Israeli police crack down on protests against Netanyahu-led government’s ‘judicial reforms’

Israeli police crack down on protests against Netanyahu-led government’s ‘judicial reforms’

Thousands across country take to streets in protest as Israeli parliament convenes for vote on planned reforms

By Enes Canli

JERUSALEM (AA) - Israeli police clashed with demonstrators Wednesday who were protesting against a judicial reform program which they say threatens democracy, as it would give the government too much influence over the choice of judges and limit the independence of the Supreme Court.

As the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, convened to hold a preliminary vote on the controversial bill, thousands of demonstrators across the country were organizing acts of civil disobedience against the planned reform.

On Wednesday morning, protesters shut down a highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with chains and barbed wire.

At various locations in Tel Aviv, thousands of Israelis waving Israeli flags and holding banners also took to the streets and shut down multiple roads and roundabouts.

Police intervened, throwing stun grenades, and mounted police baton-charged demonstrators.

Some protestors reportedly gathered in front of the Knesset building and attempted to prevent members from leaving.

-28 protestors detained so far

Israeli police have so far detained 28 people who have taken part in ongoing civil disobedience actions across Israel.

A hospital in Tel Aviv announced that 11 people who suffered minor injuries during the demonstrations were being treated.

While demonstrations in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem are expected, Israelis against judicial reform began to gather in front of the Knesset.

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir accused the protestors of being “anarchists” and expressed his support for all methods by the Israeli police to disperse them.

In a statement, he argued that the demonstrators broke through police barriers and attacked the police, adding that from this moment on, the police should use all methods to maintain public order.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that "we will not allow violence against police officers, the blocking of highways and the gross violation of the laws of the state.”

Netanyahu also announced his “full backing to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Israel Police Inspector-General and the officers of the Israel Police, who are acting against lawbreakers who are disrupting Israeli citizens' daily lives."

-Parliamentarians from opposition benches to join demonstrations

Israel’s Yesh Atid and Labour factions announced that their deputies will walk out of the Knesset and join “the thousands of patriotic protesters in Tel Aviv, who demonstrate against the aggressiveness of the government and the destruction of Israeli democracy.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called on Israel’s police chief to “ignore the political and dangerous attempts being made by Itamar Ben-Gvir, who's trying to fan the flames.”

In a tweet, Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli said “Israeli Police is not the private militia of Ben-Gvir or Netanyahu.”

Proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the reforms, if enacted, would be the most radical change ever in the Israeli system of government.

The planned change would severely limit the power of the Supreme Court, give the government the power to choose judges, and end the appointment of legal advisers to ministries by the attorney general.

However, Netanyahu insists that his judicial plan would enhance democracy.

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