Israeli parliament passes key part of Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan

All 64 members of the ruling coalition voted in favor of the bill but no lawmakers voted against.

Netanyahu, who attended the vote hours after being released from a hospital following an emergency heart procedure, and his allies say the change is needed to stop unelected judges from overruling democratic leaders.

President Isaac Herzog had attempted to find a compromise between the government and opposition parties, and called the standoff between the two sides a “national emergency.”

Thousands of protesters outside the Knesset believe the government’s proposed judicial overhaul is a national crisis and argue that a crucial check on political power will now be lost, harming the Jewish state’s democracy and boosting Netanyahu’s power.

Demonstrators banged on drums, blew horns and waved Israeli flags as they blocked a road leading to the Knesset. Businesses closed in protest. Police used water cannons on the demonstrating crowds.

Benjamin Netanyahu at a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the Knesset after being released from hospital.Maya Alleruzzo / AP

Police earlier said 12 protesters, referred to as “troublemakers,” had been detained near the Knesset, and that one had bitten a police officer.

Protesters say Netanyahu faces a choice between democracy and autocracy.

“After an unprecedented wave of protests, and clear warnings from the security establishment, industry leaders, the hi-tech sector, the trade unions and now directly from the White House, today Netanyahu will decide between the will of the people and the will of the extremists in his own government,” Shikma Bressler, a protest movement leader, said in a statement before the final vote.

Many military reservists and retired veterans are taking part in the direct action, a sign of how deeply felt the overhaul is across Israeli society.

“We’re not going to continue to risk our lives going to serve in an air force of a country that is not democratic. It’s as simple as that,” Guy Poran, a former air force pilot who is now a protest movement leader, said ahead of the vote.

“You’re either for this kind of legislation or you’re fighting against it. And this is something that has never happened in 75 years of existence of Israel. And, frankly, it’s frightening,” he said.

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