Business leaders to join Tel Aviv rally, meet on more action

Protesters to rally for 29th week in final stand against passing of 1st overhaul law

March to Jerusalem heads to Knesset on Saturday evening; demonstrations at Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, at PM’s residence, nationwide as coalition about to pass ‘reasonableness’ law

Demonstrators march with Israeli flags during a 'Day of Resistance' to protest the government's judicial overhaul plans, near the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on July 18, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
Demonstrators march with Israeli flags during a 'Day of Resistance' to protest the government's judicial overhaul plans, near the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on July 18, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

The protest movement against the government’s judicial overhaul will hold a last-ditch effort aimed at blocking the coalition from passing its first law in the contentious legislative package, with a series of events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

A mass march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will reach the capital on Saturday after several days on the road that saw the procession’s numbers swell to 10,000.

After camping out near Jerusalem on Friday night, the marchers plan to resume their walk on Saturday morning and reach the Knesset in the evening.

They will set up tents at the Knesset and remain there for an indefinite amount of time.

Large demonstrations are also set to take place outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night starting at 7:15 p.m.

“We won’t let [Netanyahu] destroy our home,” protest leaders said.

A spokesperson for the protest movement said it was expected that the Jerusalem protest will be the main focus — rallies in Tel Aviv on Saturdays have been the main weekly event for the protest movement, which has raged since the government unveiled its judicial overhaul package in January.

Anti-overhaul activists marching to Jerusalem, on July 21, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It will be the 29th week of protests since the government announced its plans to drastically weaken the judiciary.

Protests are scheduled in other cities around the country on Saturday starting at 6 p.m., including Haifa, Rehovot, Bat Yam, Kfar Saba, Ramat Gan, Herzliya and Beersheba.

A women-led protest will set out from Netanya’s mall at 7:50 p.m. amid increasing concerns over legislation and decisions made by the government that harm women’s rights.

Several events are scheduled for Tel Aviv on Saturday, with marches from across the city expected to converge on Kaplan Street at 8 p.m.

According to Channel 13 news, leading businesspeople and economic leaders are expected to formally join the Kaplan demonstration for the first time, amid growing pressure from overhaul opponents for them to lead a strike.

The so-called Business Forum, made up of the CEOs of many of the country’s top companies, banks and retail groups — will reportedly hold a meeting after the protest to decide whether to take further and more aggressive action, similar to the strike they led along with the Histadrut labor union earlier this year. While the Business Forum has long warned of the financial damage the overhaul will cause, the executives are said to be concerned about potential boycotts.

In addition, the heads of leading universities were set to strike on Sunday in a symbolic move while the educational institutions were set to remain open.

“We believe that the completion of the procedure to curtail the reasonableness legislation in the second and third readings in the Knesset is a dangerous and destructive move for the Israeli academy and the entire State of Israel,” the university presidents said in a statement, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

Israelis protest the government’s judicial overhaul plans in Tel Aviv, on July 20, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The action will be taken by the presidents of Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, Bar Ilan University, Haifa University, the Technion, the Weizmann Institute and the Open University. While Ariel University in the West Bank is also a member of the forum, it currently does not have a president.

Protesters based abroad are also stepping up their efforts over the weekend, including with a march across New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge set to be held on Sunday morning.

The government is preparing to pass into law a ban on courts striking down governmental and ministerial decisions based on their “reasonableness.” The legislation is expected to pass early next week and become the first part of the coalition’s judicial overhaul package to become law.

The bill would ban the Supreme Court and lower courts from using the reasonableness standard to review decisions made by the government and cabinet ministers.

Proponents say the bar on the use of the doctrine is needed to halt judicial interference in government decisions, arguing that it amounts to unelected judges substituting their own judgment for that of elected officials.

Opponents argue that the legislation is far too broad and will weaken the court’s ability to review decisions that harm civil rights and hinder its ability to protect the independence of senior civil servants who hold sensitive positions, such as the attorney general, police commissioner and others.

Protesters say the full legislative package will fundamentally alter Israel’s democratic character by removing the judiciary’s ability to act as a check on the governing coalition.

A bonfire burns as Israelis block the Ayalon Highway to protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Alongside the street protests, more than 1,100 Air Force reservists issued a letter Friday announcing that they will suspend their volunteer reserve duty in protest of the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.

The reservists’ announcement — unprecedented in scale and in terms of the centrality to the Israel Defense Forces of the signatories — was the latest to send shockwaves through the IDF, which is struggling to stem a growing flood of reserve troops dropping out of volunteer duty to protest the overhaul, as defense officials warned the phenomenon could affect national military preparedness.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is reportedly attempting to delay the Knesset vote on the reasonableness bill, to defuse the military crisis. Gallant is reportedly meeting with the heads of coalition parties to try to reach an agreement to extend the summer session of the Knesset, which is due to end next week, in order to allow a compromise.

The second and third readings on the reasonableness bill, an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary, will begin on Sunday in the Knesset plenum, and the bill is expected to be approved and passed into law on Monday or Tuesday. The timeframe would not allow for the bill to be renegotiated without extending the summer session.

Netanyahu delivered a speech on Thursday defending the judicial push, sparking angry protests throughout the country.

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