David Polden writes: On 27 March, after 11 consecutive weeks of huge demonstrations, and the start of a general strike, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to pause (just for a month) legal changes which threaten the independence of judges, including the supreme court.
Among the demonstrators were military reservists who said they would not volunteer for service if the laws were passed.
Meanwhile, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank there have been increasing numbers of attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers, often beside Israeli soldiers.
These are the policies of Israel’s most far-right government yet.
Netanyahu’s government includes far-right ministers such as Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who previously expressed support for Baruch Goldstein, a Jew who killed 29 Palestinians in a shooting at Hebron’s Ibrahami mosque in 1994.
Ben-Gvir has been appointed national security minister with authority over the police, including in the Occupied Territories.
The government has introduced bills which would give it more power over the appointment of supreme court judges and allow a simple majority in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to override supreme court rulings.
The coalition has also called for settlement expansion in the occupied territories as its ‘top priority’.
In the West Bank, on 7 March, Friends of Hebron (FoH) reported that Jewish settlers, with national security minister Itamar Ben-Givr, celebrated the Purim festival by dancing down Hebron’s main Shuhada Street and attacking and vandalising Palestinian houses.
The following day, Israeli border police invaded the FoH community centre and evicted international solidarity activists who were there to provide a protective presence. Israeli settlers then attacked Palestinian houses and the FoH centre. Israeli soldiers stood by.
This was only one incident in a wave of violence that has been going on for months. On 26 February, there was what the Washington Post called ‘a night of brutal violence in the West Bank... when hundreds of settlers went on a four-hour rampage through Palestinian communities’. Sameh Aqtash, 37, was shot dead as he tried to protect his village, Zatara.
Hours of CCTV footage seen by the Post ‘show Israeli soldiers among groups of settlers as they walk up and down the main street in [nearby] Huwara, pelting storefronts with stones and setting fires to buildings, some with residents inside.’
The Post reported on 17 March that, this year, at least 78 Palestinians, including fighters and civilians, have been killed by Israelis, while at least 14 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians over the same period.
That’s a ratio of more than five Palestinians killed for every Israeli.