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Israel passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue

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Published: 24 March 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The first law of the controversial judicial overhaul has passed in the face of a "national day of paralysis” where police used water canons and dozens were arrested.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition has passed the first of several laws that make up its contentious judicial overhaul. Protesters opposing the changes staged another day of demonstrations to raise alarm over what they see as Israel’s descent toward autocracy.

Thousands protested throughout the country, blocking traffic on main highways and scuffling with police in unrest that shows no sign of abating as the overhaul moves ahead. Dozens were arrested and mounted police and water canons were used to disperse protestors in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Netanyahu’s coalition approved legislation that would protect the Israeli leader from being deemed unfit to rule because of his corruption trial and claims of a conflict of interest surrounding his involvement in the legal changes. Critics say the law is tailor-made for Netanyahu, encourages corruption and deepens a gaping chasm between Israelis over the judicial overhaul.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who recently said refusal to serve over judicial overhaul could push him to resign, had scheduled a media conference for Thursday evening and it had been hoped he call for an end to judicial overhaul, splitting the coalition over the changes.

But the media conference was cancelled and Netanyahu issued a statement saying the changes to judicial selection would pass next week and those allowing the Knesset to overrule the court would also continue.

Netanyahu also attempted to lower the protest temperature, saying he is “putting all other issues aside… I will do everything I can to find a solution for the sake of our people, our state.”

Opponents of the coalition’s sweeping judicial reform “aren’t traitors,” and supporters “aren’t fascists,” he says. “Most Israeli citizens, across the political spectrum, love our state and want to protect our democracy,” he said.

“I know there is a central fear raised by the other side of an unlimited override clause, whereby every small Knesset majority can block every ruling of the court. That won’t happen. Quite the opposite. I intend to anchor in law individual rights — we will guarantee the rights — of all Israeli citizens — Jews and non-Jews, secular and Orthodox, women, LGBTQ — all of them, without exception. All legislation will be obligated to those principles. We intend to present detailed legislation to this effect,” he said.


Israel passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue (AP)

PM: I’m intervening to balance overhaul — but judge selection bill moving forward (Times of Israel)

Drama in Likud: Gallant nixes press event, likely would have called to stop overhaul (Times of Israel)

Gallant reportedly says judicial overhaul may push him out as defence minister (Times of Israel)

Mounted police, water cannons disperse protesters in Tel Aviv, Haifa; dozens arrested (Times of Israel)

Photo: A protestor outside Netanyahu's trial for corruption last year (AAP)

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