Israeli lawmakers prepare divisive bill for final vote amid protests

Protesters have kept the pressure on the government for months with ongoing demonstrations. (file)


An Israeli parliamentary committee has adopted a key section of the far-right government’s controversial judicial reforms, a statement said Thursday, as protests intensified ahead of a final vote on the bill.

In a marathon debate that ended late Wednesday, parliament’s law committee approved a motion that would limit the “reasonableness” clause that allows the judiciary to overrule government decisions.

The bill is due for second and third readings on Monday, according to a statement from parliament, after the panel’s endorsement, “with nine Knesset members in favor and seven opposed”.

If approved by the full parliament next week, it would be the first major component of the government’s proposed legal change to become law.

Opponents of the government’s reforms, which emerged in January shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, see them as a threat to Israeli democracy.

Protesters have kept the pressure on the government for months with ongoing demonstrations.

On Thursday morning, protesters gathered outside government offices in the northern port city of Haifa as hundreds marched from Tel Aviv to the parliament building in Jerusalem, organizers said.

The judicial reforms have divided the country and sparked one of the largest protest movements in Israel’s history, with weekly demonstrations often drawing thousands.

Other proposals include giving more powers to the government in the appointment of judges.

The reform package has also drawn international criticism, including from Israel’s close ally the United States.

The government, which includes Netanyahu’s far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues the changes are necessary to ensure a better balance of power.

Some critics of Netanyahu, who is fighting corruption charges in court, have argued that he is trying to undermine the judicial system, accusing him of unfairly targeting him for political reasons.

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