Alwaght- Three months after Benjamin Netanyahu formed his far-right government, the Israeli regime is still grappling with tensions and a simmering conflict, and no side has yet shown intention of a climbdown, something making out of reach any deal among the political leaders.
While the opposition has said that the weekly protests will continue until Netanyahu’s cabinet withdraws its judicial reform bill, the far-rights, regardless of warnings, are fanning the flames of conflict by passing other controversial laws.
In the beginning of the crisis in January nobody thought of such a wide protest range, but the security situation in the occupied territories is so serious now that the word protest hardly fits it and there should be talk of a civil war and a collapse from within. All the differences stem from radical leaders who insist on their own wishes and prefer their personal and party interests over the entire Israeli community. The plan to reform the judicial structure, the first phase of which was approved, has immersed the Israeli regime into its worst political crisis in years, as widespread protests have swept through it and caused concerns beyond borders.
Approving controversial laws in Knesset
The Israeli parliament, officially called Knesset, under the control of hardline leaders continues to wield power and not only has not backed down from the judicial overhaul, but also has approved new contentious laws, fueling the already spirited protests. Turning a blind eye to the protests, the Knesset has recently passed a law according to which it will not be possible to oust the PM with the existing laws. According to this law, the prime minister can be dismissed only in case of physical or mental illness, and that is only when the PM himself or three-fourths of the cabinet members make such a decision, and if the PM opposes voting on this matter in the cabinet, the decision will be referred to the general assembly in the Knesset and lack of competence must be approved by 90 members of the Knesset. This means that charges like financial corruption or conflict of personal interests with authority and duty are not enough to remove the PM. Under the new law, the Supreme Court will not be allowed to hear any petition to disqualify the PM. Opposition parties have argued that the law was specifically designed to protect Netanyahu from legal charges and that it upsets the balance among three powers through cutting judiciary’s powers.
The government struggles to limit the powers of the Supreme Court by heightening its influence and power so that the latter cannot issue rulings against harline cabinet leaders. Netanyahu, who is under charges for financial corruption and betrayal of trust, is trying to save himself and his friends from danger of ouster and prison sentences by using the relative majority of the far-right in the parliament. The opposition argue that with these controversial laws, Netanyahu and his power partners are pushing the Israeli regime towards a dictatorship and threatening its so-called democracy.
Before the recent crisis, the differences were limited to Netanyahu and ex-leaders, but in recent weeks, the crisis took a new aspect: The conflict of Netanyahu opponents and supporters in the protests, which is described as a social gap. Netanyahu recently asked the security forces to crack down on protesters so that his shaky government can implement what many call “destructive plans” easily. But his attempt to suppress the opposition not only did not work, but also triggered protesters to take to the streets in larger numbers.
To Netanyahu’s frustration, a number of army officers signed a letter saying that they will not show up for service. The letter also called for Netanyahu to step down. Israelis believe that Netanyahu’s radical cabinet is moving towards dictatorship with controversial plans and threatens the alleged democracy in the occupied territories. Israeli President Isaac Herzog, citing the intensification of political differences and social divisions, has repeatedly warned about collapse from within of Israeli regime and called for an end to political tensions. The leaders of the opposition have also openly spoken about the start of the civil war and blamed the hardliners of cabinet as the main culprits of the security crisis.
Cabinet on the brink of collapse
Though until recently Netanyahu’s opposition were protesting in the streets and parliament, these days the demonstrations are spreading to all levels. After an army mutiny that set off the alarm bells about security risks, the rebellion has recently penetrated the cabinet, with the defense minister being the first cabinet minister to rebel against the hardliners. On Saturday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant asked the PM to halt the controversial judicial reforms.
“We need to stop this trend in order start a dialogue. The judicial reform program has created unrest in the Israeli army and is considered a threat to national security,” Gallant said.
Netanyahu, who has already shown he is not tolerant of criticism, fired Gallant in response. Netanyahu reportedly told Gallant that he lost confidence in him because he acted against the ruling coalition. The dismissal of the defense minister signaled a deep split in the political layers of the Israeli regime, and this is just the beginning, and more divisions in the cabinet are expected ahead.
Two ruling Likud party members have reportedly backed Gallant’s stances and highlighted his demand for judicial reforms through a comprehensive consensus. A rebellion in Likud is not good news to Netanyahu and other hardline leaders in the cabinet who are bending over the backwards to prop up the largely shaky government. Since the government is a fragile composition of the parties, exit of even one small party can bring it down, and this is not unlikely with the situation growing more and more critical.
