The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Israel Faces Netanyahu and the Far Right

Apr 3, 2023

This article is translated from the March 31 issue #2852 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu finally backed down on March 27, confronted with the mobilization of people who oppose his plan to reform the judicial system. He announced he would postpone discussion of his plan until May, after the legislative recess for the Passover holiday. And he declared he wants “to give real dialogue a chance.”

The mobilization had gained new momentum after three months of protests and weekly demonstrations. The Minister of Defense was dismissed on March 26 after saying there had to be a pause in the justice reform. Thousands of Israelis took to the streets within the hour to show their outrage at his dismissal, including more than 100,000 in Tel Aviv. They clashed with police. The following day the main union confederation called for a general strike. This led to many international flights being cancelled. Many companies shut down temporarily.

Given the scale of the mobilization, Netanyahu chose to back down. He risks losing the support of his ruling coalition partners, which are ultranationalist and far-right religious organizations. He had granted them key ministries such as Finance and Internal Security, and had committed to reform the judicial system. His plan was to reduce the importance of Israel’s Supreme Court by stopping it from challenging any law passed by the legislature. The Supreme Court has often put up a powerful opposition to the executive, especially by opposing certain settlements and some ultra-religious groups.

Some people were worried about the government’s desire to grow its power. The extreme right has gained force under Netanyahu’s administration. People had every reason to expect attacks on the rights of women, gays, and Palestinians—already considered second-class citizens—and attacks on civil rights in general.

The protests quickly won over a large part of Israeli society, including people not used to protesting. Big bosses of financial institutions and high-tech companies argued that capital would leave the country if the government adopted the reform. Within the army, thousands of reservists expressed their opposition to the reform. So did retired generals, former leaders of the Mossad intelligence service, Shin Bet internal security service, even Netanyahu’s chief of staff.… This clearly explains why the Minister of Defense himself ended up expressing his reservations.

After the justice reform postponement was announced, former prime minister and main opposition leader and right-wing politician, Yaïr Lapid, said he was ready to talk with Netanyahu to find a compromise. “We won’t rest until Israel has a constitution,” he told demonstrators. This institutional goal obviously won’t stop the far right or the threat it represents. In fact, coming from a leader who is hardly better than Netanyahu, it is a way to gain control over the protests.

Beyond the particular matter of the Supreme Court, the scale of the mobilization shows that part of the Israeli population sees the danger the extreme right represents, both for themselves and for the society where they live. But they cannot stop at the proposals of someone like Yaïr Lapid.

The growth of a racist and fascistic extreme right in a state that claims to guarantee the Jewish population against a return of Nazism has a particular explanation. By evicting the Palestinian people from their lands and by refusing to recognize their rights, Israel’s leaders condemned the population to live on a permanent war footing, under a barracks regime.

"We are not in Iran, we do not want a theocracy," many protestors in Israeli cities said. But colonization and the anti-Arab policy—encouraged by all governments for decades—appeased reactionary religious parties which provided troops for the extreme right. This policy made the far right a force which now threatens not only to attack Palestinians, but Jews too.

The people of Israel will never be free until the Palestinians are free.