The Israeli Knesset passes controversial legislation to reform the judiciary


Israel’s parliament (Knesset) voted on Monday to move ahead with controversial reforms to the justice system that were approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government but sparked mass protests.

Israel’s opposition has vowed to fight for the soul of the nation with fresh protests as parliament prepares for its first reading on Monday of changes to the justice system backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right, nationalist government.

“Great night and great day,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter after the primary vote.

With his party winning 64 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Netanyahu looks likely to eventually win the passage of two bills, one to amend a quasi-constitutional Basic Law on the judicial system and the other to reform the system for selecting judges.

Monday afternoon, thousands of Israelis carrying Israeli flags and stop signs poured into parliament to protest the vote, which is expected to take place later in the day.

Opinion polls show that most Israelis want to slow reforms to allow for dialogue with their critics, or to delay them altogether.

The Israeli currency, shekel fell 1% percent against the dollar, as also the Israeli central bank announced their decision to rise interest rate by 0.5%, to become 4.25%.

In view of the instability that prevailed in the country due to the dispute over these changes, many economists and prominent figures from technology companies and the banking sector warned against the reluctance of investors and the flight of capital from Israel. But senior figures in the ruling coalition have played down the importance of this.

Moshe Gafni, head of the Knesset’s Finance Committee and leader of the extremist United Torah Judaism party, said, “There is no connection between the reforms of the judicial system and any problem that arises in the Israeli economy… Any attempt to link the two matters is politicized”.

Opposition MPs protested Gaffney’s remarks, describing the committee as a circus.

Before the voting session, protesters posted videos online trying to prevent lawmakers from Netanyahu’s coalition from heading to the Knesset.

Israeli Police said they arrested eight people for disorderly conduct and rerouted traffic after demonstrators blocked some roads.

“The demonstrators who talk about democracy are the same ones who destroy it when they prevent elected representatives from exercising a fundamental right in democracy, which is to vote,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The government says the reforms are designed to end the Supreme Court’s interference in politics.

Critics say Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies, is seeking judicial changes that would damage the democratic balance of power in Israel, foster corruption and cause diplomatic isolation.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that the demonstrations would escalate in the struggle to preserve the spirit of the nation.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has repeatedly urged the government and opposition to hold settlement talks.

Both sides expressed their willingness to do so, but they didn’t agree on its terms.

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