Israel police said on Tuesday that since protests began in the early morning hours, at least 42 people were arrested after clashing with the forces and violating public order. protesters blocked major routes around the country including the entrances to Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem as demonstrations spread to more locations after the coalition passed the first reading of a bill to limit the power of the Supreme Court to rule on decisions of the executive branch. The bill passed the first stage of legislation late on Monday with a 64 to 56 majority vote.
A 40-year-old protester was hurt by a police water cannon in Jerusalem and was taken to hospital for treatment another protester was wounded in Tel Aviv.
Arnon Bar David, chairman of the Histadrut, Israel's largest labor union called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt his legislative push although he would not commit to joining the protests. "Stop this mad chaos," he said, speaking in Tel Aviv.
Hundreds of doctors and medical professionals wearing white robes gathered to demonstrate in Tel-Aviv under a banner claiming the legislation has caused a medical emergency. "There is no human medicine or compassion in a dictatorship, Professor Doron Kopelman, Head of the surgical department at the Technion said. Medical teams at the Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva, also walked out to join the protest.
Some 300 cyber experts said they are no longer willing to volunteer to serve in the IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad out of concern that the government will make ill use of the powerful cyber tools at Israel's disposal. "This criminal government threatens the basis of democracy," they said. Their protests joins hundreds of other volunteers in the IDF reserves from elite and fighting units who have said they would not serve a dictatorship.
Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar (Likud) said the protests are anarchy. "The protesters chose to break the law. That is not democracy," he said adding he does not think there is a need to return to talks with the opposition to find common ground. "Today's protests motivate us to continue with the legislation," Zohar said.
The main demonstration will take place at the Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel's main gateway, at 4 pm. Some 84,000 people are expected to pass through the airport on 499 flights. The Airport Authority said it had made preparations to deal with the tens of thousands of expected protesters and would bar them from entering the main terminal building.
Protests will also be held in airports around the world including New York City, San Francisco, Washington, Seattle, London, Paris Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Amsterdam and Zurich. Activists in Israel's UnXeptable Movement of ex-pats opposed to Israel's government will hand out leaflets explaining their concerns that Israel was turning away from a democratic regime.
Main routes leading into cities and on major highways will also see demonstrators from the early morning hours to protest the government's push to pass the judicial overhaul.
The protests have been taking place for the past 27 weeks since Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced the government's plan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the bill does make Israel undemocratic. "It is not the end of democracy, it strengthens democracy," Netanyahu said in a video statement as the Knesset debated the bill. "Even after the amendment court independence and civil rights in Israel will not be harmed in any way. The court will continue to oversee the legality of government action and appointments," Netanyahu said.
He opted to forge ahead with the legislative push despite being criticized by leaders across the world and especially in Washington, where he has yet to be invited to meet with U.S. President Biden. In an interview on Sunday, Biden called Netanyahu's coalition the 'most extreme' he has ever seen in his decades of support for Israel.
After Biden came under attack for "intervening in Israel's internal matters," by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, his outgoing ambassador Tom Nides said the president cannot stand by while Israel was "going off the rails."
First published: 07:28, 07.11.23