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Netanyahu’s poll ratings flounder as domestic woes mount over judicial overhaul

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu looks on as Israeli lawmakers vote on the judiciary overhaul bill in the Knesset plenum in the occupied al-Quds, on July 24, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a hit in opinion polls from a judicial overhaul by his hard-right coalition that has triggered unprecedented protests across Israel over the past few months.

Surveys by two main Israeli news broadcasters published late on Tuesday showed that if an election was held now, the number of seats held by Netanyahu’s governing coalition in the 120-seat Knesset parliament would fall from 64 to 52 or 53.

Seats held by Netanyahu's Likud party would fall from 32 to 28, according to N12 News, and to as low as 25 seats, according to another survey by broadcaster Reshet 13.

Less than a quarter of respondents have shown support for the legislation package. Netanyahu won an approval rating of 38 percent of respondents in N12's poll, with a majority of Israelis seeking his judicial plan either scrapped entirely or negotiated with the opposition.

On Monday, Netanyahu's coalition gave Knesset approval to legislation that will limit some of Israel's so-called supreme court's powers. It was the first ratification of a bill that is part of a government bid to overhaul the judiciary.

The approval came despite mass street protests and fierce objections from the opposition.

Netanyahu introduced the plan in January, triggering months of unprecedented anti-regime protests, with critics describing the plan as a threat to the independence of the courts by the prime minister, who is on trial on graft charges.

Those in favor of the scheme allege that it introduces some balance in the power that is wielded by the different branches of the regime. Its opponents, on the other side of the ledger, say upon ratification, the plan would empower the ruling class to act in a more authoritarian fashion.

Faced with raging protests as well as a wave of mass industrial actions in support of those protests, Netanyahu announced a pause in late March in his drive to get the plan approved by the Knesset.

The judicial overhaul plan originally sought to render Israel's so-called supreme court incapable of striking down politicians’ decisions.

The United States, Israel's main supporter, has urged him to reach broad agreements on judicial reforms and called Monday's legislation "unfortunate".

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has said he wants to pursue consensus on any further legislation by November.

The divide has even spread to the military, with volunteer reservists saying they will not report for duty and former top brass warning that Israel’s war readiness could be at risk.

The development comes as thousands of reservists have said they’ll halt their volunteer duty if Netanyahu’s extremist administration passes the contentious judicial overhaul bill into law.

Critics say the amendment will open the door to abuses of power by removing one of the few effective checks on the executive’s authority of the entity without a formal written constitution.

On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service said the regime’s judicial drive and the upheaval it has been causing will likely have negative consequences for Israel’s economy and security.

Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz recently warned of a “worrying” security situation across the occupied territories amid a months-long wave of anti-regime protests, sparked by Netanyahu’s far-right administration and its contentious policies.

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