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Israeli Mass Protests Escalate as Government Doubles Down on Judicial Reform

By Belal Awad · July 22, 2023

Israeli anti-judicial reform protests - Jerusalem February 20, 2023  Wikimedia Commons

Protesters have set up camp outside the Israeli Knesset as Israel finds itself on the precipice of a controversial judicial overhaul that has plunged the country into a unprecedented political crises. On Monday, the government is set to vote on the so-called “probability law” a contentious piece of legislation aimed at limiting the powers of the Supreme Court. The move has ignited mass protests and civil disobedience across the nation.

Journalist and commentator Oren Ziv told Al Jazeera that many protesters believe it’s their “last chance to prevent these bills and other bills to pass. They’re marching to the parliament [as]… they mention Tahrir Square and the protests in Ukraine” referencing the revolutionary protests that engulfed Egypt and Ukraine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition, initially sought to implement a comprehensive set of bills that would radically alter the way the judicial system operates. The stiff opposition and widespread demonstrations that ensued convinced the government to back down and take a more incremental approach: “They’re doing it slowly because they understood that if they do it in one go, the protests and the resistance in Israel and abroad from the US will be too strong,” said Ziv.

The scalled-back “probability law” aims to prevent the Supreme Court from intervening in or altering policies set by government ministers. Proponents of the bill argue that it will streamline decision making and reduce the judiciary’s interference in executive affairs. Critics, including protesters on the ground, however, see it as a dangerous step towards undermining the independent checks and balances of the Israel’s legal system.

As the demonstrations enter their 29th week, the tension is palpable. The outcome of Monday’s Knesset vote remains uncertain. Observers are closely monitoring whether the government will persist with its incremental approach or attempt a more comprehensive judicial overhaul in the future. It is indeed a pivotal moment for the country, as the ramifications of the probability law loom large, potentially setting the stage for further judicial changes in the future.

Light Wave commentary

The protests in Israel over the proposed judicial changes have reached a critical juncture. The government argues that the reforms will bring more efficiency to decision making, while protesters fear it may weaken the independence of the judiciary. It remains to be seen how the government will respond to the widespread concerns over what would be structural changes to how Israel’s government operations. This is a moment for compromise and cool heads.