Dozens arrested in massive protests after Israel passes law limiting judicial oversight
Jerusalem, July 11 (EFE).- Dozens of protesters were detained on Tuesday after Israel’s parliament approved a contentious bill restricting the oversight powers of the Supreme Court, triggering widespread demonstrations.
The controversial reform does away with the reasonability doctrine, which allowed the Supreme Court to review and overturn government’s decision.
The legislative approval prompted thousands of people out on the streets, demanding an immediate rollback of the controversial bill promoted by the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Protesters blocked main highways, cutting off access to major cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa in a new day of massive protests.
Police said at least 24 demonstrators were arrested for “violating public order” across the country.
“The Israel police will continue to allow freedom of expression and protest within the limits of the law, but will not allow the violation of public order, the disruption of traffic rules, and the risk to all road users,” a police statement said.
Protesters have planned major demonstrations at Ben Gurion International Airport, outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, and in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. The protests will culminate in a large nighttime gathering on Kaplan Avenue in central Tel Aviv.
The bill is part of the judicial reform agenda promoted by Netanyahu’s ultra-right-wing government.
During the parliamentary session last night, hundreds of anti-reform protesters gathered outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, with some attempting to breach the premises.
With 64 votes in favor (all members of the ruling coalition) and 56 against, the bill passed after a tumultuous plenary session that extended beyond midnight.
Following the vote, opposition lawmakers protested while coalition members celebrated the victory.
Simcha Rothman, the head of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee and a prominent figure driving the reform, is preparing the final version for the second and decisive reading, expected to before the summer recess begins on July 31.
This marks the first approval of a bill related to judicial reform since Netanyahu suspended it in March due to protests and a general strike.
The suspension aimed to facilitate a dialogue with the opposition that ultimately failed in June.
Before the vote, Netanyahu assured that the rights of the courts and Israeli citizens would not be harmed in any way. “The courts will continue to scrutinize the legality of decisions and official appointments.”
Although the Supreme Court will still have the power to overturn government decisions based on other grounds, such as disproportionality, discrimination, and illegality, many jurists consider reasonability as a vital safeguard for the separation of powers in a country where the executive and legislative branches overlap.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid accused the coalition of eliminating the provision to pursue “corrupt and self-serving objectives.”
Lapid argued that the reform enables “a convicted criminal to be appointed as a minister,” referring to ultra-Orthodox leader Aryeh Deri, whose appointment as Minister of the Interior and Health was revoked by the Supreme Court in January. Deri had been disqualified a year earlier for alleged tax evasion.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the reform architect, maintained that the law “does not place the government above the law,” but allowed legislators to implement policies that have received popular support.
Hours before the vote, President Isaac Herzog called on the parties to return to the negotiating table, as he believed that “an agreement is possible,” despite the failure of the facilitated dialogue.