Israel dispatch: protests against Netanyahu judicial reforms continue as president says the nation is being ‘torn apart’ Dispatches
© Paz Burd
Israel dispatch: protests against Netanyahu judicial reforms continue as president says the nation is being ‘torn apart’

Yael Iosilevich is a law student in the Buchmann Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University and JURIST’s Staff Correspondent in Israel.   

On Thursday Israeli citizens participated in a “day of resistance”, another planned protest against the Israeli government’s radical judicial reform plans. Protesters in 130 locations throughout the country continued to demand that the legislation be stopped. The protests included blocking main roads leading to the national airport in Tel Aviv. This was in response to the scheduled departure of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his wife for a political meeting in Italy.

More events from yesterday:

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Minister of National Security, along with the Commissioner of Police, has removed the commander of the Tel-Aviv District from his position. That is due to the commander’s perceived restraint towards protesters, which contrasts with Ben-Gvir’s approach. While the commander was away the previous week, serious violence broke out between the protesters and the Police, with stun grenades and water cannons being used against the demonstrators. On Thurday, during the protest that blocked a major road to Tel Aviv, there were minor clashes with the Police, but no significant violence occurred. Ben-Gvir denies any political motive behind the commander’s removal.

Despite the protests, Netanyahu and his wife got off their plane to Italy, and while in the air, president Herzog announced he would be making a speech to the nation.

In the past weeks, Herzog has tried to unite the sides and encouraged conversation and negotiations. Still, yesterday his speech was different – a clear and unforgiving call for action and responsibility, with a clear warning of what’s at stake: “The sights of this day are a nightmare for a country. Enough, I can no longer watch our nation being torn apart before my eyes.
What is happening here is a disaster.”

Herzog continued to explain the concept of a fixed point in negotiations. Before this explanation, the opposing sides had not engaged in public negotiations, instead going back and forth on the terms for discussion. The opposition has insisted on halting legislation until agreements were reached, while the coalition would only agree to negotiate if legislation continued as planned. Herzog said: “I was able to bring about a situation where the gaps were greatly reduced, and there are agreements regarding most of the issues. True, not all issues have been resolved, but on the absolute majority – certainly enough to abandon the proposed legislation now, and bring in its place a discussion with a different outline, agreed upon, for the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset.”

He then continued with clear warnings: “”The set of legislation currently being discussed in the committee needs to be passed from the world and quickly. It is wrong, predatory, and undermines our democratic foundations, and therefore it must be replaced by another, agreed-upon outline, and immediately… Our democracy is a supreme value, an independent and robust judicial system is a supreme value, the preservation of human rights, men and woman alike, with an emphasis on minorities, and the unique and rich Israeli mosaic, are a supreme value. ”

The speech ended with a call for action, a wake-up call for the leaders:

You have to decide, coalition and opposition alike, whether the State of Israel and its citizens are above all else or whether egos and foreign political interests will kick us off the cliff’s edge. Do you want me to help you? I am ready to help you, but the responsibility is on you, on all factions of the house. The choice is one: either a disaster or a solution. If you choose to continue on the path you’ve been on so far, the chaos is in your hands. History will judge you. Take responsibility, and immediately.

The protests ended in the evening after a terror shooting in central Tel Aviv by a gunman related to the Hamas Terror group. Four citizens were wounded.