Israel: A new day of mobilization against judicial reform

Thousands demonstrated in Israel on Tuesday to condemn a judicial reform project launched by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, ahead of a crucial vote in parliament on one of the project’s controversial provisions.

Organizers said in a statement, “We are living in sad days (…) facing a government (…) that is rushing to destroy democracy. Only we, the citizens, are in a dictatorship.” Can stop the train. New day of mobilization.

Since the announcement of the controversial project in January, thousands of people have been protesting in the country every week, in what is considered one of the largest protest movements in Israel’s history.

Nearby, militants from the army veterans’ group “Ahim Lenshek” (Brothers in Arms in English) formed a human chain to block the main entrance to the army headquarters.

– “defining moment –

According to local media, thousands of people took part in these early morning demonstrations across the country. Police reported two arrests for “disturbing public order”.

The day comes after parliament voted for the first time last week on a reform measure that aims to rule out the possibility for the judiciary to rule on the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

And it came as the Parliamentary Law Commission continued its debate on Tuesday to submit it for a final vote of Parliament in the coming days.

The so-called “reasonableness” clause forced Mr Netanyahu to sack Ari Deri, the government’s number two convicted of tax evasion, after a Supreme Court intervention in January.

“We are here because we want to save our economy,” Inbal Orpaz, a 36-year-old high-tech worker who came to protest in Tel Aviv, told AFP.

He lamented the decline in investment, especially in start-ups, saying, “We have seen the impact on our economy since the reforms started.”

She adds, “This month and this week are decisive because we will know in less than a week whether this first provision of the project will pass or not (…) and we will do our best to prevent it.”

The reform, defended by a government formed in late December with support from far-right parties and ultra-Orthodox Jewish formations, aims to increase the power of elected officials compared to magistrates.

Demonstration against the judicial reform project in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 18, 2023 (AFP – Menahem Kahana)

The government believes it is necessary to ensure a better balance of power, but its critics see it as a threat to democracy and its institutional safeguards.

“Through acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, we will continue to protest in the streets until the reform is completely reversed,” protest movement spokesman Josh Drill told AFP.

– Herzog in Washington –

Other measures of this reform provoked the discontent of the protesters, such as modifying the procedure for appointing judges which has already been adopted by the delegates in the first reading.

Another clause sought by the government, called “outrageous”, aimed at allowing parliament to overturn Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority, has been “abandoned”, Mr Netanyahu assured in late June. Had given.

This reform project is also criticized abroad.

US President Joe Biden specifically called for a settlement with the Israeli government in late March.

The two leaders spoke by phone on Monday, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office, which announced that Mr Netanyahu had been “invited” to the United States to meet Mr Biden.

When asked by reporters on the subject, White House spokesman John Kirby indicated that M.M. Biden and Netanyahu had agreed to meet “probably before the end of the year”, perhaps “during the fall”.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden will welcome Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Washington on Tuesday, playing an essentially ceremonial role. Before leaving for the United States, Mr. Herzog also called for a settlement from the Israeli parties.

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