Israeli Lawmakers Approve Controversial Plan to Reshape Justice System Amidst Massive Protests

Israeli Lawmakers Approve Controversial Justice System Plan Despite Protests

Introduction

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli lawmakers on Monday approved a key portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive plan to reshape the country’s justice system despite massive protests that have exposed unprecedented fissures in Israeli society.

The Overhaul Plan

The overhaul calls for sweeping changes aimed at curbing the powers of the judiciary, from limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions to changing the way judges are selected. Netanyahu and his allies say the changes are needed to curb the powers of unelected judges.

Protests and Opposition

Protesters, who come from a wide swath of Israeli society, see the overhaul in general as a power grab fueled by personal and political grievances of Netanyahu — who is on trial for corruption charges — and his partners. More mass protests are now expected, and the Movement for Quality Government, a civil society group, immediately announced it would challenge the new law in the Supreme Court.

Opposition’s Reaction

The grassroots protest movement condemned the vote, saying Netanyahu’s “government of extremists is showing their determination to jam their fringe ideology down the throats of millions of citizens.” The opposition leader Yair Lapid had declared: “We are headed for disaster.”

Concerns and Consequences

Further ratcheting up the pressure on Netanyahu, thousands of military reservists have declared their refusal to serve under a government taking steps that they see as setting the country on a path to dictatorship. Those moves have prompted fears that the military’s preparedness could be compromised. The Biden administration has also been critical of the government’s steps to deepen Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s Hospitalization

The vote came only hours after Netanyahu was released from the hospital, where he had a pacemaker implanted. His sudden hospitalization added another dizzying twist to an already dramatic series of events, which were watched closely in Washington. President Joe Biden warned against pushing ahead with the legal changes that were sparking so much division.

Protests and Counter Protests

As lawmakers debated, tens of thousands of people gathered for mass rallies for and against the plan. Protesters banging on drums and blowing horns blocked a road leading to Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, and police used water cannons to push them back. Netanyahu’s supporters, meanwhile, thronged central Tel Aviv — normally the setting for anti-government protests.

Conclusion

Despite the attempts to project business as usual, Netanyahu’s schedule was disrupted by his hospitalization, with a Cabinet meeting and trips postponed. His doctors said Sunday the procedure had gone smoothly and the prime minister said in a short video statement from the hospital late Sunday that he felt fine. Netanyahu paused the overhaul in March after intense pressure by protesters and labor strikes that halted outgoing flights and shut down parts of the economy. After talks to find a compromise failed last month, he said his government was pressing on with the overhaul.

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