In Israel, protests have been raging for months because of the judicial reform initiated by the government. Over the past two weeks, they have intensified. On March 25 alone, according to demonstrators, more than 630,<> people took to Israeli streets in different parts of the state, local media reported.

The reform bill would limit the powers of the Supreme Court and give the executive branch control over the selection of judges. According to protesters, the bill will limit the influence of the Supreme Court on the process of adopting basic laws, as well as give the government control over the procedure for appointing judges.

Amid the protests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the agreement of the ruling coalition to take a pause in judicial reform for negotiations. According to him, he decided to postpone until the summer session the vote in parliament on the relevant bill in the second and third readings. However, the Israeli prime minister added that the reform, which, in his opinion, should "return the lost balance between the branches of power," will still be implemented.

Earlier, Netanyahu urged demonstrators in Jerusalem to avoid violence and "behave responsibly."

Before that, Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog appealed to the government to stop the process of adopting judicial reform amid unrest. According to him, due to the discontent of the protesters, security, the economy and society were under threat. A similar statement was made by the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry, Yoav Galant, becoming the first minister of the current government of the country, who called for the suspension of judicial reform. As he emphasized in his video address to the nation, "the split in society permeates the army." This, in his opinion, poses a direct danger to the security of the state. After that, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Prime Minister of Israel removed Galant from the post of head of the Ministry of Defense because of his disagreement with the judicial reform.

Earlier, Israeli Prosecutor General Gali Baharav-Miara called on Netanyahu to refrain from any participation in the process of promoting the controversial judicial reform, as she suspected a conflict between the position of the head of government and his personal interests due to criminal prosecution. In December 2016, several criminal cases were opened against Netanyahu. The current prime minister is accused of corruption and illegal lobbying of personal interests and the interests of the government. The trial against him began in May 2020, but the hearing has not yet ended.

Amid unrest over judicial reform, Israel's National Union closed Ben Gurion Airport, and the doctors' union announced the suspension of the health care system.

Following Netanyahu's announcement, the chairman of Israel's Histadrut General Federation of Labor, Arnon Bar-David, announced that the general strike in the country was ending.

At the same time, Israeli security forces are not coping with the demonstrators: on March 26, thousands of protesters broke through a police cordon near the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, local media write. The next day, the media reported that the Israeli police used water cannons to push those who broke through to the residence.

  • Israeli Mounted Police Disperse Protesters
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  • © Ohad Zwigenberg

Experts told about the essence of the judicial reform and the reasons for the protests in a comment to RT.

- The reason for the unrest in Israel was the judicial reform, which the government of the country tried to implement. What is the essence of the proposed bill?

Expert on Israel and the Middle East Alexander Kargin

- The Israeli court is completely independent of all branches of government, the judges appoint themselves - they have a certain number of votes, thanks to which they can block any undesirable candidate. As for their powers, they are able to cancel any decisions of officials, thereby devaluing their election promises. The Government was trying to change the way judges were chosen. To ensure that representatives of different strata of society are present there, to take away the right of veto from the court.

Israeli political scientist, security and Middle East expert Simon Tsipis

- The essence of judicial reform is to reduce the powers of the Supreme Court of Israel (BAGAC) to a lower level - below the government. In fact, the will of the government will be higher than the judiciary, which will make more advisory decisions and provide more advisory services to the government. But if the government prevails over all branches of government, then this is actually the dictate of power. That is, it is an open and explicit dictatorship. And people were very outraged by the attempt to push through this reform.

Voting on the bill took place very quickly, in an emergency mode, at night. No referendum was held, the bill is approved in a narrow composition of the cabinet of ministers of the coalition. That is, the opposition has absolutely little leverage in order to influence the situation.

Israeli political scientist, former adviser to the Minister of Internal Security of Israel Alex Wexler

"This reform is aimed at restricting the freedom of the Supreme Court of Israel to the point of turning this state into a totalitarian regime. But the people do not allow this. The two main hallmarks of a free state are the government's fear of the press and of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can put the prime minister in jail. Such examples already exist in the history of Israel: we had both prime ministers and presidents. Now several criminal cases have been initiated against Netanyahu. It's possible that he'll sit down too.

- Why did the initiative to carry out judicial reform cause such a reaction among the population?

Political scientist-orientalist, associate professor of RSUH Sergey Seryogichev

The problem for the demonstrators is that netanyahu's executive wants to take control of the judiciary by appointing judges. And this will be done by people loyal to the ruling party. Many believe that Netanyahu wants to push through judicial reform not for Israel's sake, but to avoid criminal prosecution. Another thing is that he went too far: the prime minister thought that he was very popular and this would help the cause. However, in fairness, it should be added that not only Netanyahu is in favor of reforming BAGAC, the bastion of leftists, this idea has long been discussed in the circle of the right, but it is one thing to conduct conversations, it is quite another thing to implement them.

Israeli political scientist, security and Middle East expert Simon Tsipis

The promotion of judicial reformhas greatly outraged Israeli society. People took to the streets, a protracted crisis began: constant demonstrations and clashes with the police. And this leads to more and more violence every day, this conflict is becoming more radicalized. It already involves the army, the Israeli security service, foreign intelligence, police forces and other structures. Now the boiling point has been reached, at which many are demanding the complete abolition of judicial reform.

— Can you predict the impact of the initiated reform on the judicial system in Israel?

Political scientist-orientalist, associate professor of RSUH Sergey Seryogichev

"The implementation of judicial reformwill violate the equality of the branches of power, the principle of checks and balances. Another point that probably worries the people even more: many believe that the reform was started in order to ignore the decisions of the main court of bagac. Now his decisions cannot be ignored, they are binding. If the reform passes, then the decisions of bagats can be circumvented. Now failure to execute the decision is fraught with resignation or even criminal prosecution. If the reform passes, the executive branch will selectively approach the decisions of the Supreme Court. Israel fears that Netanyahu will remove a strong counterweight and unbalance the entire system. Now Israel is a parliamentary republic, and reform can make it so that the prime minister will have a very large number of powers. This is what many fear. The prime minister and his colleagues in the government encroached on the principle of the balance of power.

- Is there a possibility that the judicial reform will be canceled or its content will be significantly changed due to protests?

Political scientist-orientalist, associate professor of RSUH Sergey Seryogichev

Netanyahu, who has temporarily suspended judicial reform, will let the protesters let off steam and then say, 'That's it? Calmed down? Went? Let's continue." Despite the scale of the protests, it is too early to write off Netanyahu. He can redo something in the bill, but he will not back down from this idea. The prime minister will go the other way, but still go to his goal. If he gives up, he can be crushed. The government may rename the bill, change the wording, but the essence will remain the same. Netanyahu may make political concessions that will not change anything, but he will pass it off as meaningful steps toward those who disagree with judicial reform.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu
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  • © Abir Sultan

Israeli political scientist, security and Middle East expert Simon Tsipis

- The bulk of the protesters demand to completely cancel the reform, not just to postpone it. Some dissenters allow the option of revising the bill, but only if a referendum is held. However, the complete abolition of judicial reform means political suicide for Netanyahu, as his coalition colleagues threatened to destroy it in such a scenario. And along with the coalition, the government will collapse, followed by the fifth election in Israel in almost four years. And in the upcoming elections, most likely, Netanyahu's Likud party will be weakened - if it takes a certain number of portfolios, it will be in opposition.

If Netanyahu continues to reform, the crisis in Israel will worsen. Most likely, it will develop into tougher clashes with the security forces, with the police, as well as into clashes between the right and the left. Therefore, the situation is now tense to the limit.