January 25, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10439

Former Palestinian Minister: The Palestinians Should Learn From The Public Protest In Israel Against Judicial Reform – And Demand Their Right To Democracy And Rule Of Law

January 25, 2023
Palestinian Authority | Special Dispatch No. 10439

In his January 22, 2023 column in the Palestinian Al-Quds daily, Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian Authority (PA), urged the Palestinian public to learn from the current public protest in Israel against the judicial reform being advanced by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Urging the Palestinians to take to the streets to protest the lack of democracy in the PA, he wrote of his sadness at the contrast between the demonstrations in Tel Aviv and the Palestinian public's silence and apathy at the situation in the PA – which he describes as having no legislature, no parliamentary and presidential elections, utter contempt for the judiciary, and "legislation enacted by those who have not been elected that is not subject to the principles and procedures determined by law."

Abu Zayyad goes on to contend in his column that the Palestinians need "an electric shock" to rouse them from their stupor and prompt them to demand their right to democracy, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, freedoms, and life with dignity. His criticism is also an indirect reference to the undemocratic functioning of the PA under President Mahmoud Abbas. Since the 2007 Fatah-Hamas rift, and the Hamas coup, the PA has not recognized the legislative council, elected in 2006, in which Hamas holds the majority and which was dissolved in 2018 by the PA Constitutional Court, although no other legislative body was elected. In such a situation, it is Abbas, who heads the executive authority, who personally issues presidential decrees as a substitute for legislative procedure – thus appropriating legislative powers.Moreover, in recent years, Abbas has also used presidential decrees to take control of the judiciary, enraging and prompting protests from the Palestinian Bar Association.[1]

Ziad Abu Zayyad (Source:, February 2, 2019)

It is notable that Abu Zayyad often publishes articles critical of the PA's operation of its institutions.[2]

The following are translated excerpts from Ziad Abu Zayyad's column:

"Yesterday [January 21, 2023], Tel Aviv hosted one of the biggest demonstrations in its history. The number of participants vastly exceeded the 80,000 of the previous week's demonstration. Both demonstrations were part of the popular protests by hundreds of thousands [sic] of Israelis against the plan that the new justice minister, Yariv Levin, intends to implement, in coordination with and with the support of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu. [This plan's] goal is to restrict the authority of the Supreme Court, to grant the government a majority on the committee that selects judges, to limit the attorney general's authority... and to subordinate [the attorney general] to [the government]. Opponents of the plan believe that it is a grave violation of the rule of law and of the essence of the democracy on which the establishment of the State of Israel was based. The acute tension escalated after the Supreme Court... ruled that Shas Movement leader Aryeh Deri may  not serve as a minister in the government due to his past involvement in matters of corruption...

"One of the main motives behind the reform of [Israel's] existing judicial system is to lay the groundwork for the closure of three pending criminal cases against Prime Minister Netanyahu. This matter places Israel at a crossroads today: Either it relinquishes its judiciary and its democratic principles – about which its leaders have continued to boast since [the state] was founded – and becomes a Middle Eastern country by all criteria, or the opposition to the reform will succeed in either preventing it from happening or in making substantive changes that will limit its damage.

"This protest, against a blow to the purity of law, democracy, and the sovereignty of the rule of law in Israel, is just beginning. However, I confess that as I follow events in Israel I feel sorrow when I compare the hundreds of thousands participating in the popular protest movement in Israel... with the total silence in the Palestinian arena at the abolition of the legislative authority, the refusal to hold parliamentary or presidential elections, and the utter contempt for the judiciary.

"The [Palestinian] rift has been ongoing for more than 15 years; during [those years], we have lived without a parliament and without democracy, and are witness to legislation enacted by those who have not been elected that is not subject to the principles and procedures determined by law. [These principles and procedures] set out how laws are to be proposed and debated, and approved in the parliament. Despite this, we see no public protest against the rift, and no demand for noninterference in the judiciary, or for elections to be held.

"This silence, this resignation [to the situation], and this apathy that prevail in the Palestinian street are not limited merely to silence and refraining from protesting against the rift, against the lack of democracy, and against the harm to judiciary independence. They also include various aspects of life, so that whatever happens is considered a decree of fate or a way of life that must be accepted. I am referring specifically to the daily murders plaguing our people, and the repression perpetrated by the occupation, [in addition] to the looting and robbery and the armed attacks against them carried out by the settler gangs.

"It is not possible that the hundreds of thousands demonstrating in the streets and squares of Tel Aviv are more aware and more anxious than we are about their right to democracy and life under a judiciary whose characteristics are rule of law and independence. It is not possible that they respect their children's lives, their property, and their freedom more [than we do].

"We must stop and ask ourselves what has brought us to this degree of apathy.

"We need an electric shock to rouse us from our stupor and awaken our senses and our self respect, and our respect for our children's lives and honor, for our right to freedom, for freedom of movement, freedom to own property, and freedom of expression, and for our right to live in dignity and safety.

"We must feel that we have the lives that we deserve, and are not among the living dead."[3]


[1] For more information, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1564, New Decrees By Palestinian Authority President 'Abbas Restrict Civil Society, March 15, 2021.

[3] Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), January 22, 2023.

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