Protest against judicial reform in Israel blocks access to Tel Aviv airport for two hours

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog this Thursday carefully analyzed the political and social crisis the country is experiencing by urging the government in an unusual speech to the nation to withdraw its controversial judicial reform proposal “forever.” and replace it with a consensus text that has been devised in recent academic days from various tendencies. In Israel, the president has a formal role, but can relinquish it to arbitrate in political crises; and Herzog, who has been accused by critics of lukewarm reforms in recent days, did so to label the proposed legislation (passed in parliament last week in the first of three readings) as “wrong, oppressive and a danger to the fundamental democracies of the US.” to indicate the country. “Legislation as it stands now must disappear from the world […] It must be immediately replaced by another agreed plan,” he stressed. He also said there was agreement on “the vast majority” of the issues surrounding an alternative compromise text, which he was working “tirelessly”.

Herzog delivered his speech (his second in the current crisis, after the one in mid-February) at the end of the “Day of Resistance to Dictatorship,” as the anti-reform protest movement called it. In a new impetus for the government, tens of thousands of Israelis took part in demonstrations, rallies and riots at more than 100 locations across the country on Thursday.

The main march took place in Tel Aviv, where thousands of people demonstrated waving Israeli flags and chanting, “The time has come to overthrow the despot.” The coastal city is the epicenter of the protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets in the past two months. If implemented, the reform proposal criticized by Herzog will weaken the STF and change the system for electing its judges in favor of the executive. Netanyahu’s government, inaugurated in December, defends it as a means of strengthening democratically elected institutions against a Supreme Court accusing it of meddling too much in politics. Instead, the critics see it as an attempt to cover up the far-right government’s separation of powers over the country’s seven-decade history, in the style of Poland and Hungary. These are two countries whose names are often shouted by Israelis at demonstrations to make it clear to the executive that this is not the path their country should take.

The reform would allow parliament to overturn a Supreme Court decision and turn government legal advisers (now professional positions with authoritative opinions) into politicians whose review would be advisory only. It would also give the executive branch a majority on the committee that appoints the court’s judges, and would remove a legal instrument that allows the Supreme Court to overturn policy decisions or appointments it deems “improper.”

During the day, a group of protesters blocked the main entrance to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport for just over two hours in an attempt to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from flying – unsuccessfully – to Rome to meet his Italian counterpart. Georgia Meloni. Police diverted traffic without seriously disrupting the affected terminal and evacuated the area. Some officers used force, but in time, not using the water cannons they brought into the area. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who had warned in an interview with Channel 13 that he “would not allow anarchists to blockade the airport”, went to Ben Gurion to oversee operations. “It is not right to ruin the lives of 70,000 people,” he said, referring to travelers who would use the facilities during the day.

Some passengers had to walk over the curb with their bags to get to the airport. Protest organizers had previously warned travelers to check in early and arrive early. The traffic jam on the road from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv was striking. “We will not allow the lives of the citizens of Israel to be interrupted. […] We will not allow anyone to reverse the decision of the majority in the State of Israel made during the last election,” Netanyahu said on his Telegram channel on Thursday afternoon. There are 15 detainees in the two largest cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

How the prime minister arrived at the airport is unclear. It was first revealed to be a Jerusalem military helicopter, but some local media suspect it was a decoy. What is certain is that the protest necessitated changing the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had to change his plans and meet Netanyahu and his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant at the airport.

The protest also led to partial strikes, protests outside universities and riots outside the homes of members of the executive branch. In the north of the country, dozens of boats and kayaks tried to block access to Haifa’s port. Several vehicles also blocked an intersection. Some groups, such as social workers, military veterans, lawyers or workers from industries such as high tech or healthcare, demonstrated.

