By Muhammed Enes Calli
ISTANBUL (AA) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the postponement Monday of controversial judicial reforms which had triggered mass protests nationwide.
Netanyahu blamed the demonstrations on an "extremist minority" that he said is trying to divide Israel.
"I am aware of the enormous tensions that are building between the two parts of the nation," he said.
"I am sensitive to the desire of many citizens to reduce these tensions. But there is one thing I cannot accept — there is an extreme minority that is ready to tear our country apart."
He noted that he has repeatedly called for dialogue on judicial reform.
Speaking to Anadolu, Ferit Belder, an associate professor at Marmara University, said Netanyahu's backtracking is certainly a win for the protesters.
But "we have no reason to expect this win will turn into political consequences in the short term," he noted.
"Netanyahu said he did not want to divide the society, so he postponed the matter until the near future, when he thought the reform could be discussed again through dialogue."
So we will see these discussions about the proposal again in the future, said Felder.
- 'Government has been severely divided over the response to the protests'
Tensions escalated throughout the country Sunday after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for speaking against the judicial reform plan.
Israel’s biggest trade union group also announced a general strike, closing transportation services, universities, and restaurants.
President Isaac Herzog called on Netanyahu to stop the legislative process immediately for the government’s judicial reform plans.
Since May 2020, Netanyahu has been on trial in three corruption cases amid the government’s push for the judicial overhaul plan.
The change would severely limit the power of the Supreme Court, give the government the power to choose judges and end the appointment of legal advisers to ministries by the attorney general.
Belder said the government has been severely divided over the response to the protests.
"At a time when the protests brought life to a standstill, it was possible to see this division both within Netanyahu's Likud party and the coalition partners."
He added that Justice Minister Yariv Levin and the conservative wing of the government strongly insisted on the implementation of the reform plan.
Asked about the government’s prediction on the duration of the protests, he said it is impossible to say that the government did not anticipate that the protests would last this long, but it was evident that they were unprepared for the protests and especially the fact that it could create a serious split within the coalition government.
On possible consequences of the unrest against the plan, Belder said the demonstrations were a direct result of Israeli domestic politics, while opinion polls conducted during the protests proved there had been no dramatic impact on politics, according to Belder.
"However, especially the dismissal of Galant was not approved even by the Likud voters, which can be seen as a negative result for Netanyahu."
He highlighted the importance of the Supreme Court for some parts of the society, adding the people from the center or left and Arab society are aware that the Supreme Court is the only institution that can protect them against potential human rights violations by the right-wing authorities.
Anti-democratic decisions, including those targeting Arab citizens and Arab politicians, have been reversed many times in the past by the Supreme Court, he noted.
"For this reason, I don't think resistance will decline against (efforts for) the deterioration of judicial independence but although the process has been suspended for now, it can be expected that the populist right-wing politicians will continue to take different steps in this regard."