A number of decisions by the government this week indicate that its intentions to pass its reform of the judicial system relatively quickly are serious.
On Thursday, Channel 12’s Amit Segal reported that the government had delayed its intention to significantly reduce funding of KAN, Israel’s public broadcasting service, until after the judicial reforms had passed. A spokesperson at the ministry confirmed the report.
On Wednesday, the news channel’s Dafna Liel quoted a “senior” member of the Religious Zionist Party who expressed concern that a law enabling Shas chairman MK Arye Deri to return to serve as a minister could hamper the coalition’s efforts to pass the reform. Although the law was placed on the Knesset floor on Monday, the coalition is unlikely to fast-track it and will likely wait the 45 days required by law before it can begin debating it.
The judicial reform is being debated in just one Knesset committee out of over a dozen. Why not advance the KAN budget cuts and Deri's reinstatement in parallel to the reform?
Why is the coalition holding back on other ventures?
The answer is that the government knows that these moves will both face serious opposition, and it cannot afford to use any political credit on them. Judicial reform is taking over all other issues. This shows two things: First, the government is intent on passing the reform – and quickly. Second, that the government is fighting a very serious opposition, and therefore cannot afford to add fuel to the protests.
On Wednesday, the state requested a four-month delay in order to give its answer as to why the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar is not being evacuated. This will be the ninth such delay. The issue has become something of a litmus test of “right-wingness” – and the decision to delay was a political blow to a government that deems itself the “real” right wing.
The official reason ministers gave for the decision was that the government had not had enough time to prepare. But it could also have to do with the fact that carrying out the evacuation would create a diplomatic uproar – which, at the moment, it cannot afford.
Finally, the security situation continued to deteriorate this week. It began with a terrible killing spree in Neveh Ya'acov, and ended with over a dozen rockets fired at the South. What stood out about the situation, from a political perspective, was that Netanyahu and his ministers did not visit the Gaza border area, and the Likud's usually militant rhetoric in such scenarios was curiously muted.
The government cannot afford a serious security flare-up now either. This is not to say that its intent to pass the judicial reforms actually affected its security decisions; rather, it affected the way it communicated these decisions to the public.
Appearing tough on security is the cornerstone of Israeli politics. The fact that even this has taken the back seat shows just how serious the government is about the reforms.