Israeli lawmakers are gearing up to vote on the government’s overall plan to weaken the nation’s court system, despite nearly six months of protests from citizens, and waves of urgent warnings from the White House.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving forward with plans to overhaul the judicial system in the nation, despite multiple months of protests from citizens who are showing no signs of stopping soon.
Natanyahu, who left the hospital Monday morning after being fit with a pacemaker, claims that the new measures will work as “reforms” to rebalance powers between Israel’s courts, lawmakers, and the government. Protesters and opposing side’s, however, are calling the “reforms” a “coup” that is threatening to turn Israel into a dictatorship, due to the plans to remove significant checks on government actions.
Protests are continuing Monday with crowds of people waving flags near the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. At least 12 protestors have been arrested already after being met by police with water cannons, fences, and barbed wire.
US President Joe Biden has delivered multiple warnings to Netanyahu for rushing through the new legislation without getting a larger consensus, breaking down democratic relations that could impact US-Israeli relations.
“Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this – the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus.”
Monday’s vote would strip the Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions as unreasonable; it could be voted into law Monday evening. The judicial overhaul could also give the far-right coalition government more control over appointing judges, and would remove legal advisors from government ministries.
The Israel Bar Association is preparing to legally challenge the bill as well. The Bar Council, the executive branch of the association, is holding an emergency meeting to approve their decision to petition the Supreme Court to cancel the law if it does indeed pass.
In a statement, the Bar warned it “will shut down as an act of protest against the anti-democratic legislative process.” This also means the Bar Association will not provide services to its members. Additionally, over 1,000 Israel Air Force reserve officers have taken a vow to stop volunteering should the bill be passed.
One protestor told CNN that their demonstrations will not stop if the first part of the legislation passes, as they are committed to maintaining a democracy and giving a voice to the people.
“We’re not going to let them destroy our democracy. Benjamin Netanyahu is a criminal and we have to get rid of him.”
In addition to Israeli citizens making their voices heard, a group of around 150 Israeli companies, including shopping malls, supermarkets, real estate agents, and investment firms, went on strike on Monday due to the legislation.
The Israel Business Forum is specifically calling upon the government “to stop the controversial unilateral legislation until further negotiations take place and greater consensus is reached among parties.”
Thousands of citizens protesting also made their way to Jerusalem over the weekend, completing a five day walk starting in Tel Aviv.
After being released from the hospital, Natanyahu claimed he was “doing great” after his pacemaker operation. “I would like to thank the many of you who have asked how I am doing. I am doing great. Tomorrow morning I will join my colleagues in the Knesset.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.