Netanyahu thought that by firing the rebellious minister, he could make the cabinet more coherent, but even this move could not patch things up and demonstrations gained more traction after Gallant dismissal. In response, thousands of citizens gathered on Sunday night in occupied Jerusalem near Netanyahu’s residence and demanded his resignation. The wave of protests was so serious that the security forces moved Netanyahu and his family to “a safe place.” In Tel Aviv and other cities, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and declared their opposition to the proposed reforms, and with the intervention of the police forces, these protests turned violent. Some Hebrew-language media claimed on Monday that Netanyahu may cancel the judicial reform plan, but since he and his allies have destabilized the occupied territories over the past three months, if the cabinet falls, there is a possibility that the hardliners will be handed long-time jail sentences by the Supreme Court. Therefore, Netanyahu’s retreat from the controversial plan will be his biggest political gamble, and it remains to be seen in which direction the Israeli developments will head in the next weeks.
Tension rise with Palestinians
Despite the home protests, Netanyahu is seeking war externally. Extremists like National Security Minister Itmar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, both top enemies of the Palestinians, seek war through the controversial laws. The Knesset last week okayed repeal of Disengagement Law for northern West Bank that allows the settlers to return to the settlements in Gaza Strip evacuated in 2005. The Disengagement Law had ordered evacuation of 21 settlements in Gaza Strip after evacuation of the army from this region. The army now has to sign into law a permission allowing the settlers to return to the evacuated regions. The hardliners of the Knesset also last week approved a similar law about the West Bank to legalize abandoned Homesh settlement and construct a religious school there.
The Israeli regime has approved these anti-Palestinian laws while the UN and international community consider the construction of new settlements in the occupied territories illegal and demand the withdrawal of the settlers to the borders of the 1967 territories, but the extremists in the cabinet are pressing with occupation and this issue can lead to the escalation of tensions between the resistance groups and the Israeli army. Palestine resistance leaders have repeatedly warned that if the Israelis cross the Palestinian red lines, they will “set fire to all the occupied lands.” The actions by the radicals in recent months have raised the level of tensions between the resistance forces and the Israelis, and the continuation of the occupation can stir new clashes.
Resistance leaders in Gaza and the West Bank will not allow any advances by the Israeli occupation, and if Tel Aviv leaders insist on implementing their plans, they will find the consequences dangerous. After all, these days, the occupied territories are immersed in a security crisis and the army forces are defying the government. This provides the resistance groups with the best opportunity to deal the ultimate blow to Israeli regime and bring it to a collapse.
Netanyahu isolated among allies
Netanyahu is not just struggling with security and political crises, but also is excommunicated by his allies, even the Americans, on the international stage. With continuation of controversial moves of the Israeli government, the White House has reportedly told Netanyahu not to arrange a visit to Washington at present. Washington officials have called on the Israeli government to review its decision to reform judicial system. Also after repealing the Disengagement Law, the US in an unprecedented move summoned the Israeli ambassador Michel Herzog in rebuke to Tel Aviv for its measures. An American official was cited as saying that Washington-Tel Aviv relations experienced totally critical period after Netanyahu returned to power three months ago.
Tensions between Tel Aviv and the White House have run so high that Yair Netanyahu, the son of Israeli PM, recently announced that the US is seeking to overthrow his father on behalf of Iran. Earlier, Netanyahu the father had claimed that Washington was providing funds to the protests, and he banned the cabinet ministers from communications with the White House officials. Washington officials believe that the actions of the hardline cabinet can lead to the escalation of tensions in the occupied territories, and they are trying to dissuade Netanyahu and the far-right from their pathway.
Netanyahu is not seeing inattention only from the Americans, but also Arab leaders who normalized ties to Tel Aviv are these days turning a blind eye to him. Recently, a high-ranking Emirati delegation reportedly warned Netanyahu in a meeting with him about the consequences of his cabinet’s behavior towards the Palestinians and about a damage to relations with the UAE. Despite being engaged in deep friendship with the Israelis, the UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed told Netanyahu in a message that the Israeli government’s approach was in stark contrast to the Arab-Israeli normalization deals, officially called Abraham Accords. Abu Dhabi had already suspended any security cooperation and military purchases from the Israeli regime in opposition to policies of the far-right against the Palestinians. Waves of international opposition to Tel Aviv cabinet’s measures indicate that Netanyahu is isolated internationally.
The Israeli PM struggles for survival from the security and political swamp he is struggling in with contentious plans, but pressing ahead under hardliners’ watch not only will not solidify his power pillars, but also due to home and foreign opposition, he will meet his end sooner than expected and he may become history.