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Israeli protesters block highways in ‘day of disruption’ against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan

by Madison Thomas
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judicial overhaul

Israeli protesters took to the streets in a nationwide demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul. Termed the “day of disruption,” demonstrators blocked highways, rallied outside the Tel Aviv stock exchange and military headquarters, and planned further protests throughout the day.

The protesters, including many military reservists, formed human chains to obstruct one of the entrances to the Kirya, Israel’s central military headquarters. Outside the stock exchange, they used smoke bombs, drumming, chanting, and held signs expressing concerns about the economy and the preservation of the startup nation. Demonstrations also took place outside the headquarters of Histadrut, the country’s largest labor union, with protesters demanding a general strike that could potentially paralyze the economy. They scaled scaffolding and displayed reservist protest flags, echoing the union’s previous strike in March that led to Netanyahu freezing the judicial overhaul.

Itai Bar Natan, a 48-year-old CFO of an Israeli start-up, voiced his frustration by climbing the scaffolding and waving a flag reading “Brothers in arms.” He emphasized concerns about the government’s actions, stating that the fight is for democracy, the achievements of the nation, and the interconnected issues of West Bank settlements, the economy, and corruption.

Netanyahu heads the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history. Shortly after assuming office in December, he introduced significant changes to the judiciary. The prime minister faced ongoing protests that prompted him to suspend the overhaul in March. However, after failed compromise talks with the political opposition, Netanyahu decided to revive the plan last month.

The proposed legislation aims to grant lawmakers increased influence over judge appointments and provide parliament with the authority to overturn high court decisions and enact laws immune to judicial review. The bill currently being discussed in parliament seeks to eliminate the Supreme Court’s power to strike down government decisions it deems unreasonable. This power was previously used to annul the appointment of a key ally of Netanyahu as the interior minister after he accepted a plea deal for tax evasion in 2021.

Netanyahu and his supporters argue that these measures are necessary to rein in an overly activist Supreme Court composed of unelected judges. However, critics believe that the judicial overhaul will concentrate power in the hands of the prime minister and his allies, undermining the system of checks and balances in the country. They also point out that Netanyahu’s trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes raises concerns of a conflict of interest.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about judicial overhaul

What is the purpose of the Israeli protests against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan?

The purpose of the Israeli protests is to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul, which is feared to concentrate power and undermine the country’s system of checks and balances.

What are the main concerns of the protesters?

The main concerns of the protesters include the potential concentration of power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies, the undermining of the judiciary’s independence, and the potential impact on the country’s system of checks and balances.

What specific changes are being proposed in the judicial overhaul plan?

The proposed changes aim to grant lawmakers greater control over the appointment of judges, give parliament the power to overturn high court decisions, and pass laws that are immune to judicial review. Additionally, the plan seeks to eliminate the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down government decisions it deems unreasonable.

Why did Netanyahu suspend the judicial overhaul earlier?

Netanyahu suspended the judicial overhaul earlier due to ongoing mass protests and a strike called by the country’s largest labor union, Histadrut. The protests and strike put pressure on the government and resulted in the temporary freezing of the judicial overhaul.

What are the potential implications of the proposed judicial overhaul?

Critics argue that the proposed judicial overhaul could lead to a concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister and his allies, potentially undermining the system of checks and balances in the country. They also raise concerns about Netanyahu’s conflict of interest, as he is currently on trial for corruption charges.

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