Israeli lawmakers on Monday approved a key portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive plan to reshape the country’s judicial system.
The plans have split the nation since they were unveiled in January, sparking one of the biggest protest movements in Israel’s history.
Failed attempt at compromise
All 64 lawmakers from the ruling right-wing coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted in favour of the text, with opposition members of parliament boycotting the vote.
The vote – which is the second of three needed for the overhaul – came after a heated session in which opposition lawmakers chanted “shame” and stormed out of the chamber.
Lawmakers debated the divisive legislation through the night into Monday, with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog seeking a compromise and meeting Netanyahu at the hospital.
Despite Herzog’s efforts to mediate, Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid said efforts to reach an agreement had failed. “With this government, it is impossible to reach agreements that will preserve Israeli democracy,” Lapid was reported as saying ahead of the vote.
Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir condemned the last-minute attempts at compromise.
The minister said he regretted that “parts of the coalition are negotiating and seeking a compromise that undermines the law”.
The Bill limits the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down government decisions that the judges deem “unreasonable”.
Protesters block roads
Thousands of protesters gathered near parliament in the hours leading up to the vote, with some of them having camped there as a show of opposition to the proposal.
Some banged on drums and blew horns as they blocked a route leading to the Knesset, while police used water cannons to push the demonstrators back. Police said 19 people had been arrested in the protests as lawmakers began the voting process.
Proponents of the changes – a core part of a wider judicial restructuring – say they are needed to curb the powers of the Supreme Court.
Critics say the legal revamp, driven by a governing coalition that includes religious extremist and ultranationalist parties, will undermine Israel’s democratic values.
They say the plan will erode Israel’s system of checks and balances, and could open the door for authoritarian rule.
Only hours earlier, the Israeli prime minister was released from the hospital on Monday after an emergency cardiac procedure, hours ahead of the parliamentary session.
The Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv admitted Netanyahu late on Saturday after doctors said a monitor had detected an irregular heart rhythm. Medics said the following day that an operation to fit a pacemaker had gone smoothly.