Anti-government anarchists continued to flood the streets in Jerusalem on Monday following a Knesset vote that passed the so-called “Reasonableness” law, the first part of the coalition’s planned overhaul of Israel’s judicial system. The law eliminates the ability of the Supreme Court to strike down laws and government appointments based on a judge’s opinion of whether those laws or appointments are “reasonable.”
Opposition lawmakers walked out, choosing not to vote at all rather than vote against the measure, albeit in the minority. The measure passed in a vote of 64-0.
Numerous members of the coalition expressed the hope that opposition leaders would agree to talks over the next bills to be debated on the judicial reforms – but it seemed unlikely there would be anyone with whom to negotiate.
Despite additional calls for compromise from former President Reuven Rivlin and current President Isaac Herzog, Opposition Leader MK Yair Lapid declared it was “impossible” to reach any deal “with this government” to preserve democracy.
Lapid instead vowed to petition the Supreme Court on Tuesday to block the measure.
“The government and coalition can choose what direction the state goes in, but it can’t decide the character of the state,” the Yesh Atid chairman said, warning in a statement from the party’s conference room in the Knesset that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has become a puppet on the strings of extremists and messianists . . . This is a sad day, a day of our home’s destruction, of needless hatred.”
The Movement for Quality Government NGO announced following the vote that it had petitioned the Supreme Court for a restraining order against the new law, calling it unconstitutional.
The NGO claims the measure “fundamentally changes the basic structure of Israeli parliamentary democracy and the nature of the regime, while de facto abolishing the judiciary and seriously damaging the delicate fabric of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in the State of Israel.”
Anarchists Block Traffic, Clash with Police
Protesters in Jerusalem called for mass rallies in the capital, blocking access roads to the Knesset and clashing with police for hours around the Knesset prior to the vote.
Minister Mai Golan was attacked by an anarchist before the vote in her hotel. The anarchist was arrested.
מקרה חמור במלון וורט בירושלים: המשטרה עצרה כעת פעילת שמאל מחוץ לחדרה של השרה מאי גולן, לאחר שפגעה פיזית בשרה. המפגינה לגולן: “חתיכת פרחה מרוקאית משכונת התקווה” “את מזוהמת. אדם מסריח. שאמא שלך תנשק עוד פעם את היד של ביבי” “אמא שלך מטומטמת שלא יכלה להביא ילדה נורמלית לעולם” pic.twitter.com/2vqyqrw5sA
— אבי רבינא Avi Ravina (@AviRabina) July 24, 2023
Police used water cannons to clear the rioters from the roads around the Knesset as they locked hands to prevent officers from removing them from the site.
A reporter with Israel’s Channel 12 News was knocked to the ground while doing a live report, and Labor Party MK Na’ama Lazimi was hit by water as she locked arms with other anarchists.
A motorist with little children in her car not only found herself blocked by the anarchists, but one of them smashed in her back window. The anarchist was identified and arrested.
אבל אין אלימות אומרים לכם!!!!…. pic.twitter.com/qGUWZacEfV
— lapidot yisahi (@LapidotYisahi) July 24, 2023
At least 15 arrests were made, mostly for disturbing the peace and blocking roads. One rioter was arrested for biting a police officer. Three police officers were treated for minor injuries, as were five anarchists.
Anti-government mobs blocked the Begin Highway, one of the main arteries to, from and through the city.
Other major highways were also backed up throughout the country as the anarchists railed against having lost the battle against a majority vote, venting their rage by blocking traffic nationwide.
“I’m sitting in traffic,” fumed one JewishPress.com reader. “The entire city is backed up.”
Business Forum Shutters Shopping Centers, Shopping Malls, Hi-Tech Firms
Among the “protesters” were members of a business forum comprised of 150 of Israel’s largest companies that announced a strike for Monday that included the BIG Shopping Centers chain of malls, Azrieli Group companies and malls, Shufersal, Fox and some banks and other commercial chain stores.
About half the stores were closed at the upscale Dead Sea Mall, all of them belonging to major retail chains. Food stores, bakeries and similar shops remained open as they were deemed “essential services”, but parking garages in many of the malls were locked.
Approximately 200 high-tech firms and large legal organizations also announced they were joining the strike, issuing a notice to employees they would permit them to join the anti-overhaul demonstrations. Those involved included Lemonade, HiBob, Wix, Papaya Global and Wiz, Hebrew-language media reported.
President Joe Biden Expresses Support for Israel’s Opposition
President Joe Biden chose to express his opposition to Israel’s elected government as usual through the media, speaking with the Axios news outlet less than 24 hours prior to the Knesset vote on the measure.
“From the perspective of Israel’s friends in the United States, it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less,” he said.
“Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this — the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus.”
Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to move ahead with the planned vote, saying he was “highly concerned” about the legislation and its potential implications.
Following passage of the measure, the Biden administration said the Knesset vote was “unfortunate,” according to a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.
“We believe that for major democratic changes you need to work for consensus,” the NSC official said. “We urge Israeli leaders to work toward a consensus-based approach through political dialog.”
American Jewish Committee Ignores Coalition Efforts to Reach ‘Consensus’
“The new law was pushed through unilaterally by the governing coalition amid deepening divisions in Israeli society as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets,” the American Jewish Committee said.
“Of particular concern to AJC, the continued effort to press forward on judicial reform rather than seeking compromise has sown discord within the Israeli Defense Forces at a time of elevated threats to the Jewish homeland and has strained the vital relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.”
The organization’s lengthy statement ignored the governing coalition’s repeated, fruitless efforts to reach a “consensus” with opposition lawmakers and anarchist organizers.
“We continue to support President Herzog’s efforts to promote national dialogue and call on the parties to resume talks under his auspices. We are gravely concerned about the long-term impact of continued unilateral efforts, and we urge the governing coalition to refrain from taking any additional steps unless compromise is reached,” the AJC added.