Over 100,000 protests outside Israeli parliament over judicial overhaul plan

Israeli people, holding flags, rally in front of the parliament building on Feb. 13. Photo: Saeed Qaq/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

More than 100,000 people rallied in front of the Israeli parliament building on Monday in a sign that opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan is growing.

Why it matters: The right-wing government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court and other democratic institutions has created an unprecedented constitutional crisis in Israel, with growing fears that the confrontation between the government and the opposition will escalate into violence and chaos.

It’s also raised concerns among Biden administration officials, who worry about what the plan might mean for Israel’s democracy.

Driving the news: Police estimated that over 100,000 people took part in Monday’s protest, while organizers put the number closer to 250,000.

The demonstration came as part of a partial national strike organized by groups leading the anti-government protests.

The strike didn’t get the support of the workers’ unions, but thousands of Israelis didn’t show up to work to protest the plan, which includes passing a law that would allow the governing coalition to override Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority of 61 votes in the 120-member Knesset.

Such a law would significantly limit the Supreme Court’s ability to review laws and strike them down.

State of play: President Isaac Herzog in a speech to the nation late Sunday laid out five principles for negotiations on a compromise. He also called on the government to suspend the legislative process and enter talks with the opposition and the president of the Supreme Court.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz accepted Herzog’s proposal within minutes, but Justice Minister Yariv Levin rejected its basic condition of suspending the legislation.

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