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Israel. Demonstrations against fruit-farming reform

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The Israeli parliament has provisionally approved a bill that limits the powers of the Supreme Court. The bill is part of a package of reforms pushed by Benjamin Netanyahu that seeks to curb the judiciary while expanding the powers of those in power. The reform is opposed by Israelis who protested across the country on Tuesday.

The attempt to remove the protesters from the main road leading to Jerusalem did little, because soon the crowds sitting on the highway were joined by thousands of demonstrators, and in the evening the streets of Israel’s largest cities filled with thousands of people.

During a “day of disturbances” – one of the country’s largest demonstrations in recent months – demonstrators blocked traffic in Tel Aviv, occupied key exit roads from the city, picketed Jerusalem’s Supreme Court and seized the main terminal of Israel’s largest airport.

“We are protesting what our government is trying to do: turn this beautiful country and strong democracy into the complete opposite,” said Anat Littany, one of the protesters.

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Police used water cannons to clear protesters from Israel’s main roads and highways. About 80 people were arrested, and the White House interceded for the demonstrators, appealing to the authorities in Jerusalem to respect the right of citizens to peaceful assembly.

– It is clear that there is a debate in Israel about the proposed legislation. Such discussions are a healthy part of a vibrant democracy,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

Democracy, which, according to tens of thousands of people on the streets of Israel, may turn into a dictatorship after the Knesset decision on Monday.

In the background, comparisons to Poland and Hungary

The Israeli parliament passed a bill on first reading that would prevent the Supreme Court from exercising its existing powers, such as the right to review and reverse government decisions it deems unfounded, politicized or unethical. The act is part of a package of reforms pushed by Benjamin Netanyahu, aimed at limiting the power of the judiciary and thus extending the powers of those in power. The second and third readings of the draft legislation are scheduled for July 24.

This is a government that has lost all restraint. Today in the Knesset, he only made sure that he will not have any limitations in making decisions – assessed Yair Lapid, the leader of the Israeli opposition and former prime minister.

Israel does not have a written constitution, and the only control over the power of the unicameral parliament – the Knesset – is exercised by the Supreme Court. – There are very serious fears and it is directly reported that Israel will turn into Poland or Hungary, hence the demonstrators in Israel often shout: “this is not Poland here”, points out Jarosław Kociszewski from the College of Eastern Europe, Stratpoints Foundation.

The report of the European Commission exposes the situation in Poland. “No rule of law is really no democracy”Katarzyna Kolenda-Zaleska/Fakty TVN

The demonstrators repeatedly emphasized that they would not allow their politicians – following the example of the solutions introduced by the governments in Warsaw or Budapest – to try to secure unlimited power under the guise of fruit-growing reform. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, replies that Israel is not in danger of such a turn of events, and reforms are necessary to balance the powers between the judiciary and the executive.

– Under the supervision of the court, which will continue, the government will have to act in good faith, with proportionality, fairness and equality. Therefore, the new law is not the end of democracy, but its strengthening, emphasizes Netanyahu.

The specter of a security crisis

Mass protests against the government’s implementation of the regulations have been going on in Israel since the beginning of the year. In March, after an unprecedented general strike paralyzed the country, Netanyahu stopped pushing for reform. It was planned to return to them after the end of the parliamentary break and after reaching a compromise with the opposition. Last month, Netanyahu confirmed that the most controversial provision allowing the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings had been deleted. However, this was not enough for opposition politicians who joined the protesters.

Protests in Israel PAP/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

“I came here to support people who care so much about their country, about their democracy,” said Beni Ganc, Israel’s former defense minister, at the demonstration.

On Tuesday, hundreds of reservists – the backbone of the Israeli army – threatened to stop reporting to duty in protest against the reforms. This means that the country is deepening again not only in a political crisis, but may also stand on the brink of a security crisis.

Facts about the world TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

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