The streets in Tel Aviv are getting more crowded – in protest!

By David E. Kaplan

It was first 10,000 then followed the next Saturday night by 80,000 and last Saturday night the protests in Tel Aviv grew to well over 110,000 – all in support of “Democracy” following the government’s proposed overhaul of the country’s Supreme Court. What the government touts as “reform” is not shared by a rising public  who well versed in the Bible  identify it as a “poisoned apple”!

Israel at a Crossroad. At one of Tel Aviv’s busiest crossroads, crowds estimated at over 100,000, protest against the government’s proposed sweeping changes to the judicial system, in Tel Aviv on January 21, 2023. (Flash90)

Disparaging this public concern for safeguarding democracy, veteran journalist for The Jerusalem Post, Ruthie Blum, dismisses the protests as “the NOISE of the minority of disgruntled demonstrators.” (Jan 20)

Prime Minister to Prime Opponent. Former Prime Minister and current Opposition Leader, Yair Lapid attends the rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government and its proposed judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on January 21, 2023. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

– Was it “NOISE” when the former Prime Minister, Yair Lapid says: “What you see here today is a demonstration in favor of the country. People who love this country came here to defend it, its democracy and its courts”?

-Was it “NOISE” when Israeli Prize Laurette for literature, David Grossman, whose books have been translated into 30 languages said from the podium in one of the busiest intersections in Tel Aviv opposite the Azrieli Center:

I am beginning to feel a foreigner in my own country” and “What you see here today is a demonstration in favor of the country. People who love this country came here to defend it; its democracy and it’s courts”?

Israel, ‘Out of Character’. Addressing Tel Aviv’s mass rally, David Grossman says planned judicial overhaul causes many Israelis to feel ‘internal exile’ and warns the nation that it faces a ‘fateful struggle for its character.

-Was it “noise” when former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said “A state in which the prime minister will appoint all of the judges, there’s a name for it: dictatorship”?

Defending the country from Itself. Addressing the rally, former minister of defense Moshe Ya’alon warns of an emerging dictatorship. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

-Was it “NOISE” when High-tech CEO Eynat Guez told the rally that foreign investment into Israeli companies – a key ingredient to Israel’s high-tech sector’s success – will be threatened if Israel’s democracy is eroded?  She warned that a change to the Israeli climate that attracted  $54 billion in foreign money in investment in the last 3 years, could turn away future investment threatening “tens of thousands of workers” in the high tech industry.

-Was it “NOISE” when Dina Zilber, a former deputy attorney general, cautioned  “If you’re the government, think very well what caused all of these people to get off of their chairs and come here tonight”?

-Was it “NOISE” when Shaul Meridor, a former senior Treasury official and son of former Likud minister Dan Meridor, said “This isn’t about Arab or Jew, religious or secular; this is our house that we have to protect.”

Adding to this “NOISE” was the Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Amir Yaron who amid multiple warnings that the judicial reform will harm Israel economically, met at the office of the Prime Minister and warned Netanyahu that the planned judicial reform could harm Israel’s credit score. According to Walla, he soberly cautioned:

The world is worriedly following the developments that may distance international companies from investing in the country.”

Appearing unfazed by this “NOISE”, the Prime Minister plods on, even though, some years ago he is on record opposing such very reform he now proposes. On trial for corruption, Netanyahu has made the legal changes the centerpiece of his new government’s agenda, and the surging opposition to them is presenting an early challenge for the Israeli leader, who has become more reliant on the most extreme elements of his coalition, as his once-loyal allies have deserted him.

People Protest. As if awakened from a slumber, Israeli wake up to a new reality.

The stage is set for two diverse visions of Israel’s future.

To the supporters of Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reform, let me repeat as I have said in my two previous articles, (WHAT DO ISRAEL’S PM AND US HOUSE LEADER HAVE IN COMMON? And ISRAEL UNDER THREAT FROM  ITSELF) Israel does not have either a constitution nor the two tier branches of government so characteristic of democracies – an upper and lower house like the UK and the US providing the checks and balances. We have only one house – the legislature or the Knesset – and a Supreme Court and a feisty one at that. If we truly treasure democracy we should cherish and protect it instead of storming it like the proverbial Bastille!

Quo Vadis. Placards at the mass protest portray “Bibi” as a Julius Caesar, hellbent on prolonging his leadership at all costs. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Yes, it’s going to get even “noisier” until we decide how we want to move forward for an Israel that is not only military but judiciously secure.

With an ‘uproar in the house’ – our Knesset –  maybe the time has come that instead of storming the Supreme Court to have the more serious conversation of a written constitution!

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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