial reforms, which are seen as a threat to Israeli democracy. She would allow her far-right coalition to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority in Parliament.
In an unprecedented defense of the judicial system, nearly every prosecutor who has served over the past half-century has issued an open letter warning that these reforms would “destroy” judicial independence. Israel’s Ambassador to Canada announces his resignation as his personal and professional integrity compels him to resign.
Israel’s Supreme Court has just ruled that Netanyahu’s dual appointment of Aryeh Deri as interior and health minister was “extremely unreasonable” given his past financial crimes. In 2000, Deri was sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served 22 months, as Minister of the Interior in the 1990s for corruption, fraud and embezzlement. Netanyahu himself was charged with breach of trust, fraud and bribery in 2019. The first sitting head of government in the history of Israel.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, Netanyahu this morning sacked Deri from his cabinet and told him he would remove him from his post “with a heavy heart and great sadness”. However, the leader of the Shas party retains his title as deputy prime minister of the coalition of ultra-nationalist, ultra-Orthodox and racist parties. Shas is the third most important government formation.
Yisrael Frey, an ultra-Orthodox Israeli journalist, is pessimistic about the development of current Israeli politics. He fears the steps the coalition is ready to take to keep Netanyahu out of jail. He told website Middle East Eye: “These are not ordinary times; we are talking about a racist government planning to tear down the justice system.”
The Abraham Accords in jeopardy
Events in Israel since the far right took power have had a negative impact on the Jewish state abroad: most members of the Israeli government oppose the creation 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 it as a “stab in the back”.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Saudi foreign minister said Riyadh would 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 the overhaul of the country’s judicial system, which could affect US relations with Israel.