AA Edit | Bibi forced to take step back

The independence of the judiciary has been a thorn to Israeli politicians

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanhayu, has been known to be a great juggler who has walked the coalition tightrope to keep in power the farthest right and most religiously conservative alliance. But he may have bitten off more than he can chew in first backing the move, inspired by the far right, to overhaul the judiciary and then putting it on hold, at least temporarily, while public protests eased.

A big uprising by the people was witnessed in Israel over the last few days with any number of people on strike, including the staff of the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, and out on the streets in defence of democracy. This appeared to be the perfect revolt against an authoritarian government tending to manacle the judiciary and water down its independence so as to also allow Mr Netanhayu to wriggle out of a possible adverse outcome in the corruption cases being tried against him.

Mr Netanhayu’s decision to fire his defence minister Yoav Gallant over the weekend simply because he criticised the proposed judicial overhaul triggered the biggest show of protest. And yet he seems only to have bought himself time till next month’s Passover recess to convince the far right, who give him his parliamentary majority, to abandon the measure that rankled, and riled Washington into responding about the importance of democracy in US-Israel ties.

The independence of the judiciary has been a thorn to Israeli politicians, especially from the right, but the inclusive institution has allowed economic progress to the extent that the Israeli currency has stayed stable against the US dollar while most others have tanked. The recent social upheaval that saw civil unrest in a general strike leading to suspension of all services cannot be good for the economy.

Mr Netanhayu has bought himself time from his allies, but if he allows them to press him for the so-called judicial reforms he risks his government as well as his nation’s future. He is politics’ ultimate survivor but it remains to be seen if he has run into one crisis too many in his many innings as the Prime Minister of contradictory coalitions.

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