Amid Turmoil in Israel, Netanyahu Backs Down

Prime minister delays controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2023 11:35 AM CDT
Amid Chaos, Netanyahu Is Reportedly Backing Down
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan outside parliament in Jerusalem on Monday.   (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

This story has been updated with new developments. After unprecedented protests and strikes that paralyzed Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has postponed his controversial plan to overhaul the nation's judicial system, reports Reuters. “I will give a genuine opportunity for genuine dialogue,” said Netanyahu. “One way or another, we will bring about a reform that returns the balance that has been lost between branches of government.” The plan will be delayed at least a month until the next parliamentary session.

  • Earlier, amid the protests, the prime minister publicly appealed for calm. "I call on all the demonstrators in Jerusalem, on the right and the left, to behave responsibly and not to act violently," Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. "We are brothers."

  • The turmoil stems from the plans of Netanyahu and his governing partners to "neuter" the nation's Supreme Court, as Haaretz puts it. The plan would give parliament more control over the court in what critics say would be a dangerous dismantling of checks and balances. As the AP notes, the court's power would be curbed even as Netanyahu himself faces trials in three separate cases. And it would allow his government to push through its priorities, such as making it easier for settlers to seize territory in the West Bank, per the New York Times. Netanyahu's camp, meanwhile, sees the court as unduly activist and in need of reform.
  • On Monday, protesters took to the streets after Netanyahu fired his defense minister over the weekend for criticizing the judicial plan. Banks, schools, and ports shut down, flights were grounded, and the nation's largest labor union announced a nationwide strike, per the Wall Street Journal. After Netanyahu spoke, the union then called off the strike.
  • Netanyahu, long a skillful navigator of Israeli politics, appears to have lost his political touch, according to an analysis by Steve Hendrix in the Washington Post. "It really is a mystery," says columnist Anshel Pfeffer, author of a Netanyahu biography. "It seems almost impossible that this guy who is Israel's master tactician, political strategist, the maestro of presentation, how did he misread this so badly?"
(More Benjamin Netanyahu stories.)

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