Protesters against legal overhaul declare Monday as ‘national day of struggle’

Demonstration to be held outside Knesset as lawmakers advance ‘most dangerous’ bill, organizers say; Histadrut labor federation chief says won’t join strike

Israelis wave national flags at a rally against the judicial overhaul, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Israelis wave national flags at a rally against the judicial overhaul, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Organizers of the protests against the government’s judicial overhaul declared Monday as a “national day of struggle,” which will include a large rally outside the Knesset, marches in various cities, and the closure of some businesses.

The demonstrations are meant to coincide with the expected first reading in the Knesset on Monday of legislation that would give the coalition control over the selection of judges (as well as of a bill to render Basic Laws immune to judicial oversight; discussion will also be continuing on other parts of the overhaul package in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee).

“This is likely the most dangerous of the laws being advanced. If this is brought for [plenum] votes and passes, dialogue will be clearly illegitimate,” the protest organizers said in a statement.

Weekly protests against the government’s judicial makeover are also expected to continue on Saturday night, with police planning to close off central areas in Tel Aviv. Smaller demonstrations are anticipated in Jerusalem and other cities.

Additionally, an anti-government rally including an array of US Jewish and Israeli groups is planned for next Tuesday outside the Israeli Consulate in New York.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Histadrut labor federation, Arnon Bar-David, said it will not strike in solidarity with the protests on Monday, and called on the opposing sides to hold compromise talks as proposed by President Isaac Herzog. The labor federation also refused to join in a strike earlier this week.

Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

On Monday, at least 70,000 people rallied in Jerusalem as part of a nationwide strike to protest the government’s plan to impose radical, sweeping changes to the judiciary.

The Jerusalem protests and concurrent demonstrations in other cities coincided with the first rounds of voting on the legislation in a Knesset committee. The stormy session saw a number of opposition lawmakers physically removed from the room.

The committee advanced the legislation a day after Herzog issued a rare plea for deliberation and compromise on the plan and offered a five-point proposal for negotiations on the judicial shakeup.

Herzog warned in his televised address that the country was on the brink of “societal and constitutional collapse” and urged proponents of both sides to refrain from violence, particularly against public servants and elected officials.

Legal authorities, finance and business leaders, and security officials have also issued a steady stream of dire warnings against the government’s plans.

President Isaac Herzog delivers a message to the nation from his office in Jerusalem, February 12, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The legal overhaul, advanced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin and backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would grant the government total control over the appointment of judges, including to the High Court, severely limit the High Court’s ability to strike down legislation, and enable the Knesset to re-legislate laws the court does manage to annul with a bare majority of just 61 MKs.

Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms would undermine Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

Netanyahu and other coalition members have dismissed the criticism.

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