Thousands Protest as Israeli Knesset Meets to Vote on Judicial Overhaul

Israelis protest Netanyahu's judicial reform. (Photo: Hanay, via Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli lawmakers on Monday prepared for a final vote on a major component of the far-right government’s controversial judicial overhaul, The New Arab reported.

Voting is to begin at 12:00 midday Monday (0900 GMT) on the draft law which would limit judges’ ability to strike down government decisions they deem “unreasonable”.

Lawmakers debated through the night amid last-ditch efforts by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog to reach a compromise. Herzog met Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a hospital where he had undergone surgery to fit a pacemaker.

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Netanyahu vowed from his hospital room on Sunday that he would go to parliament for the vote after his release.

On Monday, police used a water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters who blocked the entrance of the Israeli parliament, an AFP correspondent reported, adding some protesters were arrested.

Thousands of demonstrators backing the government and its reform plans had also rallied in Tel Aviv, the epicenter of the anti-government protests.

As the crisis looked set to peak, Biden urged Israeli leaders to postpone the vote.

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“From the perspective of Israel’s friends in the United States, it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less,” he said in a statement first published by news site Axios.

“It doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this – the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus.”

Herzog, who returned from a visit to the United States on Sunday, plunged directly into arriving at a compromise, also meeting opposition leader Yair Lapid.

“This is a time of emergency. An agreement must be reached,” Herzog said in a statement issued by his office.

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Opponents accuse Netanyahu, who has been fighting corruption charges in court, of a conflict of interest and some protesters have labelled him the “crime minister”.

Inside the chamber on Sunday, Lapid echoed such concerns.

“We want to continue to live in a Jewish and a democratic state… We must stop this legislation,” he said.

Opposition leader Benny Gantz issued a similar call.

“We can still stop, come to an agreement on the reasonability clause,” he told the Knesset.

(The New Arab, PC)

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