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Protesters in Israel start ‘national disruption day’ against judicial reforms

Roads and railways in the center of the country are expected to be blocked

Israelis clash with police during a protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Mar. 1, 2023. (Photo: Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Protesters in Israel launched a “national disruption day” on Wednesday in an ongoing battle against the Netanyahu government’s judicial reforms. 

Roads and railways in the center of the country are expected to be blocked off, with Israel Defense Forces reservists also briefly blocking the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. 

The nationwide protests coincide with the government’s legislative committee vote to pass the second part of its planned judicial reforms. The judicial overhaul includes the “override clause,” which would permit the parliament to override High Court of Justice rulings with the backing of only 61 (out of 120) Knesset Members. 

Proponents of the judicial overhaul argue that the reforms would strengthen democracy by limiting the power of unelected judges. 

Critics fear the reforms would weaken democracy by undermining the delicate balance between Israel’s legislative and judiciary branches. Former Bank of Israel governors warned that the reforms could harm Israel’s export-driven economy. 

Those protesting against the changes include high-tech workers, healthcare officials, students, professors, opposition leaders and high-ranking officials, such as former IDF chief Dan Halutz and former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin. 

Workers from the high-tech sector will once again stage a protest in Sarona, a swanky historic neighborhood in central Tel Aviv. They warned that a vibrant democracy is necessary for maintaining Israel’s start-up economy. 

“We are against this ‘coup’ and dictatorship. Israel won’t be a dictatorship,” said a demonstrator at Tel Aviv’s HaHagana Railway Station. “Today, the entire country is barricaded.”

The “No Health Without Democracy” organization warned that the deteriorating political situation would undermine the country’s public health services.

"All the essential signs attest to the fact that the situation in the country is deteriorating and that public health will be harmed shortly because of the coup d'etat. We are in a national emergency, and this is our duty," they said

The ”Crime Minister” movement, which opposes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since last year, is planning protests outside the prime minister’s home in Jerusalem. 

"Tens of thousands will go out to act around the country in order to stop the coup d'etat that does not have the support of the people. There is no security, the economy is collapsing, the people are being torn apart. In the face of the government's damage, the people will bring Israel back to the way of the Declaration of Independence," stated the protest organizers. 

A group of former senior officials urged Israeli President Isaac Herzog to actively intervene in the ongoing political and judicial crisis. Herzog has recently emerged as a symbol of unity in the increasingly polarized Israeli society.

“We call to you, Mr. President, to announce unambiguously that you will not lend a hand or your support as the nation's president to harming the democracy and the judicial system," stated the officials in a joint letter to Herzog. 

The letter was signed by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former IDF chiefs, Moshe Yaalon and Dan Halutz, former Shin Bet chiefs Carmi Gilon, Nadav Argaman and Yaakov Peery, and former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo. 

In February, a concerned Herzog stressed that a compromise to the judicial crisis could be found within a “matter of days.” 

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir stressed that the country’s roads would remain open and police would be ordered to prevent potential disruptions. 

“I am for democratic protest but I will not allow civil rebellion and anarchists to block main roads. We need to ensure that the citizens of Israel can go about their days. I instructed police to open all roads if they are blocked,” said Ben Gvir. 

The protesters have urged the police to disregard Ben Gvir, whom they called the “schoolyard bully.”

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

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