As you have probably heard by now, the protests are against legislation that the current Netanyahu government is trying to push through. I reviewed the essence of the legislation in an earlier blog, here. Netanyahu and his allies call the legislation "judicial reform" whereas the opposition calls it a "judicial coup." The Likud member responsible for trying to pass a whole array of legislation is Yariv Levin, who has stated that is only the "first stage" of his "reforms."
Commentators from across the political spectrum from the far left to the centre right have characterized this whole legislative program as a dramatic change to Israel's legal status quo. In an nutshell, the laws that have been proposed would weaken the power of the Israeli Supreme Court dramatically, change the appointment process from a relatively non-political process to one that is almost entirely political, allow for the Knesset to override any Supreme Court decision and make other changes that would remove most backstops from the ability of the Knesset, with a bare 61-59 majority to pass just about any legislation.
With no judicial oversight, and a far-right wing government intent on enacting legislation in all kinds over areas, the prospects are frightening. But reaction from a wide range of Israeli citizens, institutions, businesses and other sources has been energetic, aggressive and powerful. Various army personnel have indicated that will refuse to serve the country in any type of voluntary capacity. Businesses have threatened to leave the country. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been demonstrating regularly.
For all of those protesting, they are not willing to see Israel turn into Turkey, Russia, Hungary or other countries led by military strongmen. Even within Netanyahu's Likud party, there are a growing number of dissenters, who are being pressured from all directions. If the number reaches 5 or 6 Likud party members who are willing to stand up and block the legislation - or at least abstain, the government could even face an existential threat (which didn't really seem possible or likely just a few weeks ago). Tonight, the Likud defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, held a press conference and announced that he would not support the legislative process. Shortly afterwards, several other Likud members expressed their support for Gallant.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu was in London for meetings and a weekend getaway. He has not officially responded to Gallant yet. On Thursday, Gallant had indicated that he was about to hold a press conference at 7:30 p.m. However, Netanyahu summoned Gallant to a meeting and Gallant cancelled his press conference. According to reports, Gallant gave Netanyahu some more time to try and work things out. As it turns out, Gallant wasn't willing to give the Prime Minister more than two days.
So now the question becomes whether Gallant has enough support behind him in the Likud party to stop the legislation. Since the Netanyahu bloc currently has a 64-56 Knesset majority, Gallant would need the support of 4 other Likud members to ensure that the legislation could be blocked. This would created a huge political fissure for the Likud party and could well lead to another election. It may also cause the party to split into two or more factions.
Very unpredictable. On the one hand, many moderate Likud members are not in favour of extreme legislation, which is all rather transparently designed to keep Netanyahu out of legal trouble . On the other hand, the Likud party members would like to stay in power. After finally winning an election, even though their "win" is only made possible with the support of extremists, they are not anxious to relinquish power. I think we are in for a very dramatic week and - in fact - very dramatic months to come in Israel.
Overall, it is comforting to see that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are not prepared to watch Israel turn into a de facto dictatorship beholden to extreme factions. Netanyahu supporters argue that he won the election and is now entitled to govern. While that is true, an election win does not give the winning party the right to change the ground rules and emasculate the judiciary. Even if there is room for discussion about adjusting the balance of power in Israel between the different branches of government, that type of change is one that must be undertaken carefully, with the input of wide range of stakeholders and not simply instituted by someone facing an array of ongoing criminal proceedings.
A Bit of Travelling
There are a variety of landmark rock formations, all with the reddish colour due to the presence of copper in the rocks and surroundings. The park is very picturesque. At the end, there is a Visitors Centre, where visitors can make their own multi layered sand art in small bottles - or buy larger - pre-made bottles. We probably wound up spending about 3-4 hours at the park overall.
Beit Govrin-Maresha National Park
Our last stop was Beit Govrin -Maresha National park, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Ra'anana.
The area, known as the "land of a thousand caves" features a large network of the "Maresha Caves" which were inhabited by the Phoenicians. There are ancient olive presses, columbarium caves for raising pigeons, burial sites, Roman baths, an amphitheatre and many other fascinating sites.
There are too many photos to include since we visited several different caves - including a limestone quarry, a water reservoir and some of the columbarium caves. Some caves were extremely deep and winding. They were well lit - and cavernously large. But if you are afraid of depths - this could be a bit frightening.
I thought it would be interesting to include some comments about these places to get away from the strict political news and commentary and cover some other topics.
Now it is back to Pesach preparation. As anyone who observes Pesach knows, getting everything cleaned up, changing over the whole kitchen, preparing food for large groups of guests and planning the Seder itself is all quite a bit of work. So there is no shortage of things to do over the next 10 days or so, while watching Israeli political news and also working regular hours....
I will probably provide one more update just before Pesach - and perhaps by then we will have some better ideas about where things are heading politically.