Why Israeli protests worked

What’s happening: Israel has been experiencing mass protests amid efforts to reform the country’s Supreme Court. As Upward News has previously explained, Israel’s court has tremendous political power while being unaccountable to Israeli voters. The reform effort aimed to democratize Israel while reducing the Left’s power in the increasingly politicized court. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to pause the reform efforts as unprecedented protests brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Power of protests: 600,000 Israelis took to the streets to stop the reforms. Accounting for population, it took the George Floyd protests almost a years-worth of demonstrations to reach the participant level that Israel reached in one single protest. The liberal protestors comprised the trade unions, the wealthy tech sector, the military, and lawyers. They achieved the following together, according to the Associated Press:

The chaos shut down much of the country and threatened to paralyze the economy. Departing flights from the main international airport were grounded. Large mall chains and universities closed their doors, and Israel’s largest trade union called for its 800,000 members to stop work in health care, transit, banking, and other fields.”

Power of elites: Whereas temporarily-impactful movements like Canada’s anti-mandate Freedom Convoy ultimately failed to achieve their goals, the Israeli protests have succeeded—for now. Why? Unlike the Canadian truckers, they had elite support. This included the upper ranks of the military, the billionaire tech class, the political class, and intense, unprecedented foreign pressure and even funding from the Biden Administration. The New York Times reports,

“…in normal times, the standard line for a White House — whether Democratic or Republican — is that Washington does not interfere in the internal politics of its allies.

That has never truly been the case; it interferes all the time, usually behind the scenes. But in this case, Mr. Biden and his advisers dropped all pretenses, putting themselves publicly at odds with Mr. Netanyahu”

Power of Israel’s Left: Fearful of losing the courts and pressured by the U.S., the secular Left in Israel united against the religious right. They shut the country down and caused a national security crisis with the backing of Israel’s elite, and Netanyahu had to back down. Though it’s unclear where the reforms will head, Israel’s Left has discovered a new tool, one America’s Left is very familiar with—mass protests.

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