A group of protesters blocked a highway in Tel Aviv on Thursday. ABIR SULTAN (EFE)

Herzog’s speech and the protesters’ new show of force come as they attempt to reach out to the military, by far the institution most valued by Israel’s Jews, in part for its unifying role in a country fraught with fault lines. The most recent example is a letter in which some 400 Maglan Special Forces reservists urge Defense Secretary Yoav Gallant to use their influence to halt judicial reform to “protect the State of Israel” and to warn that they will not “stand still”. if it eventually advances, because “it would change the face of the country.” This Thursday, the Air Force announced its first punishment: the expulsion of a reservist, who does not identify himself, for “failing to follow the commander’s instructions”.

Police officers on horseback during a protest through the streets of Tel Aviv Thursday. RONEN ZVULUN (REUTERS) Design consensus

The consensual text project alluded to by the president is the result of a parallel channel he has created with scholars of different ideological persuasions, as the government and the opposition are not formally discussing the reform: the former insists on paralleling it with parliamentarians from the process and the second requests an adjournment to sit down at the negotiating table. According to Yediot Ahanot newspaper, the updated Knesset (parliament) would not be able to override Supreme Court decisions, nor would the government have an automatic majority to elect judges. Instead, the Court would be stripped of the power to overturn fundamental (constitutional) laws in a country without a constitution, and would limit the tool of “improperness” to “manifestly absurd” decisions that did not concern “policies or appointments “.

Protest in central Tel Aviv on Thursday. RONEN ZVULUN (REUTERS)

Government Secretary Yossi Fuchs, who has the responsibilities of a chief of staff, described the proposal on Twitter as “serious” and “a basis for negotiation”, with only “a few loopholes”. Herzog already assured on Monday that the possibility of a framework agreement was “closer than ever” thanks to negotiations “behind the scenes”. However, the protest leaders replied that their “sincere efforts are unfortunately doomed to failure”. “Until they retire [el Gobierno] Your intention to make Israel a dictatorship, we will not give up our fight to keep Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” they condemned.

The controversy seems to have started to create divisions within the executive branch. Public radio reported that several ministers from Likud, the right-wing party led by Netanyahu, are increasingly urging him to put the brakes on the head of the judiciary, Yariv Levin, because the image of the training has been tarnished.

The prime minister has (almost) no one to transport Benjamin Netanyahu to the weekly meeting of the council of ministers in Jerusalem on Sunday. GIL COHEN-MAGEN (REUTERS)

Netanyahu’s trip to Italy on Thursday was preceded by a story showing the scale of the protest. The national airline El Al, traditionally responsible for prime ministers’ trips abroad, has not found a single pilot willing to board the Netanyahus (Benjamin and his wife Sara) in recent days, allegedly due to a hidden uprising, local media reported. . . Typically, these rides are scheduled weeks in advance, but rides added to the schedule later, like this one, depend on a pilot’s availability to run them outside of normal business hours.

Faced with this situation, the Prime Minister’s office opened the tender for other national airlines on Sunday. El Al won again and the first director, Dina Ben Tal Ganancia, announced that the flight will be manned “according to company protocols and take off normally on the scheduled date”. However, Netanyahu will not (as usual and desired) fly in a Boeing 777, but in a 737, of which the airline has more in its fleet and has therefore trained more pilots to fly it. Business Class on the 777 is larger than the 737, with seats that recline fully to double as beds.

While El Al linked the incident to the post-pandemic shortage of pilots on the 777 model, Ben Tal Ganancia’s words point in a different direction: “We will not launch telegrams in any form of boycott, certainly not against this.” Minister of Israel […]. It is a great honor for us to take the Prime Minister on state tours. We have always done that and we will continue to do so in the future.”

Furthermore, this Thursday there is a Facebook post from a Hebrew-to-Italian translator, Olga Dalia Padua, in which she claims she turned down an offer to serve as Netanyahu’s interpreter in Rome because she “respects his leadership in everything.” to do with democracy is extremely dangerous in the State of Israel” and especially because – he emphasizes – his children would not forgive him. “They always encourage me to accept new jobs. But in this case they were determined: we do not cooperate with those who promote fascist principles and suppress freedom. […]. I decided to listen to it,” concludes his response to the suggestion.

Source: La Neta Neta

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