Israel: Protests Continue as Parliament Passes Key Part of Judicial Reform That Biden White House Calls ‘Unfortunate’
The Times of Israel: “The White House laments the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to pass the first piece of legislation from its judicial overhaul package.”
Large protests against the government’s proposed judicial overhaul were reported after the Israeli parliament approved a key part of the proposed reform package. On Monday, Knesset voted 64-0 in favor of a law that takes away the Supreme Court’s power to block government decisions.
The bill was put to vote after months of negotiations failed to reach a compromise with the left-wing parties. All opposition lawmakers walked out before the bill was tabled in the house.
The legislation will pave the way for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to overhaul the judicial system, giving the country’s elected government the power to amend the constitutional framework and appoint judges to the Supreme Court.
The legislation is a big win for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who underwent surgery to have a pacemaker fitted on Saturday night. He was present at Monday’s crucial vote.
The reality of judicial reform is that it is balancing the scales when it comes to the branches of government. Israel's current system is in fact undemocratic, and reforms are an attempt to remedy that. It's important we analyze the facts without the heated rhetoric.
— Brooke Goldstein (@GoldsteinBrooke) July 25, 2023
The Israeli TV channel i24NEWS reported:
The passing of the bill is a big win for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is recovering from a pacemaker surgery conducted on Saturday night. He showed up at the Knesset on Monday for the key voted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived Monday at the Israeli parliament (Knesset), after having cardiac surgery on Saturday night, for the third and last vote on the “reasonableness standard” bill, which is part of the judicial reform. (…)
The reasonableness standard bill was accepted in a first vote and approved by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committe, headed by Rothman. It would change the way Israel’s courts could interfere in decisions made by the legislative and executive branch, but has been heavily protested by its critics.
I am not the biggest Bibi fan.
But can we just stop and honor a man who is so freaking driven in his service to Israel that he had heart surgery and then put on a suit, got in a car, and is now running negotiations like a super-boss from his Knesset seat like he just woke up… pic.twitter.com/CrZS4leWoQ
— Malkah Fleisher 🕎 (@MalkahFleisher) July 24, 2023
Biden White House ‘laments’ Knesset vote
The passing of the bill will further anger President Biden and his staffers, who have openly sided with the country’s left-wing opposition. Biden told Israel’s elected government to “walk away” from its planned judicial reform, something the ruling coalition promised their voters during the election. “They cannot continue down this road, and I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden declared in March 2023.
In response, Netanyahu slammed Biden for interfering in his country’s domestic affairs, saying that “Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends.”
EARLIER: The WH released an out-of-the-ordinary statement calling on Israeli leaders to reach "broader consensus" after passing a controversial judicial overhaul law.@AllieRaffa: "This situation is … putting a spotlight on this diplomatic tightrope the president is walking." pic.twitter.com/qL8RYFgeN1
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) July 25, 2023
The Times of Israel reported Biden’s response:
The White House laments the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to pass the first piece of legislation from its judicial overhaul package, noting that it was done without the consensus that the Biden administration has for months insisted is necessary in order to adopt such fundamental reforms.
“It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority,” says a statement from a White House National Security Council spokesperson.
“We believe that for major democratic changes, you need to work for consensus. We urge Israeli leaders to work toward a consensus-based approach through political dialogue.”
The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also weighed in:
The Biden's administration reiterated its long-standing concerns after Israel's Knesset approved the first bill of a judicial overhaul aimed at curbing the Supreme Court's powers https://t.co/a3x9XRg1DO pic.twitter.com/y7wFo9YPWB
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 25, 2023
Protesters block roads, clashes reported
Ahead of Monday’s Knesset vote, thousands of pro- and anti-reform demonstrators turned out in a show of strength. “Sunday night also saw protestors from both sides showing their opinion, with roughly equal numbers according to Channel 13 estimates,” the i24NEWS noted.
The passing of the bill triggered a renewed wave of protests. The Times of Israel, whose coverage largely sympathizes with the left-wing protesters, reported Tuesday:
Activists raging against the government’s passage of the first part of its plan to remake the judiciary faced off against police for hours in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Monday night, blocking freeways and promising to ratchet up demonstrations, as lawmakers vowed to push ahead with the rest of the contentious program.
Using mounted police and water cannons, authorities only managed to clear the major Tel Aviv thoroughfare after 1 a.m., though thousands continued to demonstrate at nearby Kaplan junction, where some 15,000 had massed hours earlier in reaction to the government coalition’s contentious “reasonableness” bill being approved on its final two votes. (…)
At least 33 people were arrested throughout the day and night in demonstrations in the two cities, police said.
Israeli news website Ynet summed up the overnight protests:
“Tens of thousands protested nationwide Monday night after the Knesset approved a bill to curb judicial oversight of the government. The demonstrators claim that the police have used excessive force against them. In Jerusalem, one protester suffered a deep cut to his hand, and a police officer had to apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Police arrested 54 protesters during the day.”
Netanyahu reaches out to protesters
Following the passing of the bill, Netanyahu reached out to the opponents of the judicial reform. The Israel Hayom newspaper reported Tuesday:
Netanyahu, in televised remarks after sundown as the protests raged, said he would seek dialogue with the Opposition with the aim of reaching an all-inclusive agreement by the end of November.
“We all agree that Israel must remain a strong democracy, that it must continue protecting individual rights for everyone, that it will not become a state of (Jewish law), that the courts will remain independent,” said Netanyahu, who had been discharged from hospital in the morning fitted with a pacemaker.
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