This week has seen violent protests take place across Israel as thousands have taken to the streets over proposed reforms to the justice system.

Some see the reforms as a direct threat to democracy with the news met with strikes, industrial action and direct action.

We examine the root cause of the unrest and highlight one striking coincidence which has only strengthened claims of political overreach and interference. 

What’s going on in Israel?  

Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest against their government, and a general strike has been held as the situation threatens to boil over. For once, though, the unrest is not connected to the ongoing dispute over Palestine, but connected to matters much closer to home. How has it come to this?  

What’s been happening?  

Huge protests broke out over the weekend in response to reforms to the justice system proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israelis demonstrated outside parliament and workers launched a nationwide strike on Monday, which shut down much of the country and threatened to paralyse the economy

Departing flights from the main international airport were grounded. Large shop chains and universities closed their doors, and Israel’s largest trade union called for its 800,000 members to stop work in health care, transit, banking and other fields. 

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Diplomats walked out at foreign missions, and local governments were expected to close pre-schools and cut other services. The main doctors union announced that its members would also strike. 

The Herald:

What’s behind it all?  

Israelis are furious over reforms that would give the government decisive control over the committee which appoints judges. They would also make it harder for courts to remove a leader deemed unfit for office. 

Mr Netanyahu says the reforms are designed to stop the courts over-reaching their powers and that they were voted for by the public at the last election. But opponents say democracy is under attack as it would allow the government to override the courts. There’s also the startling coincidence of Mr Netanyahu currently facing corruption charges...  

What brought matters to a head?  

On Sunday, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant spoke out about the reforms, saying he had spoken to army reservists who were concerned about the proposed changes, and was subsequently fired.

The armed forces are highly regarded Israel, and reservists have increasingly said publicly that they will not serve a country veering toward autocracy  

Mr Gallant took to Twitter to say: "The state of Israel's security has always been and will always be my life's mission." 

Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid described Mr Gallant's sacking as "a new low" for the government. 

The Herald:

What’s been the response?  

On Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu backed down and announced a delay in his judicial overhaul plan, saying he wanted to give time to seek a compromise over the contentious package with his political opponents. 

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“When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a time-out for dialogue,” Mr Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address. 

Striking a more conciliatory tone, he said he was determined to pass a judicial reform but called for “an attempt to achieve broad consensus”. 

And the Palestinians? 

They’ve sat this one out.