Israel-: Netanyahu hospitalized, crisis deepens over judicial reform bill

by Diddy Hyun and Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hospitalized after having a pacemaker fitted, as thousands gathered in Jerusalem to protest a debate on the Supreme Court reform bill in parliament on Sunday.

As Israel grapples with its most serious domestic political crisis in decades, the 73-year-old head of state was rushed to the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv on Saturday after being diagnosed with “temporary arrhythmia”, his doctors said.

His office said the pacemaker installation went smoothly and Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday.

However, Israeli media report that the prime minister may have to stay hospitalized for an additional night. A medical source familiar with the matter said doctors have advised him to stay in the hospital for one more night.

According to Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, his planned visits to Cyprus and Turkey have been rescheduled for a later date.

Sunday’s discharge from hospital should give Benjamin Netanyahu enough time to participate in parliament’s final vote on Monday on a key part of his judicial reform, which has triggered nationwide protests and raised concerns abroad about the state of Israeli democracy.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, made up of several nationalist and religious parties, is determined to pursue a reform project presented by its opponents as an attack on the independence of the courts. The bill specifically aims to limit the Supreme Court’s power to overrule government decisions on legal grounds, arguing that the court has become too politically intrusive.

Proponents of the bill argue that opponents seek to nullify the will of the majority that brought Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to power last year.

The result of the voting held on Monday will be known in the evening.

fear and anger

The ongoing crisis in Israel has also spread to the military, with hundreds of volunteers threatening not to report for service if the government sticks to its plans. Former army and security chiefs have further warned that national security is now at risk.

Thousands of Israelis protesting a judicial reform bill marched through Jerusalem at the weekend under a scorching sun, waving flags and beating drums. Many have pitched their tents in a park near the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

“We’re worried, we’re scared, we’re angry. We’re angry because people are trying to change this country, cause a democratic downfall. But we also have a lot of hope,” Tzivia Guggenheim, a 24-year-old student, said outside her tent in Jerusalem.

In the Old City, hundreds of protesters gathered near the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, singing and dancing.

The Israeli judicial reform project has raised tensions with the United States, which has already been critical of Israel amid rising violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Washington has urged Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, to compromise on the reform bill, which he has rejected.

(Reporting by Mayan Lubel, Ari Rabinovich, Amir Cohen, Dedi Heyoun, Rami Amichay and Ilan Rosenberg; French edition by Claude Chendjou)

Add a Comment