As I mentioned in my last blog, the Israeli Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, a stalwart Netanyahu supporter and high ranking member of the Likud party announced on Thursday March 23rd - that he was going to hold a press conference at 7:30 p.m. Supposedly he was going to announce that he was calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu to slow down the current "judicial reform" and meet with opposition members to try and negotiate an agreement. Netanyahu summoned Gallant to a meeting and apparently cajoled him into cancelling his press conference. Shortly afterwards, leaks appeared indicating that Gallant had told Netanyahu he would wait a few days to see how Netanyahu was dealing with things.
However, later that evening, Netanyahu held a press conference and announced that it would be full speed ahead and he would not consider slowing down at all.
As a result, Saturday night saw the biggest demonstrations to date across the country. Today, Gallant held a press conference and announced that he could not support Netanyahu's current legislative program and - that Netanyahu was endangering the country.
This evening, Netanyahu fired Gallant from the Minister of Defence position. As a result, tens of thousands Israelis took to the streets, blocking highways, roads and protesting in a wide range of places. Since the demonstrations started earlier this evening, police have estimated that numbers have exceeded 700,000 Israelis currently in the streets demonstrating across the country.
It has become especially clear over recent days, that Netanyahu will not stop at anything until his judicial coup is completed and he has his "get out of jail free card." Even though he was warned by a close ally that his policies were endangering national security, Netanyahu simply chose to disregard the warnings and double down on his proposals.
There have been some articles in different newspapers (including one in the National Post yesterday) arguing that this legislative agenda being proposed by Netanyahu and his allies is really no great concern to Israel as a democratic state. But try reconciling that thesis with one of today's announcements - Yariv Levin - the "architect" of the proposed emasculation of the Supreme Court wants to use his new legislation to fire the head of the Israeli Supreme Court - and appoint a hand picked buddy, a "professor" from a second tier Israeli law school - to take over as the President (the "Chief Justice") and advance Levin's extremist policies. Levin also wants to appoint other judges to the Supreme Court immediately to tilt the balance of the court.
Levin and his allies have also floated the idea of extending the period of time before the next election Further, Levin has stated that this is only his "first stage."
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been demonstrating to indicate that they will not give up their democratic rights. But it is not only demonstrators. Soldiers are starting to refuse to show up for duty. Police offers are supporting the demonstrators. There are major fissures going on - and Netanyahu is allowing the extremists to continue to drive the bus.
The government is planning to try and ram through the Knesset several pieces of legislation this week - including a law to reinstate convicted criminal Aryeh Deri to a ministerial position and another law to allow the Knesset to override any decision of the Supreme Court. But it is now becoming unclear that the Likud party will be able to get all of its members to support these extreme legislative initiatives.
If the legislation does pass, the civil unrest will become increasingly widespread across the country. The army will become increasingly fractured. The Supreme Court will face dramatic tests to the limits of its authority - as these pieces of legislation are challenged in that Court. And there will be strikes and demonstrations across the country.
If the legislation is put to a vote and does not pass - this government will almost certainly collapse.
So overall, the coming week - and indeed the coming months are likely to be extremely tense, dramatic and unpredictable. One can only hope that saner heads will prevail and responsible Knesset members will find a way to get things under control. Unfortunately, Netanyahu is showing no signs that he will be one of those "adults in the room." In fact, it has become completely clear that his own flagrant conflict of interest has made him entirely unfit to serve as the Prime Minister until his personal criminal issues are resolved.