Israel’s president calls for halt to Netanyahu-led judicial reform as countrywide protests intensify

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is back in power

Israel’s honorary president urged an immediate halt to the country’s planned judicial reform thereafter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu The newly announced proposal prompted tens of thousands of people to take to the streets in protest.

Isaac Herzog’s appeal comes hours after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had condemned the plan, which includes government reforms. Universities across the country have closed in protest and labor unions are also expected to call a general strike.

The call also comes as Israeli army reservists joined mass protests outside Netanyahu’s home in Tel Aviv officials said on Sunday, raising fears the protests could escalate into violence.

According to Dan Arbel, resident scholar at the Center for Israel Studies at American University, IDF reservists have mostly stayed away from political protests, and their presence adds significance to the tens of thousands who have gathered since.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, leaves 10 Downing Street after brief talks with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on March 24, 2023 in London, United Kingdom.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, leaves 10 Downing Street after brief talks with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on March 24, 2023 in London, United Kingdom. (Mark Cresson/Photo via Getty Images)

The reservists are made up mainly of former combat pilots, special forces personnel and military intelligence officers, who will not respond to invitations to military service if the Netanyahu-led Knesset goes through with the planned reform, they said.

The controversial plan includes passing legislation that would increase legislature’s control over the lawmaking process, among other beneficial initiatives.

President Herzog said, “The entire nation is appalled with deep concern. Our security, our economy, our society – they are all at risk.” “Wake up now!”

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Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former ally-turned-rival of Netanyahu, highlighted the severity of the ongoing crisis during an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, where he said Israel was “in a state of crushing collapse out of control”.

“We haven’t had such a serious situation in 50 years,” Bennett said.

Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government plans to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government plans to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government plans to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government plans to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

First, the plan would give the Knesset — not the courts — final control over the new legislation because it would create an “override clause” that would allow a simple majority in Parliament to re-enact any law struck down by the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu has argued publicly that unelected Supreme Court justices wield too much power.

“We must all stand strong against rejection,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Likewise, his Likud party has argued that the judiciary is too strong and said they would prefer to restore “the balance … in order to” Selection of judges and the abolition of the undemocratic situation in which judges appoint themselves.”

“This method in which the representatives of the public select judges is used in almost all democracies in the world,” the political party said. “The claim that the abolition of the mechanism by which judges are appointed ‘the end of democracy’ lacks foundation.”

Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial reform plan protest outside the Knesset, the country's parliament, after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Jerusalem, Monday, March 27, 2023.

Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan protest outside the Knesset, the country’s parliament, after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Jerusalem, Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Elyan)

Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government plans to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government plans to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, criticized the proposed change and said in a televised address on Saturday that it was “a clear, immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state”.

“As the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel, I affirm that the growing division in our society permeates the Israeli army and security services,” Gallant said in the report. “I will not allow it. But now, I declare loud and clear, for the sake of Israel’s security, for the sake of our sons and daughters—the legislative process must be stopped.”

Israeli protesters take to the streets to blast Netanyahu’s “judicial reforms” as the prime minister calls for unity

The legislation also changes the process for adding constitutional amendments and judicial appointments.

The courts are the sole check on the executive and legislative branches jointly controlled by the ruling coalition. According to Arbel, the new plan weakens the courts and increases the strength of the responsible coalition, which is Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The party explained in a tweet on Monday, March 20: “The law does not allow the coalition or the opposition to take over the court, but it guarantees that there is diversity in the formation of judges.”

Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial reform plan block a highway during a protest after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan block a highway during a protest after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Chief Justice Esther Hayott delivered a public address on January 12, when she warned that the proposed reforms were “intended to be a mortal wound to the independence of the judiciary and to turn it into a silent institution,” Arbel reported.

Netanyahu reportedly spent Sunday evening consulting advisers and is scheduled to address the protests later Monday.

In addition to changing the relationship between the legislative and judicial branches of government, government reforms intended by Netanyahu include accelerating government privatization. media in the country Allowing those in power to favor friendly outlets while also being able to label less friendly outlets as hostile, Arbel reported.

Another reform allows companies the option to exclude certain clients or services based on the religious beliefs of the owners or employees.

Israeli police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to reform the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Israeli police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators blocking a highway during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reform the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

The prime minister maintains that the legislation, which critics see as potentially discriminatory, will protect religious practices.

“We will not introduce any law against the Christian community,” Netanyahu said on Twitter last week.

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Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, and the Lokid party regained control of the government on December 29, 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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