After Cries of 'Shame,' Israeli Lawmakers Pass Judicial Bill

Knesset moves ahead with divisive plan despite the objections of President Biden
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2023 6:44 AM CDT
Updated Jul 24, 2023 8:00 AM CDT
Netanyahu Leaves Hospital Ahead of Divisive Vote
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan outside the parliament in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 23, 2023.   (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
UPDATE Jul 24, 2023 8:00 AM CDT

Israeli lawmakers on Monday approved a key portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive plan to reshape the country's justice system, per the AP. The vote came after a stormy session in which opposition lawmakers chanted "shame" and then stormed out of the chamber. The vote reflected the determination of Netanyahu and his far-right allies to move ahead with the plan, despite massive, sustained protests for months and opposition from business leaders, military reservists, legal officials, and the White House.

Jul 24, 2023 6:44 AM CDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was released from the hospital Monday after an emergency heart procedure and now faces an unprecedented national crisis ahead of parliament's vote on the first major piece of legislation to remake the country's justice system. Demonstrators, many of whom feel the very foundations of their country are being eroded by the government's plan, stepped up their opposition, blocking a road leading up to parliament, per the AP. Businesses shuttered their doors in protest of the vote. Driven by a governing coalition made up of ultranationalist and ultra-religious parties, the judicial overhaul has divided Israel, testing the delicate social ties that bind the country, rattling the cohesion of its powerful military, and repeatedly drawing concern from even its closest ally, the United States. (The New York Times has an explainer.)

Efforts to find a last-ditch compromise were underway, with President Isaac Herzog shuttling between the sides, including a meeting at the hospital where Netanyahu was treated, to find an agreement over the way forward. But it was unclear whether those would result in a compromise ahead of the final vote, expected Monday afternoon. Protesters banging on drums and blowing horns blocked a road leading to the Knesset, and police used water cannons to push them back. The protest movement said one of its leaders was arrested. "The state of Israel stands before destruction and ruin that is being brought upon it by a gang of extremists and kooks," one branch of the protest movement called out to demonstrators on social media. "We must go up to Jerusalem today!"

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Netanyahu's sudden hospitalization for the implant of a pacemaker added another dizzying twist to an already dramatic series of events. Netanyahu's doctors said Sunday the procedure had gone smoothly, and in a short video statement, Netanyahu, 73, said he felt fine and thanked his doctors. His overhaul calls for sweeping changes aimed at curbing the powers of the judiciary, from limiting the Supreme Court's ability to challenge parliamentary decisions to changing the way judges are selected. In a statement to Axios late Sunday, President Biden warned against pushing ahead with the legal changes that were sparking so much division. "Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn't make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this—the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus," he told the site.

(Read more Benjamin Netanyahu stories.)

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