Israel dispatch: mass protests erupt as tens of thousands march to Jerusalem ahead of Knesset vote on judicial reform Dispatches
© JURIST / John-Michael Graves
Israel dispatch: mass protests erupt as tens of thousands march to Jerusalem ahead of Knesset vote on judicial reform

Sharon Basch is an Israeli American who lived in Israel before starting her JD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where she is a rising 2L.

As of early Sunday morning, more than 300,000 protestors have gathered in major cities across Israel prior to the final debate on the reasonableness standard reform. that would limit the Israeli’s judiciary’s power to curb arbitrary executive action. Nearly 100,000 protestors are already in Jerusalem, spontaneously setting up a “tent city” in the large garden in front of the Knesset, the Parliament building, where the debate will be taking place. Those not actively participating in the protests have been diligently providing tents, sleeping mats, food, and water to those who are marching to Jerusalem. Sunday’s debate will lead to a Monday vote – the third and final vote required to pass the reform bill. It was briefly thought that the vote would be postponed, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been in hospital due to what was initially described as dehydration; it was later revealed that he received a pacemaker. While seemingly marginal, this is an indication of the prevailing political culture of mendacity found in Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Approximately 1,500 air force reserve pilots, and around 10,000 army reservists from over 40 army units, including the most elite units, have declared that they will refuse to return to service. Reservists have brought their military boots to the gates of their bases – a symbolic showing that they will not be returning.

An active reserve colonel, a wing commander, with his back to the news camera, (not from fear of government retaliation, but because air force pilots do not reveal their faces publicly for security reasons), said on Israeli television early Sunday morning, “I work for the kingdom, not for the king.” History teaches us that military coups were events whereby military leaders overthrew a legally elected government. In Israel, the converse is true; the military is trying to prevent a dictatorial shift in the political landscape of the country. The difference is most likely because militaries that overthrow governments are professional armies, while the Israeli military is composed of reservists – known as the “Nation’s Army.”

The chief of the Israeli Labor Union (the Histadrut), Arnon Bar-David has held a meeting with other Histradut leaders, Dov Amitai, head of the Israeli Presidency of Business Organizations, and Benjamin Netanyahu to try to find a compromise. No such compromise has been found to this time, and these leaders are poised to launch a massive general strike in which the labor union and CEOs will continue to pay workers’ salaries indefinitely as their labor force participates in the demonstrations. In the same vein, major hospitals and universities are likely to shut down if the reform passes. These moves can potentially bring the nation to a screeching halt.

If this law passes, it is not possible to predict what will happen next – only that the already massive protests and strikes will escalate and that even more reserve duty soldiers will return their weapons. It is hard to foresee what, if anything, will make Netanyahu change course.