Israel is Revolting

The Netanyahu government is facing massive strikes and protests over its latest authoritarian moves.

NYT (“Israel Boils as Netanyahu Ousts Minister Who Bucked Court Overhaul”):

Civil unrest broke out in parts of Israel Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister for criticizing the government’s divisive judicial overhaul, prompting protesters to surge into the streets, universities to shut their doors, and union leaders to hint of a looming general strike.

Announced in a one-line statement by the prime minister’s office, the dismissal of Yoav Gallant intensified an already dramatic domestic crisis — one of the gravest in Israeli history — set off by the government’s attempt to give itself greater control over the selection of Supreme Court justices and to limit the court’s authority over Parliament.

Mr. Gallant’s dismissal unleashed chaotic late-night demonstrations in and around Tel Aviv, where protesters blocked a multilane highway and set fires in at least two major roads, and in Jerusalem, where crowds broke through police barriers outside Mr. Netanyahu’s private residence.

As midnight approached, it also prompted the heads of Israel’s leading research universities to collectively announce that they were closing their class rooms for the immediate future; Israel’s consul-general in New York to resign; and Histadrut, the country’s largest workers’ union, to warn that it may announce a general strike on Monday in conjunction with leading businesses.

The crisis over the future of Israel’s judiciary had already spurred weeks of protest, tensions with the Biden administration, and unrest in the military. Now it has caused a rift in the governing coalition itself, unusual political coordination from senior academics and rare political intervention from trade unionists.

Mr. Gallant was fired after he urged on Saturday night that the judicial legislation be postponed, warning that it was causing turmoil in the military and was therefore a threat to Israel’s security.

“The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israel Defense Forces,” Mr. Gallant said in a televised speech a day before he was dismissed. The schisms, he said, have caused “a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state — I shall not be a party to this.”

His declaration followed a surge in military reservists’ refusing to fulfill their volunteer duty in protest of the judicial overhaul. Military leaders had warned that a decline in reservists, who form a key part of the air force pilot corps, might soon affect the military’s operational capacity.

Haaretz (“As General Strike Shutters Israel’s Main Airport, Netanyahu Set to Freeze Judicial Overhaul Legislation“). This takes the form of what we used to call a “live blog,” a series of bursts with periodic updates. Some highlights:

On Sunday morning, Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein, who chairs the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, told Army Radio that his absence from the first reading of the bill intended to give the government control over the judicial appointment’s committee, was “not a coincidence.” The legislation is a key component of the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul.

Edelstein, a former speaker of the Knesset, supported Gallant’s call to halt the process, and hinted that if the bill goes up for a vote this week, he will not support it. Edelstein, who was absent from three votes on additional judicial overhaul bills, was penalized by coalition whip Ofir Katz, who informed him that he will no longer be able to submit private bills, submit a call to order, or speak on behalf of the Likud for three weeks.


An Israeli good governance group on Sunday asked the country’s Supreme Court to punish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for allegedly violating a conflict of interest agreement meant to prevent him from dealing with the country’s judiciary while he is on trial for corruption.

The request by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel intensifies a brewing showdown between Netanyahu’s government and the judiciary, which it is trying to overhaul in a contentious plan that has sparked widespread opposition.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a fierce opponent of the overhaul, asked the court to force Netanyahu to obey the law and sanction him either with a fine or prison time for not doing so, saying he was not above the law.


Netanyahu is barred by the country’s attorney general from dealing with his government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary, based on a conflict of interest agreement he is bound to, and which the Supreme Court acknowledged in a ruling over Netanyahu’s fitness to serve while on trial for corruption.

But on Thursday, after parliament passed a law making it harder to remove a sitting prime minister, Netanyahu said he was unshackled by the attorney general’s decision and vowed to wade into the crisis and “mend the rift” in the nation. That declaration prompted the attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, to warn that Netanyahu was breaking his conflict of interest agreement by entering the fray.


Senior police sources told Haaretz they fear “immediate escalation” after extreme right-wing activists announced they will protest on Monday at the Knesset. Police warn against “activists potentially harming protesters against the judicial overhaul.”

