Israelis rally, block roads as vote looms on controversial judicial bill

Israeli protesters have blocked highways and briefly mobbed the stock exchange on a “Day of Disruption” as legislators prepare to ratify one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disputed judicial bills before parliament goes on recess.

Thousands poured onto the streets in rallies across the country, many waving Israeli flags, and police reported at least a half-dozen highways had been blocked.

Dozens entered the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, tossing fake banknotes as symbols of corruption.

Medics said one woman was hit by a car on a highway and injured.

The reform drive – cast by opponents as curbing court independence and by Mr Netanyahu as balancing branches of government – has set off a half-year-long constitutional crisis and contributed to United States’ concern about his hard-right coalition.

With the premier wielding a comfortable Knesset majority, opponents are hoping a fresh wave of protest can help scupper the legislation before final voting next week.

“We are here to say to Israel’s government: The more you press, the harder we resist,” Jonathan Eran Kali, a 62-year-old retired tech worker, told Reuters at a demonstration outside the Habimah Theatre in Tel Aviv.

“We are saying no to dictatorship.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the government was proceeding with reforms in “measured steps while continuing to call for broad consensus”.

He deemed the protesters “a vocal few, inflated by the media”.

A group describing itself as military reservists opposed to the judicial overhaul attempted to block the entrance to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in Tel Aviv.

Some reservists have threatened not to heed call-up orders as part of the protest.

That drew a rebuke from top general Herzi Halevi, after Mr Netanyahu on Monday pledged to crack down on insubordination.

“Whoever is currently advocating non-attendance harms the IDF and also harms national security,” General Halevi told a Knesset oversight panel.

In a delaying tactic, the parliamentary opposition filed 27,000 objections to a coalition bill that would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to void government decisions or appointments by stripping the judges of the power to deem such decisions “unreasonable”.

Still, the coalition looked set to bring the bill to the plenum on Sunday for final votes before the July 30 recess.

Supporters of the bill have described it as in keeping with a 2020 lecture by a Supreme Court justice Noam Sohlberg, in which he voiced misgivings about some “reasonableness” rulings.

But Judge Sohlberg on Monday distanced himself from the bill, saying in a statement: “I did not have legislation in mind.”


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