April 24, 2024

Netanyahu is undergoing emergency surgery to install an accelerator hours before a tight vote on judicial reforms

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recovering from an emergency heart procedure on Sunday just hours before a key debate on his government’s controversial judicial reform plans.

The doctors who attended Mr. Netanyahu said that the operation to install a pacemaker went smoothly, and that the 73-year-old was fine.

The prime minister’s office said it hoped he would be released later in the day.

The unexpected news of Mr Netanyahu’s operation came as tensions reached a fever pitch across the country with lawmakers debating the first major piece of legislation in an overhaul of the judicial system, ahead of a parliamentary vote to pass it into law on Monday.

Although Mr Netanyahu and his allies have argued that the reform is necessary to curb the “excessive powers” of the unelected judiciary, critics have argued that the plan could push the country down the path towards authoritarian rule.

In a show of protest against the reform plans, which would reduce the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to overrule government actions on legal grounds, thousands of protesters marched on the main entrance to Jerusalem on Saturday in a last-ditch effort to block Mr Netanyahu’s plan.

Many of the protesters have also set up tents in a park near Israel’s parliament, ahead of Monday’s expected vote.

More than 100 of Israel’s former top security officials have signed a letter urging Mr Netanyahu not to go ahead with the reform.

Protesters against the Israeli government’s judicial reform bill gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for mass prayers of unity on July 23, 2023, ahead of a vote in parliament

(AFP via Getty Images)

The plan has drawn criticism from medical leaders as well as businesses, and military reservists who said they would stop reporting for duty if the plan succeeds.

The prime minister’s sudden hospitalization on Sunday brought a twist to the series of events.

With the Prime Minister’s office recommending his release later in the day, it would still give him plenty of time to take part in the final vote in parliament on Monday.

Protests against the Israeli government’s judicial reform bill form a human chain in front of Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem that will expand to reach parliament on July 23, 2023, ahead of a vote

(AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Netanyahu and his coalition of nationalist and religious parties have argued that the Supreme Court has become too politically meddlesome.

However, critics say the changes are being pushed through parliament without due consideration, and could lead to an abuse of power by removing an effective check on the country’s executive authority.

Demonstrators hold placards as they march in Jerusalem on July 22, 2023, during a multi-day march that began in Tel Aviv to protest the government’s judicial reform bill ahead of a vote in parliament.

(AFP via Getty Images)

“We are worried, we are afraid, we are angry. We are angry that people are trying to change this country, trying to create a democratic backsliding. But we are also very hopeful,” Tzivia Guggenheim, a 24-year-old student in Jerusalem, told Reuters.

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