A law passed in Israel’s parliament on Monday to limit the powers of the judiciary has left the country in limbo, with the real effects of the government move likely to remain unclear for weeks or months.
The opposition fears a slow descent towards autocracy, while the government – dismissing those concerns – is waiting to see how disruptive and long-lasting the reaction from its critics will be. The law strips Israel’s Supreme Court of its power to deem government actions and appointments “unreasonable,” a move opponents fear is the first step in stripping the powers of an independent judiciary.
Some hard-line members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition have said they want to fire the attorney general, a key gatekeeper appointed by the previous government. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. The government is also likely to try to reinstate Aryeh Deri, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker who blocked his appointment to Netanyahu’s cabinet.
On the other side of the political divide, leaders of the protest movement, which has held mass rallies for 29 consecutive weeks, have vowed to fight back. The country’s main union is still weighing whether to call a general strike. Hundreds of leaders in Israel’s high-tech industry say they are considering moving their businesses abroad. And thousands of military reservists have said they will stop turning up for volunteer service.
Then there’s the Supreme Court, where a number of civil society groups have already petitioned to overturn the new law — which could trigger a constitutional crisis.
In reality, it could be weeks or months before the crisis reaches another crescendo.
Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Likud, said earlier this month it would not fire Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, but individual lawmakers continued to call for her dismissal. Likud on Tuesday rejected an attempt by ultra-Orthodox Jewish lawmakers to advance a bill declaring the Torah, the study of the Jewish Bible, a “significant service to the state of Israel,” which infuriated secular opposition.
Parliament is set to adjourn until October on Wednesday – creating a window in which new legislation cannot be passed. That in turn creates a challenge for protesters: With few lawmakers inside parliament during recess, there is no one to directly challenge the rallies and encampments that have sprung up outside the building in recent days.
For now, the umbrella alliance that coordinates the various protest groups said it would continue to hold weekly mass demonstrations on Saturday nights. But protest leaders may hold off on organizing other demonstrations until the Supreme Court meets to consider the new law.
“People are still trying to figure it out,” said Josh Drill, a spokesman for the alliance. “Since yesterday was a very intense day, the various groups are still in discussion,” he said.
The impact of reservists’ resignations may take time to be felt. Only a few hundred reservists are thought to have flatly refused to report for duty when asked directly. The rest have threatened to resign.
And while the country’s largest union, for all its warnings, has yet to call for a general strike, a smaller union of 30,000 doctors scaled back medical operations, saying its members outside the capital, Jerusalem, would handle only emergency and critical care on Tuesday. Analysts believe that as more time passes, the coalition is less likely to take major steps.