Protests expected in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv as coalition set to pass reasonableness law

Doctors, academics, bereaved families to demonstrate in the capital, with rally expected outside Histadrut HQ in Tel Aviv amid pressure on labor federation to call a strike

View of tents set up by opponents of the judicial overhaul at Gan Sacher in Jerusalem on July 23, 2023 (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
View of tents set up by opponents of the judicial overhaul at Gan Sacher in Jerusalem on July 23, 2023 (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Anti-judicial overhaul protesters were set to demonstrate nationwide on Sunday in response to the coalition’s efforts to pass the “reasonableness” bill, which if voted in will be the first cornerstone of the contentious overhaul to become law.

On Saturday evening, hundreds of thousands of protesters demonstrated across the country against the judicial overhaul, with tens of thousands rallying outside the Knesset in Jerusalem following a mass march from Tel Aviv. The demonstrators set up camp overnight in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park in preparation for Sunday’s protests.

A mass prayer event was held Sunday morning at the Western Wall by both overhaul supporters and opponents as part of an effort to promote national unity in light of the division caused by overhaul efforts. Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitutional Committee and one of the figures most identified with the overhaul, reportedly asked supporters not to participate, according to Channel 12 news.

Events in Jerusalem include a protest by doctors at the entrance to the city, a rally outside the Supreme Court, a march led by university presidents at the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus, and a demonstration led by bereaved families of fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators will gather at the Histadrut labor federation headquarters. In the early hours of Sunday morning, union chief Arnon Bar-David issued a joint statement with Dov Amitai, head of the Israeli Presidency of Business Organizations, saying that they would meet at 4 p.m. to consider “next steps” unless a compromise is reached.

Meanwhile, supporters of the overhaul are set to rally Sunday evening at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, the main spot for anti-overhaul protests since they began six months ago. According to flyers circulating on social media, many participants will be bused into Tel Aviv, largely from West Bank settlements.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators protests against the government’s judicial overhaul legislation in Tel Aviv, July 22, 2023 (Gilad Furst)

The mass demonstrations came as over 10,000 reservists, including pilots and others in top military units, announced they were halting their service, alongside threats of strikes by various professional groups.

The hardline government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared undeterred, however, with multiple anonymous coalition officials telling Hebrew media that they would not capitulate and were determined to pass the legislation.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Netanyahu has commented behind the scenes that “either we reach a compromise by [Sunday] or the bill will pass.”

Hours after the report, Netanyahu had a pacemaker fitted. Ahead of the surgery, he said in a video clip that he was feeling well and would participate in the vote on the “reasonableness” bill in the Knesset, expected for Monday or Tuesday.

Netanyahu also said he was in constant talks with politicians and that he hoped an agreement would be reached with the opposition over the bill, even though Hebrew media reports indicated Saturday that there was no contact over the weekend between the coalition and opposition party leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the architect of the overhaul, filled in as acting prime minister during Netanyahu’s surgery, which required the premier to be sedated.

Netanyahu heads an unprecedentedly hardline Israeli coalition government, which has sparked more than six months of internal opposition over its plans to overhaul the judiciary.

The legislation to block judicial scrutiny over the “reasonableness” of politicians’ decisions is the first overhaul bill to advance since Netanyahu temporarily froze the legislative blitz in late March.

The Knesset breaks for summer recess at the end of the month.

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