June 17, 2024

Exciting Protests Passed Netanyahu’s Anti-Court Law

Lawmakers in Israel voted on Monday to pass a highly controversial bill to limit the powers of the Supreme Court despite mass demonstrations against the move in one of the biggest protests in Israel’s history.

The new law means that the Supreme Court will no longer be able to overturn decisions made by the government on “reasonableness” grounds. It marks the first major victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultranationalist government in a contentious month-long battle over the role of the judiciary and its powers in Israel’s future.

Opponents have denounced the changes as a threat to Israeli democracy, limiting vital checks and balances on government decisions. In contrast, the government has painted the reform as a means of improving democracy by giving elected officials more independence over unelected judges, and a necessary step given the growing interventions of the court in political decisions in recent years.

Monday’s seismic vote comes as the Israeli government was forced in March to shelve plans to allow lawmakers to override court decisions and have more influence over who becomes a Supreme Court judge. The climbdown came as massive street-level demonstrations against the proposals plunged Israel into crisis zones that played out again across the country ahead of the new vote.

Authorities arrested protesters and fired water cannons at people gathered outside the Knesset before the final vote took place on Monday. President Isaac Herzog admitted that the country was “in a state of national emergency” as preparations for the vote came to a head at the last minute.

Netanyahu himself was present in the room as the lawmakers voted, the day after he was rushed to the hospital early Sunday to have a pacemaker fitted for his heart. Opposition Leader Yair Lapid accused Netanyahu of being “a puppet of a series of extremists and messianists” in the minutes after the judicial reform bill was passed.

“This is a sad day, the day of the destruction of our home, of unnecessary hatred, and look at the coalition celebrating,” Lapid added, according to Times of Israel. Similarly, the Movement for Quality Government, an Israeli rights watchdog, made the decision. “The government of destruction has raised its malicious hand against the State of Israel; now it is the Supreme Court’s turn to tighten and prevent this legislation,” said the leader of the group, Eliad Shraga, in a statement.

Protesters also quickly condemned the decision at meetings outside the Supreme Court, chanting “shame” and “democracy or rebellion.” One activist encouraged those present to call others to join. “Anyone who is not here right now is not present at the most important battle in the history of the country,” the Times mentioned to them so to speak.

Coalition MPs have condemned the “siege” on parliament on Monday morning, which saw violent clashes between police and protesters. At least 15 people were arrested in Jerusalem as the authorities tried to disperse the crowds, with the majority detained for public order violations and roadblocks – although one person he was reportedly taken into custody for stabbing an officer.

It looks like the unrest will continue. After the vote, the head of Israel’s main public sector union promised to meet with other officials to talk about declaring a general strike. Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, said a “general labor dispute in the economy” would be activated “if necessary until a complete shutdown is achieved.”

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