Protests across Israel as Netanyahu’s government introduces bill to weaken courts
In the early hours of Tuesday morning local time, a bill that would limit the independence of Israel’s judicial system passed its first reading in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
The proposals were approved 63 to 47. The coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds 64 of the chamber’s 120 seats.
To become a law, a bill must pass three readings in the Knesset.
Despite tens of thousands of Israelis protesting the modifications over the previous seven weeks, Netanyahu’s allies continued with the legislation.
During Monday’s protests against Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms, demonstrators blocked streets in cities all throughout Israel.
Israeli flags, which the event’s organizers were handing out before it started, were turned into a sea of Israeli flags by protesters in Jerusalem’s streets surrounding the Supreme Court and Knesset.
A few dozen ladies in long red costumes and white head scarves, resembling the handmaids in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” as well as drummers, trumpet blowers, and at least one juggler balancing an Israeli flagpole on his nose were among the protestors.
Crowd control specialist Ofer Grinboim Liron told CNN that although the Jerusalem demonstration was obviously smaller than one that took place in the same place a week earlier, it still appeared to have roughly 75,000 participants an hour and a half after it was due to start. Crowd Solutions, a business that specializes in crowd dynamics at events and venues, is led by Liron.
By 4:30pm local time (9:30am ET), a CNN team there saw that the protesters had started to disperse. In Jerusalem, the protest had virtually ended by early evening local time.
But as soon as the session to formally debate the measure for its first reading in parliament started, wild scenes broke out inside the Knesset.
As debate started, a sizable number of opposition members from the Yesh Atid party of former prime minister Yair Lapid unfurled Israeli flags in the chamber, some draped them over their shoulders, and screamed over government lawmaker Simcha Rothman. Flags were taken away from lawmakers by Knesset security, who also led several of them out of the session.
The proposals have already provoked weeks of widespread opposition, a request for a delay for talks from President Isaac Herzog, and a rare involvement in Israeli domestic affairs from US President Joe Biden.
The Israeli judicial system is in need of the broadest reform since the nation’s inception, according to Netanyahu’s coalition. The most significant modifications would enable the Knesset to reverse Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority.
In addition, the reforms aim to do away with the independent legal advisers that serve government ministries and the judges’ selection process.
The revisions have drawn criticism from US President Joe Biden, who stated: “The magic of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they both are built on robust institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary. To ensure that the public supports substantial changes and that they can be sustained, it is crucial to build agreement.