Conflicts & War

Protests, unrest grow following approval of Israel’s first judicial reform law

Jerusalem, Jul 24 (EFE).- Israeli police used water cannons against demonstrators in Jerusalem protesting a controversial justice reform, the first step of which was approved by the country’s parliament on Monday.

Critics say the reforms, which have been pushed by the government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the most right-wing in Israel’s history – will undermine the country’s Supreme Court ability to overturn or review government decisions.

In scenes that have been repeated nearly weekly since the reform plans were announced in January, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets and set up roadblocks at several points in Jerusalem, shouting “shame”, “democracy or rebellion” and “we will not surrender.”

At one of those sites, police forces for the first time used “skunk”– a malodorant, non-lethal weapon used instead of tear gas or rubber bullets – to disperse the demonstrators, according to EFE.

For months, police have regularly resorted to water cannons to disperse anti-reform protesters.“After this law was passed today, I feel like I’m losing my country,” Raz Weiss, a 23-year-old Israeli who was still protesting this afternoon, told EFE, saying he felt “worried and anxious” about Israel’s drift towards religious conservatism.

Naama Mitelman, a 34-year-old Israeli protester, had a similar sense of unease and told EFE that she feels the country “is being hijacked”. “I am afraid for the future” and “I feel that everything my grandparents built when they came to this country is going to the trash,” she added.

During the day, as thousands of protesters surrounded Parliament, police also arrested at least 19 people.

Anti-reform movement groups have said that they will “fight to the end” against “the government of destruction”.

In turn, Israel’s largest labor union, Histadrut, warned Monday afternoon that “any unilateral advance of the reform will have serious consequences” and could lead “to a total strike”.

The legislation approved Monday annuls the doctrine of reasonableness, which removes the Supreme Court’s power to overturn or intervene in government decisions.

After its approval, the NGO Movement for Quality Government appealed to the Supreme Court, considering it “unconstitutional”.

The new legislation “fundamentally changes the basic structure of Israeli parliamentary democracy and the nature of the regime, while de facto abolishing the judiciary and severely damaging the delicate fabric of the division of powers,” the organization alleged.

The leader of the opposition, the centrist Yair Lapid, said Monday’s step “is a total rupture of the rules of the game”. EFE


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