Jerusalem, Jul 18 (EFE).- Hundreds of protesters gathered Tuesday at the Tel Aviv headquarters of Histadrut, Israel’s main labor union, to demand a general strike to pressure the government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu into halting the controversial judicial reform it is trying to push through.
Dozens of people did the same in front of the union’s offices in Jerusalem, while the day began with protesters again blocking roads and access to major cities in the country, on another “day of resistance” that saw mass protests in several parts of the country, as they did a week ago.
At least 17 protesters have been arrested for “violating public order”, the police said.
“The police will continue to allow freedom of expression and protest, but will not permit the violation of public order, disruption of traffic rules and risk to all road users,” a spokesman said.
The protest movement is unhappy with Histadrut, a federation of trade unions from various sectors, for not calling a general strike despite the fact that the government is accelerating the passage in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) of a law that eliminates the doctrine of reasonableness, which allows the Supreme Court to oversee and revoke government decisions and appointments based on whether they are democratic or not.
The law, one of the pillars of the controversial judicial reform which critics see as a threat to democracy because it undermines the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, is scheduled for final approval next week.
If passed, it will be the first legislative package of the reform to go ahead, after Netanyahu froze the process at the end of March amid massive protests and after a call for a general strike by Histradrut, leaving the law that would alter the composition of the judges’ selection committee on hold.
Last Tuesday, Histadrut head Arnon Bar-David threatened to “take action” if the government does not halt the reform, but did not expressly mention a strike, while hundreds of demonstrators also came to the Tel Aviv headquarters to demand stronger action.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis were expected to protest throughout the day, as demonstrations have been called at train stations and squares in Israel’s major cities, culminating at the newly named Democracy Square in Tel Aviv, the epicenter of the protests.
The Israeli Medical Association, the main public health union representing 95% of doctors, announced Monday that it is preparing a strike this week.
Hundreds of demonstrators, many of them army reservists, also gathered in front of the Kirya military barracks in central Tel Aviv, the main headquarters of the Israeli army, and placed an Israeli flag at half-mast in protest against the judicial reform.
More than 4,000 reservists – including pilots, commanders and cyberwarfare experts – have warned this week that they will not report for duty if the government coalition, the most far-right in Israel’s history, unilaterally goes ahead with the reform.
Defense minister Yoav Gallant held an emergency meeting this week with Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi to address the risks to Israel’s security and the consequences of a lack of serving reservists, since they are a key part of the army’s routine activities, even in elite units.
Some 800 former agents of the Shin Bet, the internal intelligence agency, also warned on Monday of the risks that the reform poses both to democracy and to Israel’s security. EFE