TELAVIV Reuters: On Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators surrounded Israel’s key roadways and airport as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government advanced a justice measure that had sparked the country’s worst divisions in decades.
Crowds of flag-waving protestors halted morning traffic at important crossroads and on highways around the country the day after parliament approved a crucial portion of the law that seeks to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. While others threw flares, several people collapsed on the highways.
In Tel Aviv, the commercial center of Israel, hundreds of protesters were confronted by police mounted on horses. Officers at the Jerusalem gate forced others away while using a water cannon to scatter some demonstrators. Police said that at least 66 persons were detained.
At the Ben Gurion airport west of Tel Aviv, where hundreds of demonstrators had converted the space in front of the main gate into a sea of blue and white Israeli flags, some 1,000 police officers were stationed there.
The effort by Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious alliance to alter the legal system has provoked unheard-of demonstrations, raised doubts about the health of Israel’s democracy among Western partners, and hurt the country’s economy.
Ariel Dubinsky, who participated in one of the rallies in Tel Aviv, said that “they are trying to ruin our judicial system by putting and enforcing laws that will demolish democracy.”
Additionally alarming investors, the ideas have caused the shekel to fall by approximately 8% since January.
To the screams of “for shame” from opposition legislators, the revised measure received the first of the three votes necessary to be passed into law late on Monday.
If approved as written, it will limit the Supreme Court’s ability to declare judgments made by the executive branch, elected politicians, and ministers to be irrational.
BALANCES AND CHECKS
The change, according to the administration and many who favor it, is necessary to restrain interventionist judges who have infiltrated the political process and include many on the political left. They contend courts have alternative legal options for exercising supervision, and the reform would promote good governance by reducing judicial intrusion.
According to its detractors, who include the majority of the tech and economic elite of the nation, the Supreme Court’s monitoring helps stop corruption and the misuse of power, and its weakening would eliminate an essential component of Israel’s democratic checks and balances.
Before the law is put to a final vote, which Netanyahu’s Likud party hopes to complete before the Knesset adjourns for the summer on July 30, some Likud party members have claimed that it will be amended.
Simcha Rothman, the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee that is writing the bill, however, said to Army Radio: “I’m saying this explicitly: I am not convinced that any significant changes are to be expected.”
Israeli society has been bitterly split by the government’s judicial campaign. Netanyahu delayed it for compromise discussions with the opposition, but those talks broke down in June. Netanyahu is now facing bribery allegations, which he denies.
Washington has encouraged Netanyahu to reach wide consensus on any reforms to the justice system and maintain the independence of Israel’s courts.
The leader of the biggest labor union in Israel pleaded with Netanyahu to forbid what he called radicalism. Where do you see the state of Israel going? What legacy are you planning to leave? Arnon Bar-David, head of the Histadrut, urged an end to the insane turmoil.