Israel’s divisive judicial reforms becoming law
On Monday, Israel’s Knesset (parliament) passed the first bill of PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform bill.
Many Israelis were not happy about it. Police used a water cannon to disperse anti-government activists who had chained themselves outside the building, while President Isaac Herzog failed to negotiate a last-minute compromise. Banks, the influential tech sector, and part of the military have joined the protest against the divisive legislation.
Bibi was just released from the hospital, where on Sunday he underwent emergency pacemaker surgery after a heart-monitoring device detected a temporary arrhythmia. Before Netanyahu, 73, was briefly sedated, he temporarily handed power over to his top deputy, Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
Levin is considered the architect of the overhaul, which would curb the High Court’s power to overrule administrative decisions, including a nine-member committee that selects judges. Critics say the law would give the ruling far-right coalition carte blanche on court appointments, and enable Bibi to interfere with his ongoing corruption trial. (He denies this and insists the reforms are necessary to curb the powers of an activist judiciary.)
Popular opposition to the bill peaked over the weekend, as throngs of Israelis flooded the streets of Jerusalem for a 29th straight week of protests, some after marching for five days from Tel Aviv. A growing number of reservists say they will not report to duty if the reforms become law, and several former army top brass, police commissioners, and intelligence chiefs penned a public letter to Netanyahu, accusing him of being “directly responsible for the serious harm” to Israel’s security.But Bibi is unlikely to cave to any pressure. He knows that his fragile coalition government is toast if he doesn’t push ahead with the reforms.