Listen 6 minutes Comment on this story Leave a Comment Share a Gift Article JERUSALEM — Since taking power almost six months ago, chaos has plagued Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, both within his ranks and in a country ravaged by unprecedented street protests. Now, after crushing militants in the Gaza Strip and quelling the revolt of coalition partners, this week's adoption of a budget marks a rare moment of unity and stability for the fractious alliance of right-wing nationalist and religious parties. Netanyahu immediately suggested that he could use the window of calm to restore explosive proposals to gain power over the Israeli judiciary, which he suspended in the face of mass demonstrations against them in March. "Netanyahu has a new influence with the approved budget, more degrees of freedom," said Yohanan Plesner, head of the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. "Now she has to decide what she wants to do with it." Wednesday's vote to approve the biennial national budget, a mundane part of parliamentary work that has become increasingly troubling in a divided country, was a moment of danger for Netanyahu's fragile partnership. Far-right and ultra-Orthodox groups have threatened to withdraw their votes unless the government pours more money into programs under their control; including millions for a parallel yeshiva school system that teaches religion in defiance of national standards for mathematics and science. Failure to meet the budget deadline would have led to the automatic collapse of the government - a fate that befell a coalition in 2020 - and Netanyahu bowed to the demands, hastily committing more than $130 million for religious programs and projects supported by the far-right. settler leader Itamar Ben Gvir, minister of national security. Critics have criticized the last-minute deals as proof that Netanyahu owes his most extreme partners. They denounced the "giveaway" given to the growing ultra-Orthodox segment, which seeks to exert greater influence on the religious and secular society. But the protesters shouted "Shame!" In the pre-dawn darkness outside the Knesset on Wednesday, the fiscal package passed by four votes, giving the government a two-year window before the next budget battle. Netanyahu hailed the document as "a responsible, excellent budget that will faithfully serve the citizens of Israel." Opposition leader Yair Lapid called it "blackmail". While you were asleep, the worst and most destructive budget in Israeli history was passed. Nothing positive, nothing to help fight the cost of living,” Lapid tweeted. Within government, this moment may signal at least a temporary transition from the turmoil that has plagued it. Shortly after he came to power months ago, the conservatives made a sweeping proposal to restructure the judicial system and reduce the power of the Supreme Court. Launched without any public preparation, the movement sparked months of strikes, mass demonstrations and protests by reservists. Some Israeli diplomats resigned, and world leaders, including President Biden, denounced the initiative as undemocratic. Amid the backlash that has sparked rifts in the coalition, Netanyahu withdrew the law in March and agreed to meet with the opposition. The government has been slow to gain foothold in other ways. Critics say the cabinet has done little on the rise in inflation and homicide rates exceeding 5 percent, especially in the Arab-Israeli communities. Netanyahu failed in his bid to appoint a staunch Likud supporter as his consul in New York and another close friend as head of the national statistics office. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant remained in his post despite being “fired” by Netanyahu, delivering a dramatic speech on television at the height of judicial protests. "Even hitting the budget after a series of failures seems like a feat," Plesner said. "So far, this government has had a failing track record, and Netanyahu understood that." Opinion polls show that if elections are held today, the coalition will lose 10 seats and a Knesset majority. For the first time, more Israelis say that centrist former defense minister Benny Gantz, not Netanyahu, is the "best fit" person to be prime minister. Following the death of jailed Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan on May 2, Netanyahu came under criticism from the right for not responding with sufficient force after Islamic Jihad militants initially fired more than 100 rockets at Israel. Ben Gvir boycotted the parliamentary vote to protest the lack of military intervention. These far-right lawmakers applauded a week later when Israeli planes killed six Islamic Jihad commanders in surprise airstrikes on Gaza neighborhoods. In the five days of violence that followed, at least 33 people were killed in Gaza and two in Israel. Gaza action increased support for Netanyahu on the right wing. That, and going over budget, gives him a chance to re-establish the sense control central to his cultivated as a political master. "The important thing for him is to be able to say, 'I am the only person who can lead the circus of Israeli politics,'" said Dahlia Scheindlin, a Tel Aviv-based pollster and campaign consultant. But it's not clear yet if he can keep his allies in line. Israeli media reports suggest that Netanyahu wants to quietly bury his plan for judicial overhaul and the angry opposition he incited. But the pressure is already mounting for the right to bring him back, with Justice Minister Yariv Levin threatening to resign if his favorite initiative is not revived. Supporters of the revision consider it crucial to rein in a judiciary that they believe is usurping legislative power and that they are desperately biased against Israel's left-wing elite. Critics say this is a power grab that will upset the long-standing balance of power between the legislature and the judiciary and set the country on the path of authoritarianism. Talks between coalition and opposition leaders are ongoing and no progress has been made. When asked if he expected the issue to return shortly after the budget vote, Netanyahu replied "Of course. But we are trying to reach agreement [in negotiations]. I hope we will be successful in that too.” Those who opposed the overhaul of the courts said demonstrators would return to the streets. "After pouring unprecedented amounts of government revenue to buy threats from ultra-Orthodox and far-right settler party leaders, Netanyahu has announced plans to continue judicial overhaul," said Josh Drill, spokesman for a protest organisation. groups. Israel is in imminent danger and only mass protests can stop this dangerous law.” GiftOutline Gift Article