Israelis protest Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform for 10th straight week
Protests continue to rock Israel for the 10th week as opponents of controversial judicial reforms demanded by the government demonstrated at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure for an official trip to Germany.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Knesset voted to approve a first-reading bill that would allow lawmakers to overturn Supreme Court decisions by a simple majority vote.
The Netanyahu government, which includes ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, presented its program to overhaul the judicial system in January.
The Prime Minister, who has also planned a trip to Britain, has touted the plan as key to restoring balance between the branches of government in a system he says gives judges too much power over elected officials .
The reforms would also grant the ruling coalition more powers in the appointment of judges.
But the move sparked 10 consecutive weeks of nationwide protests, with critics fearing the reform package could threaten Israel’s liberal democracy.
They also claimed that the proposed changes were intended to protect the Israeli prime minister as he fights corruption charges.
At Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, protesters held up banners reading “Crime Minister,” in reference to Netanyahu’s ongoing legal battle.
Israeli President Issac Herzog has tried to broker dialogue and last week called on the coalition government to suspend the legislation, calling it a “threat to the foundations of democracy”.
Herzog warned Monday evening that the “constitutional and social crisis” was damaging the country and “could have diplomatic, economic, social and security repercussions”.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid refused to engage in dialogue until the ruling coalition froze its efforts to turn the bills into law entirely.
Lapid and three other Jewish opposition party leaders said they would boycott final votes on the legal reform bills if they reached their third reading. The leaders of the two Arab opposition parties did not attend the meeting.
A group of prominent academics has meanwhile sought to present a compromise version of the reforms to parliament, saying the aim is “to prevent constitutional chaos”.