New law to protect Netanyahu from trials - GulfToday

New law to protect Netanyahu from trials


Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel’s far-right coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has passed a law in the Knesset by a margin of 61-47 on the conditions under which a prime minister can be deemed unfit. It specifies that this can happen only when three-fourths of parliament or cabinet say it so. Until now, the attorney general of Israel’s opinion in the matter could disqualify the prime minister. Critics of Netanyahu believe that the prime minister and his far-right allies have brought in this law to protect Netanyahu from the corruption trials he is facing, and a negative outcome could throw him out of office. This new law takes care of making any adverse judicial verdict ineffective. Netanyahu believes that the corruption trials are politically motivated. The law could be challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court, and if the highest court were to overturn the legislation, the clash between the executive and the judiciary will intensify further. The Netanyahu government is already working on a comprehensive judicial reform which will limit the powers of the Supreme Court to declare Knesset-made laws unconstitutional and null and void. Netanyahu and his allies argue that the judiciary cannot have a free run.

But democrats are worried by the new development, including deputy attorney general Gil Lemon. He said, “What we see before our eyes is a cluster of legislation elements that are most troubling and are being advanced at great speed. They have the potential to serve the personal interests of a man regarding the outcomes of legal proceedings he is facing.” It is a clear indication that the new law will benefit Netanyahu. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel in a statement said, “Netanyahu and his coalition of corrupt men are trying every possible manoeuvre in their attempts to escape the threat of justice.”

There have been rightist governments before and there was opposition to them. But the opposition that Netanyahu and his far-right allies face seems to be unprecedented. There are continuous protests and the people who are participating in them go beyond the political opposition. They come from all walks of life, from academics to the working class and they have just one thing in mind: the Jewish state must not become a religious state because these people enjoy their personal liberties and they remain wedded to the values of secular liberalism. That is why, they are forced to fight back the emergence of religious Jewish nationalism with its overtones of political violence. These protesters want to keep Israel free from autocracy and religious fanatics. It may not seem as strange and paradoxical for a country based on religious identity. The Jews who suffered under Nazi Germany know the value of democratic freedoms and they do not want totalitarian political ideas to enter the country through the backdoor.

It would seem that the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, are turning out to be religious zealots in their attacks on Palestinian towns, and the far-right politicians in Netanyahu’s government represent these violent settlers. Most of the liberal-minded Israelis realise the threat that these religious zealots pose to the liberal way of life. That is why the intensity of the protests. It is a battle that the liberal Israelis might lose going by the emergence of far-right coalitions in government. This is a last-ditch battle for the freedom-loving Israelis because the violence-prone Jewish settlers in the West Bank seem to represent the new Israel. Netanyahu does not look beyond his own political survival, and the new laws his government bring in are a just a political tool for him. But he seems to be unconsciously chipping away at the democratic foundations of Israel.

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