The Central Obstacle

Black September: What is Netanyahu so afraid of?

When significant decisions in the Supreme Court and contacts for peace with Saudi Arabia are on the horizon, Prime Minister Netanyahu may have realized that judicial reform has become the central obstacle of his tenure

Netanyahu (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash 90)

Many eyebrows were raised this week shortly after the contacts that are (once again) taking place within the framework of the President's residence were exposed, regarding the updated compromise for judicial reform.

A month and a half after the coalition successfully passed the law to reduce the Clause of Reasonability – the only legislative clause approved throughout the entire Levin-Rothman initiative – one fundamental question arises: What is Netanyahu's motivation now to try and change course and bury the rest of the judicial legislation?

Has Netanyahu truly understood his and the government's limited power and turned to address the real concern about the consequences of the rift within the nation, its impact on the security system, and the realization that even within the coalition, he lacks the majority to continue the process?

Or perhaps (as his opponents believe), Netanyahu, being Netanyahu, is only concerned with his personal benefit and is merely trying to spin the narrative to position himself as a "responsible adult." But he doesn't actually intend to take any action to calm the situation.

(Photographs: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

But the truth is that signs indicate that Netanyahu is preoccupied with other matters, focusing on two key places – the construction of the Supreme Court building and the White House.

Next week, the Supreme Court will deliberate on an appeal against the law to reduce the Clause of Reasonability, and in an unprecedented manner, the panel will include all 15 justices of the Supreme Court, who may render a dramatic decision – the annulment of a fundamental law.

But this discussion is not standing alone – during the month of September, debates on the Prime Minister's Incapacity Law, the inconvening of the committee for selecting judges, and the demand to disqualify Netanyahu's tenure due to a "conflict of interest" that he seemingly has will also take place.

Will he respect or refuse the decisions of the High Court?

This clash of authorities is troubling Netanyahu, who fears an unprecedented ruling by the Supreme Court on the matter of amending the Basic Laws – which could lead to a legal crisis the likes of which has not been seen before in the history of Israel.

Will the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuse to respect the Supreme Court's ruling? Will his coalition partners force him into a fierce battle against the Supreme Court, or will he have the power to persuade the head of the coalition in the face of the Supreme Court justices' decision?

Despite the image that the protest and the opposition have created for him – "undermining the legal system" – Netanyahu is not interested in reaching such a confrontation, and certainly, it would not be to his advantage.

However, this is not the only challenge for Netanyahu, as if it were up to him, he would invest his time and effort in preparing for the meeting with US President Joe Biden, expected to take place in about two weeks. This is in anticipation of the possibility of a breakthrough in relations with the Saudis.

Biden and Bin Salman (photos: Art Morathkan, Ron Adar/Shutterstock)

Netanyahu understands that the true moment for expanding the circle of peace and achieving full normalization with Saudi Arabia goes through Washington, and the window of opportunity will remain open for only a few short months.

The Prime Minister realizes that with a legal crisis at home, which implies a massive protest nationwide and a genuine threat to the stability of the security establishment, there is no chance of a tripartite agreement between Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia.

Towards a fateful month

Whether he abandons judicial reform, merely disperses smoke, or attempts to walk a fine line, Netanyahu understands that the month of September could be one of the decisive months in his years of leadership, and he is seeking every way to prevent an "explosion" – one that could even bring down his government.

The Supreme Court and the Knesset (Photo: Nati Shohat, Flash 90)

The latest attempt that was reported this week may no longer materialize, as it underwent a "targeted demolition" even before it fully matured, but Netanyahu's concern remains.

Beyond the crucial decisions of the Supreme Court and the first meeting with President Biden, the Prime Minister cannot afford to remain a mere spectator and abandon the arena. Some kind of compromise is only a matter of time.

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