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World News | Protests against judicial reform after Knesset pushes forward legislation

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Jerusalem [Israel]July 11 (ANI/TPS): Opponents of the Israeli government’s judicial reform plans began blocking highways and overpasses across the country on Tuesday after the Knesset voted overnight to advance key legislation.

A bill limiting judges’ application of legal principles of reasonableness passed along party lines 64 to 56.

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The Bill will now return to Parliament’s Constitutional, Law and Justice Committee for further debate and amendments before returning to Parliament for two votes. The government is aiming to have the bill passed by July 30, when parliament’s summer session ends.

MK Simcha Rothman, chairman of parliament’s constitution, law and justice committee, said on Sunday he would immediately prepare the bill to get the two plenary votes needed to become law.

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The legislation would prohibit judges from overturning decisions made by cabinet, ministers and “other elected officials as prescribed by law” on legal grounds of “reasonability”.

Critics say the standard is legally ambiguous and used by courts to violate the government’s authority. Opponents say the bill will weaken Israel’s system of checks and balances and lead to abuses of power.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the legislation on Monday, saying the initiative “is not the end of democracy, it will strengthen it.”

“The courts and the rights of Israeli citizens will not be compromised in any way. The courts will continue to monitor the legality of government decisions and appointments. [We] will be required to act in good faith, proportionality, fairness and equality,” he added.

Finance Minister Bezarel Smotridge said the move would “enable the elected government to enforce its policies in accordance with the law. Unlike the opposition, which behaves irresponsibly and spreads incitement, our coalition acts responsibly,” He said.

“We will continue to push forward with steadfastness in the necessary changes to the justice system, as we have previously promised to the public [last November’s] elected and based on the mandate we have received from the people,” Smotridge continued.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid accused the government of “losing all restraint”.

“The abolition of the judicial reasonableness test [according to the bill] Their submissions to Parliament confirm one thing: the law does not apply to them,” Lapid said.

He added: “They can fire all the gatekeepers from the Attorney General down and replace them with obedient puppets who won’t interfere when the country is corrupt.”

Judicial reforms by the ruling coalition are controversial. Other legislation advancing through parliament would primarily change the way judges are appointed and removed, give parliament the ability to overturn certain high court decisions and change the way legal advisers to government ministries are appointed.

Supporters of the law reform say they want to end years of judicial overreach, while opponents call the proposals anti-democratic.

On Sunday, Lapid urged the Israel Confederation of Labor to announce another general strike following its March 27 decision to partially shut down the country.

Days of Destruction saw marches, demonstrations and convoys on highways in and around Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Benjamin area and Ben Gurion International Airport. Demonstrations outside the presidential residence and the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv were scheduled for Tuesday night.

Police said they would prevent a repeat of the July 3 protests, when thousands of demonstrators tried to block airport traffic and successfully rioted, including in the arrivals hall.

Cabinet ministers criticized Justice Minister Gali Baharav-Miara on Sunday for allowing protesters to run rampant in order to paralyze the country. “It is impossible to have an effective protest without disrupting public order,” Baharraf-Miara told a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “That’s a shocking sentence. Are you saying it’s legal to mob a barber shop at close range?” He referred to his wife’s experience on March 1, when she was in Tel Aviv was trapped in a hair salon by anti-judicial reform protesters for hours before having to be rescued by hundreds of police officers.

Of the 572 people arrested during the protests, only six were charged, according to data provided by the Attorney General’s Office. The six were suspected of assaulting police officers.

The coalition decided to move ahead with judicial reform legislation after compromise talks chaired by President Isaac Herzog stalled last month. Legislation has been frozen since March to give the talks a chance to succeed.

On Sunday, Herzog continued to insist that a deal was “attainable.” He said the decision by both sides to refuse to negotiate was a “historic mistake”.

Speaking at the national memorial honoring Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, Herzog noted that Jews around the world are now undergoing a three-week period of mourning in honor of A.D. 70 years anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Dignity and responsibility on matters that directly affect the unity of Israel and the cohesion of Israeli society,” he said.

In June, Lapid, leader of the Solidarity Party, and Benny Gantz, leader of the National Unity Party, announced the suspension of reform talks.

The move follows the election of Yesh Atid MP Karine Elharrar to the judicial select committee and fulfills a key demand of the opposition during negotiations on the initiative.

“Netanyahu was a liar and powerful. Now he is a liar and weak,” Lapid said at the time.

Both Lapid and Gantz called for a resumption of talks on Sunday, as did Likud Economy Minister Neil Barkat, but noted that “the opposition left the room first”. (ANI/TPS)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have revised or edited the body of content)



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