In addition, Far-right soccer fan club La Familia, known for its extremist right-wing views, has called on its supporters to join the demonstration in favor of the government’s judicial overhaul outside the Knesset on Monday.


Hundreds are protesting in the central Israeli city of Ra’anana, where protests have grown significantly over the past weeks. A substantial police barricade is preventing demonstrators from blocking the major highway going through the city, as they did for hours last night.

That Netanyahu, a corrupt authoritarian, has managed to yet again become prime minister would seem even more bizarre if Donald Trump weren’t the odds-on favorite to win the 2024 Republican nomination. But it does seem that Israelis have finally had enough. Protests this massive in a country that small can’t be ignored for long.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Lounsbury says:

    A trivial point, but perhaps useful to avoid the probably non-intentional double-entendre of “revolting” to say rebelling?

    Otherwise the dismissal of the Defence Minister was genuinely surprising and strikes me as maladroit, rather than using his criticism as an excuse to make a tactical withdrawal and regroup.

  2. Tony W says:

    @Lounsbury: I, for one, love the English language and wouldn’t change a thing.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Lounsbury: Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t help but nod to Monty Python.

  4. Mu Yixiao says:

    @James Joyner:

    Monty Python? I thought it was a nod to Mel Brooks.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Thus confirming my contention in my other post this morning that memes become unmoored from their origins. It turns out that variations on that joke go back at least as far as 1904 and Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” series. Mel Brooks does indeed use it in “History of the World: Part I” (1981). I’ve seen memes of it using the peasant sequence from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975).

  6. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner: And History of the World is definitely the most Pythonesque Brooks film.

    Still, Brooks loves old, corny jokes (what we would call dad jokes). A lot of his gags are recycled from Vaudeville or earlier.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao: And I thought it was the Marx Brothers…

  8. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: Going down the rabbit hole, according to this the first movie mentioned is Brooks’ “History of the World, Part I”

  9. Lounsbury says:

    @James Joyner: Fair play then, fair play

  10. grumpy realist says:

    I knew that joke from a Wizard of ID cartoon: someone calling from outside “The peasants are revolting!” and the king mutters “you can say that again.”

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    @grumpy realist:.. “The peasants are revolting!” and the king @MarkedMan mutters “you can say that again.”

  12. Neil Hudelson says:

    Related (to the off topic comments, not the post): The History of the World Part II on Hulu has been quite enjoyable.

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    Israel is a country with the area of New Jersey and the population of the Chicago metro area. In population terms roughly the same size as Hungary, Tajikistan, or the UAE. What’s amazing is that we pay as much attention to it as we do.

  14. Kylopod says:

    @Dave Schuler: Israel is just like other countries, only more so.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @Dave Schuler: That whole Holocaust thing that led to its founding was rather unique though. Seems to resonate with people.

    But, what was your point? It’s not like we should just ignore Chicago.

  16. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I watched the first ep last week, and it struck me as so-so. Too many blatant anachronisms. It’s one thing to have the job of stand-up philosopher in Imperial Rome (wink, nudge), and a very different one to have Grant interviewed live on a TV sports network.

    The hitler on ice bit was good.

    I expect I’ll keep watching it now and then.

    “Boy, When you die at the palace, you really die at the palace!”

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    This is what happens when you mix corrupt authoritarians with religious extremism. The Israel that we all knew – the secular, liberal Israel of my youth – no longer exists. What has replaced it is, in a word, sinister.

  18. JohnSF says:

    Well, a lot of Israeli’s don’t seem inclined to take the ascendancy of the authoritarians and the extremists lying down. It may be a bit too soon to write off the seculars, liberals and such just yet.

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The extremists are the ones keeping the authoritarians in power, in a cynical bid for support for their own preferences about how the government and Israeli society should function. The authoritarians have gleefully gone along with those preferences for years to keep their support. It isn’t unlike evangelicals and the GOP, except it’s further advanced and far more of a threat there. The secular / liberal segment of Israel’s population is being converted into a minority one Haredim birth at a time, and it’s notable that they’ve sat back for years and quietly grumbled as Israel has essentially become a theocracy in all but name. It’s truly not tenable as it sits, and Israel won’t survive it.