Thousands rally against Netanyahu judicial overhaul plan

Thousands rally against Netanyahu judicial overhaul plan

Israeli protesters take part in a rally against the new right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on January 14. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV – Tens of thousands in Israel gathered in pouring rain to protest the Netanyahu government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court and other democratic institutions.

Why it matters: The plan, announced less than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government took office, has deepened political divisions and raised fears among some that heightened tensions could tear Israeli society apart.

News flash: Authorities estimated that up to 80,000 people turned out for the protest in Tel Aviv, while several thousand gathered outside the president’s residence in Jerusalem. Marches were also held in other cities across Israel, including the northern city of Haifa.

Police blocked the road leading to Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had ordered police to crack down on protesters using water cannons and arrest those who try to block roads.

Catch it fast: The government’s plan, if implemented, would significantly limit the Supreme Court’s ability to review laws and strike them down.

It includes passing a law that would allow the ruling coalition to overturn Supreme Court rulings with a simple 61-vote majority in the 120-member Knesset. It also seeks to end the Supreme Court’s ability to revoke rulings. administrative by the government for reasons of “reasonableness”, significantly reducing judicial supervision.

The plan envisages giving the government and the coalition in parliament absolute control over the appointment of judges.

In addition, the plan includes changing the law so that ministers can install political appointees as legal advisers in their ministries, something that is not under their authority today.

What they’re saying: Israeli opposition parties, grassroots organizations and others have come out strongly against the plan, with legal experts saying it would eliminate the judicial branch’s ability to provide checks and balances against the executive and legislative branches, which they are both controlled by the ruling coalition.

Former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who was the keynote speaker at the demonstration in Tel Aviv, said the government “has launched a war against Israel’s democratic institutions.” Former Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia told protesters that a “place where judges have to demonstrate against regime change efforts is a place where all lines have been crossed.”

The big picture: In an unprecedented speech on Thursday, Israeli Supreme Court President Esther Hayut warned that the plan aims to “strain” the independent judiciary and, if implemented, would “deliver a fatal blow” to the country’s democracy. country.

Israel’s Justice Minister, Yariv Levin, accused Hayut of turning the Supreme Court into “a political party that sees itself as above the Knesset and above the people.” He claimed Hayut had joined forces with the opposition and said her speech was “a call to action”. streets on fire.” Israeli protesters rally in Tel Aviv against the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 14. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images Israeli protesters in Tel Aviv protest against the Israeli government’s plan to overhaul the Supreme Court on January 14 Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images Tens of thousands take part in an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Go deeper: US stresses need for “independent institutions” as Israel seeks to weaken judiciary

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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