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Nationwide strikes, protests called for Monday ahead of vote on judicial reform

Knesset member: “We are coming to the movement of truth"

Workers from the high-tech sector protest against the proposed changes to the legal system, in Tel Aviv, Feb. 7, 2023. (Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

As the government barrels ahead on its plan for sweeping judicial reform with a first vote expected next week, opponents – including opposition Knesset members – are calling for a general strike on Monday and a large protest in front of the parliament in Jerusalem.

“After the protest measures we have taken, we – the protest organizations and people who care – will shut down the economy on the day the first law is brought to the Knesset, and we will go to Jerusalem under the banner of ‘Stop the dictatorship,’” said former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a press conference. “We will do everything so that Israel doesn't become a dictatorship.”

Massive weekly rallies have taking place around the country since last month with more than 100,000 demonstrators gathering in Tel Aviv on two occasions. The demonstration at the Knesset on Monday is also expected to be well attended and will coincide with protests in other cities.

“The State of Israel is in a leadership and political crisis, the likes of which we have not known since the declaration of independence,” Ya’alon said. “Many citizens are anxious about the future of the state. Majority rule is not the tyranny of the majority, this legislative initiative is a regime coup.”

Knesset Member Gilad Kariv – who chaired the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in the last government, joined calls for strikes and protests.

“We are coming to the movement of truth. The coalition of destruction and corruption will bring the legislation on appointing judges to a first reading in the coming days,” Kariv said. “This is the time to go from protests to strikes. In schools, in businesses, at cultural events. This is the time for demonstrations of a million citizens. This is the time for tens of thousands of people to come and demonstrate outside the Knesset on the day of the vote.”

Israeli officials including President Isaac Herzog and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slow down the process and allow for debate and mediation on the proposed reforms. 

Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, who now chairs the committee, has applied gas rather than brakes and is pushing the legislation ahead after presiding over weeks of raucous debates on the bill. After an initial vote, the bill would then return to the committee for any revisions and preparations and then go back to the wider Knesset for two more readings upon which it would become law.

The legislation changes the composition of the judicial selection committee: A majority of the members on the judicial selection committee would be from the governing coalition. This – along with a proposal to give the government the ability to override Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority – have raised fears that this would give disproportionate power to the executive branch while weakening the court.

Critics also fear the changes to the judicial system will trickle down to harm the economy, eventually causing a downgrade in Israel's credit rating and hampering the ability to do business with the Jewish nation. Hundreds of economists and business owners have joined the protests against the dramatic legal restructuring.

However, the coalition has prioritized this major piece of legislation, which could potentially be pushed through less than two months after the government’s swearing in.

In a briefing last week, Rothman explained why he believes overhaul of the judicial system is necessary. He called the Supreme Court a self-appointing body and said the attorney general has too much power. 

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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