Police closed the main streets around the Knesset to traffic on Monday morning ahead of a mass rally that began at noon, just after the coalition passed the first reading of a bill introducing parts of the proposed judicial reform.
Hundreds of hi-tech companies, law firms and other private businesses allowed their employees to join a large-scale private sector strike Monday against plans to overhaul Israel’s courts.
According to leaders of the tech employees’ protest, more than 45 buses brought employees from Tel Aviv, Rehovot, Beersheba, Nahariya and other locations to the protest in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem.
In addition, thousands of doctors and mental health professionals were expected to join the strike.
President fears collapse
The demonstrations come after a rare plea by President Isaac Herzog in favor of consultations and compromises on the reform plan, and a five-point proposal for negotiations on the reorganization of the judiciary.
In his televised address Sunday, Herzog said the country is on the brink of “social and constitutional collapse,” and urged citizens on both sides of the political divide to refrain from violence. “Even more so from violence against public officials and elected representatives,” he pleaded.
The president expressed deep concern about the nature of the government’s reforms, saying he was concerned that they had the potential to affect “the democratic foundations” of the country, yet noted that “change” and “reform” were legitimate aspirations. He proposed a plan to find a compromise on the controversial reform agenda, while urging the coalition not to move forward with the legislative process.
Elite vs. ordinary citizens
It is interesting to see that the protesters against the judicial reform belong to the higher income and educational classes of the country. Lawyers, doctors and hi-tech employees generally represent Israel’s (leftist) elite.
On the other side are the “ordinary” citizens who certified their approval of the reform at the ballot box. Judicial reform was a major issue during the election campaign and those who voted for the parties that now make up the current government knew what they were planning, in particular the overhaul of how the Supreme Court operates.
As the Supreme Court consolidates the elites’ control over the country, opposition to curtailing its power is particularly strong. Israel is evolving, becoming more religious and nationalist. And the Supreme Court stands in the way of this development.
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