Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu's government begins legal reforms and enacts the first law protecting the prime minister
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration on Thursday enacted the first of many legislation that make up the divisive judicial reforms in the nation amidst significant protests.
Due to his corruption prosecution and allegations of a conflict of interest stemming from his role in the legislative amendments, the Israeli Prime Minister would not be ruled ineligible to hold office under the bill enacted on Thursday. The bill approved, according Israeli opponents, is specifically designed to shield Netanyahu, who is under investigation for corruption.
Another day of protests against the amendments were organised by opponents to raise awareness about what they see to be Israel's slide towards dictatorship.
As the revamp proceeds, thousands of protesters around the nation have blocked traffic on major roads and engaged in physical altercations with police. According to critics, the bill fosters corruption and widens the divide between Israelis over the judicial reform.
After Israeli media reports that his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will publicly call for a stop to the legislative campaign, Netanyahu's office announced he would be making "an important speech" Thursday evening. The informal adviser and wife of the prime minister, Sara Netanyahu, made a rare plea for widespread compromise. Nevertheless, Gallant withdrew his declaration after a short discussion with Netanyahu, which caused the prime minister's speech to be postponed.
His Likud party is said to be deeply divided, with senior members threatening to leave if the legislation is put on hold, according to Israeli media.
disagreement over legal changes
The country is now divided between those who believe that the new laws deprive Israel of its democratic values and others who believe that a liberal court has taken control.
The almost 75-year-old state is now experiencing one of its biggest internal crises as a result of the government's strategy.
"Israel will either be a Jewish, democratic, and forward-thinking nation, or it will be a dictatorial, backward, insular, and isolated nation. They are directing us there, "Israeli Army Radio was informed by Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and well-known protest movement backer.
The opposition is supported by large segments of society, including powerful businesspeople and judges.
Even the military, which the majority of Jews in Israel see as a bulwark of stability, is caught up in the political upheaval as an increasing number of reservists are refusing to report for service over the reforms.
Foreign friends of Israel have also voiced alarm.
After a nightlong discussion in Israel's 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, the bill to safeguard Netanyahu was approved 61-47 in an early morning vote.
It states that a prime minister may only be declared mentally or physically incompetent to hold office, and only he or his administration may make that determination.
That comes after Netanyahu's detractors have been louder in their demands for the nation's solicitor general to declare him unsuitable for office due to his legal issues. Netanyahu has already been prohibited by the attorney general from taking a direct part in the legal reform, on the grounds that his participation in the corruption trial may lead to a conflict of interest.
Analysts say the action may trigger a constitutional crisis.
In what might lead to the first confrontation between judges and the government over the legislative amendments, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a group that promotes good governance, said that it was going to challenge the bill in court.
According to experts, the revamp might trigger a constitutional crisis that would leave Israel in disarray regarding whether the government or the judiciary should be respected.
Thursday marked the beginning of the fourth midweek day of protests.
They stopped key streets, burned tyres close to a significant port, and hung a big Israeli flag and a banner with the nation's Declaration of Independence over the Old City walls of Jerusalem. Authorities reported making several arrests around the nation. Many protest leaders were detained, according to the organisers.
Police used water cannons to disperse protesters in Haifa in the north and beachfront Tel Aviv after protesters stopped the major road.
After what he said was an assault on Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former director of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Netanyahu urged opposition leaders to "end the disorder immediately."
Dichter was struck once on the head by a protester who swiped her flagpole in his direction, according to video posted online, but he seemed unscathed and carried on walking.
Dichter's representative said that the protester hit his vehicle with the flagpole in addition to gently tapping his head with it.
Crowds are heckling and accosting Cabinet officials in restaurants and at public events as a result of the demonstrations' growing ferocity.
On late Thursday, thousands of secular Israelis protested in Bnei Brak, a sizable ultra-Orthodox community close to Tel Aviv.
Residents reportedly shot fireworks at demonstrators during an otherwise mainly peaceful march, according to Israeli media.
In the city of Petah Tivka, police used force to break up another demonstration by military reservists.
Omer Bar-Lev, the minister in control of police up until recently, was shown being shoved by police on camera.
The current issue has widened a long-standing divide between secular and religious Jewish Israelis about the proper place of religion in daily life.
The revision is being spearheaded by ultra-Orthodox MPs in government who see the courts as a threat to their traditional way of life.
Contrarily, secular opponents of the measures worry that they may invite religious compulsion.
They also want the courts to stop granting ultra-Orthodox men exemptions from the military duty that is required by the majority of other Jewish men.
Along with the protests on Thursday, there have been weekly rallies every Saturday night for more than two months that draw tens of thousands of participants.
Rejected compromise proposal
Earlier this month, a compromise plan aimed to calm the issue was rejected by Netanyahu's administration. It said that it will decrease the speed of the adjustments, delaying the majority of them until after an April legislative break.
Yet, the administration was making progress on a crucial aspect of the reform that would give it authority over who is appointed as a judge. The law is anticipated to pass the next week.
In a slew of scandals involving affluent friends and influential media moguls, Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust, and receiving bribes.
He denies wrongdoing and scorns those who claim that the legal reforms his administration is promoting would allow him to avoid prosecution.
The administration claims that the adjustments are required to rebalance the executive and judicial branches, which they claim have grown too involved in the governance of the nation.
With its revamp, critics contend that the government—most Israel's right-wing ever—is upending the nation's precarious system of checks and balances and driving the nation closer to totalitarianism.
The Palestinian minority in Israel has largely shunned the demonstrations.
Rights organisations and Palestinians claim that Israel's democratic ideals have been tarnished for a long time by the nation's 55-year occupation of territories that the Palestinians want for an independent state and the treatment of Palestinian Israeli citizens, who experience discrimination in many areas.