TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli protesters continued to demonstrate Thursday against a controversial government plan to overhaul the judiciary, pushing back on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he rejected a compromise proposal meant to defuse the crisis.
Despite the efforts of the acting president of the country, Isaac Herzog, to find a way out of the impasse, the parties seem to be getting deeper. The backlash from all of Israeli society and beyond, as well as Herzog’s warnings that Israel is headed for the “abyss.”
Protesters were beginning their third day of disruption since the crisis began, with roads being closed to make way for protesters. In Jerusalem, protesters red-lined the streets leading to the country’s Supreme Court, and a small fleet of boats blocked a shipping lane off the coast of the northern city of Haifa.
Last week, Netanyahu had to be airlifted to the country’s main international airport for a foreign state visit after protesters blocked the road leading there, holding signs reading “do not return”. Tens of thousands of people take part in protests across the country every Saturday night.
Reforms by a prime minister accused of corruption and Israel’s most right-wing government ever have plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises. It has sparked outrage among top legal officials, business leaders who warn of the plan’s economic ramifications and within the country’s military, the most trusted institution, where reservists have pledged not to serve under the impending regime change.
The government says the plan will correct the imbalance between the judicial and executive branches, which it says has given the courts too much influence over Israel’s governance. Critics say the overhaul undermines the country’s system of checks and balances and gives the prime minister and the government too much power and strips it of judicial oversight. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, could find a way out of his legal troubles with a major overhaul.
Herzog has been meeting with actors on both sides of the divide for weeks to try to reach an acceptable middle ground, and his proposal appears to offer incentives to both sides.
But Netanyahu quickly dismissed the plan as he boarded the plane to Germany, saying it did not fix the balance between the branches. Protests were also expected in Berlin during Netanyahu’s official visit there.
Netanyahu, formerly a staunch supporter of judicial independence, returned to power late last year after more than a year as opposition leader amid a political crisis over his fitness to rule during a trial that sent Israelis to the polls five times. in less than four years.
He formed a coalition with ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies who had long sought to limit the powers of the judiciary. Pro-West Bank settlements see the court as an obstacle to their expansionist ambitions, while religious factions are forced to limit the court’s ability to rule on issues they fear could disrupt their way of life.
But critics say there are also personal grievances in the effort. In addition to Netanyahu’s charges, which he says are unrelated to the overhaul, a key Netanyahu ally has been disqualified from ministerial office by the Supreme Court because of a previous conviction for tax violations. Under repair, they each have laws that can protect their positions from any interference by the courts.