Israeli protesters block highway as government presses on with judicial overhaul

JERUSALEM: Israeli protesters blocked the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Wednesday (Mar 1), as lawmakers were set to plough ahead with a contentious judicial overhaul that opponents see as a threat to democracy.

“Israel is not a dictatorship, Israel is not Hungary,” the protesters called, waving blue and white Israeli flags.

Demonstrations were expected to intensify nationwide in what protest organisers have dubbed a “day of disruption”. Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he would not allow a “mutiny”, or “anarchists” to block roads.

The reform was proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition government in January. It includes giving the government decisive sway in picking judges and limits the scope of the Supreme Court to strike down legislation or rule against the executive.

Critics say that this would greatly weaken judicial independence, given Israel has no constitution and only one house of parliament that is controlled by the coalition.   

In parliament on Wednesday, the Knesset’s Constitution, Justice and Law Committee was set to give initial approval to more proposals in the plan.

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