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Israel. Parliament supported the law on changes in the judiciary

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The Israeli parliament adopted in the afternoon one of the most important elements of the controversial reform of the judiciary, limiting the powers of the Supreme Court. The information about the adoption of the law was announced by the chairman of the Knesset. Protests have escalated across the country ahead of the vote and have been going on for months.

The chairman of the Knesset said that the bill was passed by 64 votes to 0 after opposition MPs left the session in protest. “We have taken the first step in the historic process of repairing the country’s justice system,” Justice Minister Yariv Levin said after the vote.

Parts of the government threatened to collapse the coalition if the bill did not pass

Before the vote, Lewin and Homeland Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gewir warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if the bill was not passed in its current form, the coalition would collapse.

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According to Israeli media, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich tried to reach a last-minute compromise at the Knesset plenary session. He was to demand that legislative work be postponed for at least six months. This offer was strongly rejected by Lewin and Ben-Gewir. “Any compromise in the vote on the rationality bill will be a disgrace to the entire right,” Ben-Gewir said. Mossad chief David Barnea met anti-reform agency staff ahead of the Knesset vote to discuss the potential impact of the crisis. “If the situation comes to a constitutional crisis, I will be on the right side, but now is not the time for that,” Barnea said.

The Knesset adopted one of the most important elements of the controversial reform of the judiciaryPAP/EPA/ABIR SULTAN

The protests intensified

Before the vote on the bill, protests intensified in front of the Knesset and across the country. In Jerusalem, there were clashes between opponents of the reform and police units. The officers used water cannons and arrested 19 people, including one of the leaders of the protest movement.

Law enforcement clashes with protesters against justice reform, Jerusalem, July 24, 2023PAP/EPA

The news of the failure of compromise negotiations on reforms led by President Isaac Herzog led to a drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange and a weakening of the national currency.

READ ALSO: Thousands of Israelis marching in protest reached Jerusalem

According to the latest poll commissioned by the Israeli public broadcaster Kan, 46 per cent. of respondents were against the government’s reform of the judiciary, 35 percent. were in favor of the changes proposed by Netanyahu’s government, and 19 percent. said it had no opinion on the matter.

What does the adoption of the new law mean?

The adopted law will limit the prerogatives of the Supreme Court, which could so far overrule government decisions if it deemed them “irrational”, i.e. disproportionately focused on the political interest without sufficient consideration of the public interest.

Law enforcement clashes with protesters against justice reform, Jerusalem, July 24, 2023PAP/EPA

Judicial reform debate

The conflict over reform has sparked an unprecedented wave of protests in Israel for six months. In March, after their escalation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped work on the reform and began negotiations with the opposition, hosted by President Herzog, but these talks ended in a fiasco in June, after which the ruling coalition resumed legislative work.

The opposition claims that the changes pose a threat to democracy. Netanyahu defends reforms, believing that the judiciary has excessive power.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA

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