Thousands of Israelis protested outside parliament against the proposed amendments, which critics say will weaken the country’s democracy.
Thousands of people protested outside Israel’s parliament as lawmakers engaged in heated debate over a draft law that would give politicians greater powers to appoint judges.
The plans, which would give right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more control over Supreme Court appointments, have sparked widespread protests.
Many protesters carried the blue and white Israeli flag and placards condemning what they saw as an attack on the country’s democratic institutions. “Shame! Shame!” they chanted. Some posters read “Save Israel’s democracy” and “The whole world is watching.”
Other protests were held in front of schools across the country.
The Knesset’s constitutional committee voted to send the first chapter of the plan to the plenum for a first reading, after a stormy start to the meeting in which at least three opposition lawmakers were forcibly ejected amid cries of “shame, shame.”
“You’re going to burn the country,” Idan Roll of the centrist Yesh Atid party told Simchi Rothman, chairman of the panel from the far-right Religious Zionism bloc, before he was kicked out.
Netanyahu, who is currently on trial on corruption charges he denies, says the changes are needed to rein in activist judges who have overstepped their authority to meddle in the political sphere.
Critics say they risk destroying Israel’s system of democratic checks and balances by weakening the courts, giving unbridled power to the executive branch and threatening civil liberties and human rights.
Morning trains from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday were packed with people, many carrying Israeli flags and protest signs, heading for planned protests outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament and elsewhere across the country.
Many companies, including tech startups and law firms, have given permission to employees to join strikes across the country, local media reported.
Israeli banks and the technology sector that the changes risk undermining the civil institutions that underpin Israel’s economic prosperity. [the sentence looks incomplete]
Local English newspaper Haaretz said in an editorial that the government was “doing everything it can to sabotage these protests.”
Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch said that teachers who choose to miss school “will not be paid and the absent students will be considered absent,” Haaretz reported.
“Despite the problems and pitfalls, only large-scale public participation in both protests and strikes can change the path of destruction the government is marching on,” it added.
On Sunday night, President Isaac Herzog made a rare televised call for consensus and warned that Israel was “on the brink of legal and social collapse.”
“I am appealing to you not to put the bill on first reading,” Herzog said.
United States President Joe Biden urged Netanyahu to build consensus before pushing through far-reaching changes, saying in comments published by The New York Times on Sunday that an independent judiciary is one of the foundations of US and Israeli democracy.