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Protests intensify overnight after Reasonableness Bill passes, strikes called in various sectors

Former Prime Minister Olmert says country entering into civil war as Netanyahu offers negotiations

Anti-overhaul activists clash with police on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, during a protest against the judicial overhaul, July 24, 2023. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Following the passing of the Reasonableness Standard Bill in the Knesset on Monday afternoon, thousands of protesters continued to block roads in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. 

In Tel Aviv, protesters blocked a major artery, Ayalon Highway, for hours, while in Jerusalem, protesters blocked the Begin Expressway and Sderot Yitzhak Rabin in front of the Supreme Court. 

Israel Police deployed mounted police units and water cannons in an attempt to disperse the crowds and clear the roads. News reports showed demonstrators still on the highway as of 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

Police announced they had arrested 18 protesters in Tel Aviv for attacking police officers or disrupting public order. Ten officers reportedly suffered light injuries in clashes with the demonstrators. 

A civilian driver was arrested after driving his car into a group of protesters blocking the road, injuring three people. 

The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) announced a one-day general strike on Tuesday to protest the bill’s passing. The healthcare system will operate on a limited basis during the strike, with the exception of emergency rooms and community clinics in the Jerusalem area. 

“We are doing everything possible so that the patients will not be negatively impacted by the steps we have been forced to take. We will operate on a Sabbath and holiday schedule, but physician committees and heads of departments will ensure sufficient staffing with doctors on rotation and call,” according to an IMA statement.

IMA chair Prof. Zion Hagay announced he will join opposition head Yair Lapid in petitioning the bill to the Supreme Court. 

Business leaders also announced a continuation of the strike which started Monday. Multiple shopping malls and commercial centers in Israel will operate on a limited basis. Supermarkets and community convenience shops will remain open. 

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Britain’s Channel 4 on Monday that the country is headed for civil war following the bill’s passing. 

“This is a serious threat. It’s never happened before,” Olmert said. “We are going into a civil war now — civil disobedience with all of the possible ramifications to the stability of the state and the ability of the government to perform, to the obedience of the large part of the Israeli population to a government which is perceived by a large part of the population to be illegitimate.” 

“The government has decided to threaten the foundations of Israeli democracy, and this is not something that we can accept or tolerate,” Olmert said. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video statement on Monday evening calling on the opposition to negotiate, offering to hold negotiations through November. 

"I say to the leaders of the opposition: It is possible to continue to debate and argue but it is also possible to do something else. It is possible to reach consensus regarding what comes next,” Netanyahu said. 

He also said that the bill’s passing would not destroy the Supreme Court.

“No side will take over the court. This must not happen. It will not happen on our watch,” he said in the video. 

Netanyahu also blamed the opposition for turning down several compromise offers. 

"We agreed to suspend the legislation, halted it for three whole months. We agreed to significant changes to the original policy. None of our compromise proposals were accepted. Not even once." 

Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon said the coalition is focused on continuing reforms but is willing to reach a compromise. He also blamed the opposition’s fractured nature for the failure to reach a compromise on the Reasonableness Standard Bill. 

“I am always in favor of agreements and reaching a broad agreement,” Dannon said. “Unfortunately, this came right down to the final seconds, and it was very difficult. Such things have to be done in advance and today it was very difficult to reach agreements and understandings because the opposition does not have one leader but several.”

Dannon rejected claims that the bill would destroy Israel's democracy, saying, “We saw Israeli democracy in action. We made a commitment to the voters on a certain matter, and we kept it.” 

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

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