Bibi prompts mass departure amid internal crisis

The survey comes as credit rating agencies have reported that the widening of domestic uncertainty will reduce the regime’s economic growth this year. 
“The Times of Israel” has cited a poll conducted by the regime’s channel 13 as saying that “28 percent of respondents were weighing a move abroad” while an additional “8 percent were unsure.”.
“The survey reflected the impact of the coalition passing the law on Monday, despite sustained mass protests, vehement opposition from top judicial, security, economic and public figures, and thousands of Israeli military reservists vowing to quit service,” the newspaper reported.
Highlighting the strong opposition against Netanyahu’s cabinet and signs of protests to continue, only 33 percent of respondents said they believe the Israeli prime minister’s claim that he wants to compromise on the rest of the judicial overhaul law. 
Among other aspects that the poll found was that 54 percent of Israelis fear that the judicial overhaul will harm the security of the occupation regime.
Another 56 percent said that they are worried about a civil war erupting within the entity between opponents and supporters of Netanyahu’s cabinet judicial reforms. 
The newspaper, also citing the same poll, indicated that “Gantz’s National Unity party would win 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the most of any party, if elections were held today, surpassing Likud, which ranked next with 25 seats.”
The survey was conducted on July 25 following the Israeli coalition’s vote in the Knesset, where a bill was passed that represents an integral part of the judicial overhaul.
Opposition politicians chanted “shame” and stormed out of the Knesset, leaving supporters to approve the change of 64 votes to zero.
Netanyahu – who is facing corruption charges – has resisted pressure from the occupation’s staunchest allies, including the United States, which is looking with concern at the crisis unfolding in the occupied Palestinian territories, to drop his judicial overhaul measures. 
The U.S. and the regime have publicly clashed after President Joe Biden rebuked Netanyahu’s cabinet for its efforts to weaken the judiciary. 
The plan has also seen the biggest polarization among Israeli settlers in the regime’s history with more than seven months of mass protests that saw violent clashes between the Israeli police and settlers after Netanyahu passed the bill on July 24. 
It comes as protests against the bill saw a forum of around 150 of the regime’s largest companies holding a strike on Monday. Two of the largest Israeli malls also closed the stores in their shopping centers. 
Israeli President Isaac Herzog and the head of the occupation’s largest labor union failed to mediate a compromise between the coalition and opposition ahead of the vote in a bid to ease the crisis. 
After news emerged that the compromise talks had collapsed the early gains for the Israeli currency were and sent the shekel weaker, with losses deepening further after the vote.
In a sign that the situation could get worse, the head of Israel’s Histadrut labor federation has declared that he will be consulting with union officials about declaring a general strike.
“From this moment on, any unilateral progress in the reform will have serious consequences … Either things will progress with broad agreement, or they will not progress at all,” he said.
That has all sent Israeli financial markets tumbling with economists predicting there could also be an effect on inflation and interest rates. 
The shekel has weakened by around ten percent versus the dollar since late January when the cabinet unveiled its controversial judicial overhaul plan, which harmed foreign inflows.
A report on Thursday by the S&P Global Ratings said the controversy over Netanyahu’s plans to limit the powers of the judiciary is increasing domestic political uncertainty and will lead to lower economic growth for the entity this year. 
“If government and opposition do not achieve an agreement on the topic, this could further exacerbate domestic political confrontation and weigh on medium-term economic growth,” S&P said. 
With a deep divide opening up in Israeli society and strained loyalties by thousands of army reservists and foreign investors, who have been left frightened. 
In the short-term, S&P projects the regime economic growth to slow to 1.5% this year from 6.5% in 2022, citing the ongoing political uncertainty that will combine with weaker economic performance in Israel’s key trading partners in Europe and the United States as well as tighter monetary policy.
The report by S&P comes on the backdrop of a similar warning issued by Moody’s rating agency.
“We consider that domestic political polarization and volatility in Israel will remain high in the coming months,” it said, noting that for now “the prospects for adoption of other parts of the judicial reform remain unclear.”
Political watchdog groups have appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn a new law passed by parliament in the first of the changes to trim Supreme Court powers, paving the way to a showdown among branches of government when it hears the arguments in September.
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a strong supporter of the judicial changes, pinned the blame on the Israeli protesters and not the cabinet for the warning by the rating agencies.
“S&P, like Moody’s … does not warn of damage to the economy due to the legal reform, but because of the protest that creates instability,” Smotrich said in a statement.
S&P said that its ratings for the regime have in the past been consistently constrained by domestic and regional political and security risks. 
Israel, it added, has a history of frequent elections and changes in cabinet composition, which makes future policy direction harder to predict.
The calls by Israeli settlers and unions for further strikes, in addition to more than 10,000 reservists joining the protest movement, have split the regime in half. 
Experts believe the economic outlook is likely to slow further, adding more fuel for settlers to leave the occupied Palestinian territories where they fear the possibility of a civil war amid a rise in violent protests on one hand and the increasing retaliatory operations
carried out by the resistance on the other. These have added to the woes of their security concerns. 
On Friday, the Israeli Air Force chief warned that enemies may exploit the internal crisis, saying his forces need to remain “vigilant and prepared”.
Tomer Bar said, “It is possible that at a time like this, they (Israel’s enemies) will try to test the frontiers, our cohesion, and our alertness,” he said without elaborating. 
As the crisis escalated further after the July 24 vote, Israeli media have reported that Netanyahu had received at least four letters from the regime’s military intelligence warning of serious security ramifications and historic weaknesses as a result of his judicial overhaul measures.
By Ali Karbalaei 
First published in Tehran Times

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