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Ahead of vote on 'reasonableness clause,' judicial reform protests intensify in 27th week

Protest leaders call for ‘Day of Resistance’ on Tuesday

Israelis attend a protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2023. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Judicial reform protesters organized demonstrations across the country for the 27th week on Saturday evening, against the backdrop of the impending vote to limit use of the ‘reasonableness clause,' which is scheduled for the month's end.

The bill to remove reasonableness as a criterion of judicial review for government decisions passed its first reading in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee last week, and is scheduled for its first reading in the Knesset plenum this week. 

The main protest occurred – as in previous weeks – at Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, attended by more than 100,000 protesters. At its conclusion, many demonstrators marched to the busy Ayalon Highway intersection, blocking traffic for a short time before being dispersed by Israel Police. 

The Brothers in Arms protest group held a demonstration outside the home of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Moshav Amikam, calling on him to intervene to stop the judicial reforms once again. 

“Gallant, you are our direct commander,” the protesters said. “You hold the highest security position in the State of Israel. And your job is to protect us from external and internal threats that could undermine the resilience of the country.”

Israelis protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, outside the home of Defense Minister Yoav Galant in Moshav Amikam, July 8, 2023. (Photo: Shir Torem/Flash90)

“We know, and you said in your voice, that the regime coup poses an immediate, clear and tangible danger to national security,” the protesters continued. “You are responsible. How will you let that happen on your watch? Tonight, we reservists come to you together with the people of Israel.” 

According to the protest organizers, Israel Defense Forces generals and chiefs of staff from several generations, along with Mossad commanders, Shin Bet security and police commanders participated in the demonstration at Gallant's home. 

“All of us together will look up to the defense minister, who has already proven that his conscience will not allow him to harm Israel's security and tear the people apart,” the protest leaders said. 

In March, Gallant called for a halt in judicial reform legislation, which led to Netanyahu firing Gallant the next day. That action sparked a massive protest, during which a general strike by the Histadrut Labor Union shut down the Ben-Gurion International Airport. The protests eventually resulted in Netanyahu calling for a temporary halt to judicial reform legislation. 

In a press meeting, protest leaders from various groups said that if the reasonableness bill passes its first reading on Monday, they will launch mass Resistance Day protests across the nation on Tuesday, including a blockade at Ben-Gurion Airport. 

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, from the Yesh Atid party, called on Histadrut to organize another general strike. Lapid warned that the goal of the reasonableness bill was the return of the convicted criminal Aryeh Deri to office and said the government would harm workers' rights. 

“In an undemocratic country with such a regime, there will be an attack on workers' rights. Especially when you have a finance minister who thinks that Histadrut should not exis,” he said, referring to Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich.

Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Israel Katz of the Likud party said on Sunday morning that blocking the entrance to Ben-Gurion Airport “must not be allowed.” 

“No other government would allow such a thing,” Katz said in an interview with N12. He said that the central airport is “the main entrance to Israel.” 

Katz also said that Knesset readings involve discussion, debate and changes, so the opposition has a chance to change the bill. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the protests in his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, saying that “there cannot be an enforcement policy against one side, we asked the attorney general to report to the government on this matter.” 

“We condemn all violence from any side, and we will not restrict demonstrations. But we want to know what the enforcement policy is,” he added.

Netanyahu was apparently referring to a letter sent by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Thursday, stating that members of the coalition government could not hold a discussion regarding policing demonstrations against them. 

This letter contradicts the precedent established by Attorney General Meni Mazuz in 2005, when he approved a government meeting to discuss protests against then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Disengagement Plan. 

Not only did Mazuz approve the planning meeting, he participated in the meeting with the State Prosecutor and other senior government officials to ensure that protests could be held without “threats to disrupt daily life in the country.” 

Current Attorney General Baharav-Miara has resisted the coalition government’s attempts to establish such a group to discuss policing of the current protest movement. 

Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, Yitzhak Wasserlauf of the Jewish Power party said that if the policy of selective enforcement of protests continues, he will petition the High Court of Justice against the attorney general. 

“It is appropriate to act and try as much as possible in order to prevent a situation in which a minister in the Israeli government turns and petitions against his legal advisor, for her efforts to thwart the government's policy and for her failures in the field of law and justice enforcement,” Katz said. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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