Jerusalem24 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly held discussions overnight about freezing his planned judicial overhaul as hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets in response to Netanyahu dismissing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after the latter publicly called to stop the overhaul.
Israeli streets witnessed spontaneous protests after the announcement late on Sunday night, with tens of thousands of people blocking main roads and intersections. Hundreds of protesters also clashed with police and attempted to break through barricades outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, according to Haaretz.
Jerusalem24 correspondent Reema Mustafa reports that the atmosphere is “very tense” in Jerusalem and across Israel. A general strike began this morning, with different unions and bodies joining throughout the day.
Israel’s national labor union shut down Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv with no incoming or outgoing flights, until a freeze on judicial overhaul is guaranteed.
Israeli authorities also informed the Palestinian Authority that the Allenby crossing (Al-Jissir, the only border crossing available to Palestinians between the occupied West Bank and Jordan) is closed after Israeli employees of the Internal Ministry and customs joined the move.
Thousands of protesters are currently demonstrating in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem. According to Israeli media, all streets surrounding the Knesset have been blocked and thousands more are arriving from the city’s entrance, with large police forces deployed in the area.
“The end of Netanyahu”
This seems to be “the end of Netanyahu”, writer and policy advisor at Al-Shabaka Sam Bahour tells Jerusalem24.
“However, what we’re seeing is much deeper than Netanyahu,” Bahour adds. “We’re witnessing the unraveling of the social cohesion that has been maintained in Israel for 75 years.”
“Sadly it’s got a deep denial of reality, and currently, with Netanyahu’s survival mode, him joining these very extremist fascist elements of the Israeli society has put him in a very precarious position.”
Bahour believes that if Netanyahu goes against his coalition’s needs and desires, there will be an upheaval against the government – and if he goes along with them, there will be an upheaval in society at large.
“This is the moment Netanyahu will find the end of his career,” he asserts. “But Israel will remain in deep denial of reality, which is not going to move them forward.”
For her share, Mustafa says all options are still on the table and no one can yet predict the way Israel’s “colorful politics” will blow the winds.
Far-right extremist and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has threatened to leave the coalition if Netanyahu moves ahead with a freeze in the judicial overhaul.
“If Ben-Gvir leaves the coalition, Netanyahu will lose the majority,” Mustafa says. “That means either that Yair Lapid will join the government, or Israel will be heading into new elections.”
“If they go to a coalition between the center, which is Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, and Netanyahu, all the laws would be canceled, since this is a demand of the opposition,” Mustafa explains. “If Ben-Gvir doesn’t leave the coalition they will have to figure out another way.”
A pivotal point
Thousands of protesters all over cities in Israel have been taking part in weekly protests, coinciding with the beginning of Netanyahu’s term in office.
“During yesterday night’s protests, the protesters were estimated to have been 100,000 in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” Mustafa reports. “The numbers keep increasing, people keep joining now.”
Bahour believes that the level of mobilization took everyone by surprise.
“I think there was an actual pivotal point a few days ago when the Israeli army started to hear that its soldiers and fighter pilots and so forth would stop reporting to training,” he says, “which mean it will paralyze the Israeli military capacity, something that is sacrosanct in the Israeli society.”
“This brought people to the attention that they were heading into a very dangerous phase.”
Israel’s Consul General in New York Asaf Zamir resigned on Sunday after Galant’s dismissal, and days after he was summoned by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for warning US Jewish donors against Netanyahu’s attempts to overhaul the judiciary.
“We’re seeing the diplomatic core of Israel around the world also resigning in protest.”
A historical reset?
However, for Palestinians, who have barely featured in these tasks and protests concerning the future of Israel, Bahour doesn’t believe to express his doubts that the current events will “correct 75 years of wrong”.
“This is not about going back for a month and correcting the judicial issue,” he says. “This is about a historical reset that is needed. I personally don’t see at this moment Israelis waking up to the fact that they need a historical reset.”
“I think there will be new leadership elements that will emerge following the protest,” he adds. “It will have enough momentum to bring the Palestinian issue to the forefront in Israeli politics.”
“More importantly, is this episode in Israel should have been and should be a wake-up call to the entire international community, especially the US, to finally hold Israel accountable. It is turning a blind eye to all these wrongs Israel has been doing to its own people, and to the Palestinians, under occupation.”
Listen to the full interview on Wake Up Palestine