Tens of thousands of people in Israel took to the streets once again this Tuesday night and marked the largest protest ever since January in opposition to Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul Israel’s Supreme Court.
It was on this past Monday that despite months of massive protests across Israel, the Knesset voted to advance the controversial bill moving on the overhaul of Israel’s judiciary system, the first of three votes required for the bill to become law. This was enough to spark another huge wave of protest in different cities of Israel.
Since early January when the new far-right government in Israel announced the overhaul plan, Israelis have been protesting against it by pouring into streets in their tens of thousands. But what was different about Tuesday’s demonstration was that this time, the number of people who took to the streets across Israel were more than ever.
In other words, Tuesday’s demonstration was the biggest weekday protest in months against the government’s renewed moves to overhaul the country’s judicial system.
This time, the number of protestors being arrested also hit the records and the Israeli police apprehended at least 71 people across Israel, as tens of thousands of demonstrators blockaded highways and gathered at the airport. Photos and videos released by protest organizers and Israel Police showed demonstrators on the streets in cities around the country including Haifa, Petach Tikva, Beer Sheva, Hod Hasharon and other locations.
Protest organizers said they had blocked the Ayalon Highway on Tuesday, Tel Aviv’s major thoroughfare, and asserted that police would be unable to clear it due to the number of protesters. They also noted some protesters threw flares and others lied down or burned tires to block traffic. Police used water cannons against some demonstrators near Jerusalem, and a horse knocked one protester to the ground in Tel Aviv.
Why is Netanyahu’s government so eager to turn the bill into law?
Accusing Israel’s Supreme Court of political interference, Netanyahu’s far-right coalition government stubbornly believes that the changes must happen. Critics of the plan, however, assert that it would only weaken the judiciary. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies call the measures “reforms” and say they are required to re-balance powers between the courts, lawmakers and the government. But opponents of the plan say it threatens to turn Israel into a dictatorship by removing the most significant check on government actions.
The judicial overhaul is a package of bills that, at their core, would give the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and therefore the parties in power, more control over Israel’s judiciary. This include what laws the Supreme Court can rule on, and how judges are selected.
To read between the lines, if the plan turns into law, then the Knesset can change the composition of the committee that selects judges; removing independent legal advisers – whose decisions are binding – from government ministries. This is Important as hell for Netanyahu as he is still faced with corruption charges and a less independent Supreme Court means he can easily get away with his fate in prison simply because his ministers will have the final say on whether he should be known guilty or not.
Due to the pressure of the protests and an unprecedented general strike that shut down much of Israel’s economy, Netanyahu paused the legislative process in March. But Netanyahu did not scrap the agenda – he merely delayed it until a future Knesset session and Monday’s vote marked the end of that pause. The second and third are scheduled for July 24.