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Israel. Protests against the reform of the judiciary are intensifying. Crowd in the stock exchange building, opposition of 161 officers

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Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform escalated on Tuesday with demonstrations across the country, Reuters reported. As a sign of opposition to the amendment, 161 reserve corps officers announced that they would no longer report to duty, a retired Israeli air force general said.

Officers ranging in rank from major to brigadier general notified the military of their decision over the past three days and released a joint statement, said retired Israeli Air Force General Asaf Agmon.

From the early hours of Tuesday morning, thousands of people gathered across the country, Reuters reported. Protesters blocked at least six highways. Demonstrations were also organized at major railway stations in the country.

Protesters also entered the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where counterfeit notes were thrown as symbols of corruption. The police used water cannons against the demonstrators blocking the streets. According to the services, at least 45 people have been arrested.

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Protest in Tel Aviv on July 18, 2023Oded Balilty/EPA/PAP

Controversies surrounding the reform of the judiciary

Mass protests take place in Israel since January, when Netanyahu’s right-wing government unveiled a plan to reform the judiciary a few days after taking power. The protests prompted the prime minister to suspend the reform in March, but he decided to resume the plan after talks with the opposition under the auspices of President Icchak Herzog collapsed.

Netanyahu’s project assumes politicians’ control over the appointment of judges, granting the parliament the power to overturn court decisions, and depriving the Supreme Court of the power to negate government decisions.

Israel’s current government, which has been in power since December 2022, is the most nationalist and orthodox government in the country’s 75-year history. Critics of the judicial reform say it will upset the country’s fragile checks and balances and concentrate power in Netanyahu’s hands.

As the Prime Minister is accused of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes, the attempt to subject the courts to the scrutiny of politicians is, in their view, a manifestation of a conflict of interest.

A bill pending before the Knesset this week would eliminate the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn government decisions it deems unjustified.

Main photo source: Oded Balilty/EPA/PAP

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