Netanyahu launches contentious overhaul as thousands protest

Tens of thousands of flag-waving Israelis converged on the nation’s parliament, CNN reports.

It comes amid warnings that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the plan to weaken the judiciary, which risks plunging Israel into a “social collapse.”

The plans would give the right-wing Prime Minister Netanyahu greater control of appointments to the bench and weaken the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down legislation or rule against the executive. 

The announcement has triggered angry protests across Israel for weeks.

Despite the protests, the government began introducing the reform bill in parliament, the Knesset, as planned. President Isaac Herzog warned that Israel is “on the brink of constitutional and social collapse,” and possibly faces “a violent collision,” giving an impassioned plea not to start the legislative process. 

Israeli lawmakers traded insults over government plans to overhaul the judiciary. The Knesset Constitution Committee voted to send the first chapter of the plan to the plenum for a first reading, after a rowdy start to the meeting in which several lawmakers were thrown out forcibly, to shouts of “shame, shame”.

Netanyahu is currently on trial on corruption charges. He claims that the changes are needed to restore balance in the system and curb activist judges who have overreached their powers to interfere in the political sphere.

But the plans have exposed deep splits within Israeli society, pitting the economic establishment and more liberal sections of the country against supporters of Netanyahu and his right-wing religious and nationalist coalition allies.

Protesters held signs with messages including “there is no democracy without equality” and “destroying the country to avoid trial” – a reference to the perception that Netanyahu’s desire to halt his corruption trials is behind his government’s planned judicial reforms.

LGBTQ rainbow flags and a few Palestinian flags were sprinkled among many Israeli flags in the crowd.

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