DiscoverThe New Yorker Radio HourIsrael on the Brink: Understanding the Judicial Overhaul, and the Protests Against It
Israel on the Brink: Understanding the Judicial Overhaul, and the Protests Against It

Israel on the Brink: Understanding the Judicial Overhaul, and the Protests Against It

Update: 2023-04-071
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed law changing the judiciary is described as a reform. To opponents, it’s a move to gut the independence of the Supreme Court as a check on executive power—and a move from the playbook of autocrats like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. The protests that followed are the largest in the country’s history, and are now stretching into their third month. Ruth Margalit, who is based in Tel Aviv, covered the protests for The New Yorker, and she tells David Remnick that the strength and success of the protests so far has brought a sense of hope for many who were losing faith in the country’s political future. “I think there is a sign of optimism. There is this potential for a kind of political realignment,” she says. “I do have some friends who were thinking of leaving and suddenly are saying, ‘Well, let’s just see how this plays out.’ And they suddenly feel that they have a role.” Remnick also speaks with Margalit’s father, the political philosopher Avishai Margalit, about demographic and cultural factors driving Israeli politics. The nation has been moving to the right probably since the failure of the Oslo peace accords in the nineteen-nineties, but “the new element,” Avishai thinks, “is the strong fusion of religion and nationalism,” elements that were once kept separate in Israel. “The current government is utterly dependent on the votes of the religious and the ultra-religious,” he says. The big unknown, Ruth says, is whether the popular uprising will expand beyond the judicial reforms. “Let’s say the fight over democracy is won—what happens then?” she says. “Can we branch out this fight over democracy? Can it include the West Bank and bring an end to the occupation?”

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Israel on the Brink: Understanding the Judicial Overhaul, and the Protests Against It

Israel on the Brink: Understanding the Judicial Overhaul, and the Protests Against It

WNYC Studios and The New Yorker