update deskIsrael News

Protests in Jerusalem ahead of final votes on ‘reasonableness’ bill

Thousands of demonstrators descend on the capital as the Knesset plenum prepares to advance a judicial reform bill.

Protests against the Israeli government's planned judicial reform at the ICC in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. Credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Protests against the Israeli government's planned judicial reform at the ICC in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. Credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Several streets in Jerusalem were blocked to traffic on Sunday after thousands of demonstrators descended upon Israel’s capital the previous evening.

“Many police officers will secure the protests and work to direct the traffic and maintain public order,” the Israel Police said in a statement.

Many of the protesters marched the 40 miles from Tel Aviv, with others joining along the way. The protesters pitched tents at Gan Sacher Park near the Knesset, Supreme Court and other governmental institutions.

On Saturday night, simultaneous protests against the government’s judicial reform initiative occurred across the country for the 29th consecutive week, with multiple arrests following clashes with police.

View of tents of anti-overhaul activists near the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Also on Sunday morning, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Western Wall for a communal prayer, including National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz. They were to form a human chain after the prayers.

“There is a rift in the nation and it must be treated. Netanyahu must stop the legislation,” he told Channel 12 news.

A group of medical professionals called the “White Coats” announced a protest in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon at the Chords Bridge.

A woman was arrested in Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv, on Sunday morning after blocking the entrance to the home of World Likud chairman and Knesset member Danny Danon.

The demonstration outside the Knesset comes ahead of the second and third (final) readings in the plenum on a bill to limit the Supreme Court’s use of the reasonableness standard. Debate on the proposed legislation was taking place on Sunday, with the final vote expected to take place on Monday.

The coalition government wants to pass the bill into law before the Knesset goes into recess on July 30.

The head of the Histadrut labor federation, Arnon Bar-David, issued an ultimatum on Sunday saying that if the government did not halt the proposed legislation and accept the Histadrrut’s compromise proposal, the federation leaders would meet at 4 p.m. to prepare its next steps, which so far have not included another general strike.

Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David attends a conference at the Histadrut building in Tel Aviv, March 27, 2019. Photo by Flash90.

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid Party Yair Lapid met with Bar-David on Sunday morning.

“It is our duty to make every effort to stop the madness and reach broad agreements. I welcome the efforts of the chairman of the Histadrut, the outline laid out by the Histadrut is a basis for a joint dialogue,” Lapid said after the meeting in Bar-David’s Tel Aviv office.

Meanwhile, a group of 10,000 reservists from 40 military units announced on Saturday evening that they would not report for duty if the “reasonableness bill” passes into law. This comes after Friday’s announcement that over 1,000 Israel Air Force pilots will suspend their reserve service should the judicial reform effort advance.

Members of the Brothers in Arms reservist soldiers group hold a press conference in Herzliya, July 22, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi was going to brief Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the reservist situation on Sunday, but that meeting was canceled due to the premier being hospitalized overnight for a procedure to implant a pacemaker.

Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan discharged the 73-year-old on Sunday.

In a video statement on Saturday night, Netanayahu said that he was expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday in time to attend scheduled Knesset votes. However, in addition to the meeting with Halevi and other heads of the security establishment, the weekly Cabinet meeting was postponed, as was a meeting of the Likud faction. 

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited Netanyahu in the hospital, reportedly threatening to withhold his vote on the “reasonableness bill” unless it is postponed or softened, Kan News reported, citing coalition sources. However, sources close to Gallant said that he is trying to garner wide support for the bill and that the Sunday morning visit was not about his vote.

On Saturday night, the coalition warned that any minister voting against the proposed legislation would be fired.

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