Protests: Judicial reform in Israel is progressing - Herzog in the USA

Despite ongoing protests, Israel's government intends to pass part of its controversial plans to restructure the judiciary in the near future.

Protests: Judicial reform in Israel is progressing - Herzog in the USA

Despite ongoing protests, Israel's government intends to pass part of its controversial plans to restructure the judiciary in the near future. The coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has requested a special session in the Israeli parliament (Knesset) next Sunday, as several Israeli media reported. However, the final vote is not expected until Monday afternoon.

Before that, the judiciary committee in parliament must finally approve the legal text and send it to the plenum. On Tuesday, after days of deliberation, the committee began voting on several thousand reservations from the opposition. It was initially unclear when this will be completed. The meeting was initially adjourned for a few hours on Wednesday afternoon.

Herzog speaks in the US Congress

Meanwhile, Israeli President Izchak Herzog continued his visit to the United States. In a speech before both chambers of the US Parliament, he was convinced of the resilience of his country's democracy.

"I am well aware of the shortcomings of Israeli democracy and I am aware of the questions our closest friends are asking," Herzog said, apparently alluding to US concerns about judicial reform.

However, the heated and painful debates of recent months and the protests on the streets are clear evidence of how "lively" democracy is. As President, he will do everything for a broad consensus, he assured.

Herzog gave the speech to mark Israel's 75th anniversary. He is the second Israeli president to address Congress after his father, Chaim Herzog. In the evening, Herzog wanted to meet US Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House. It is expected that the Netanyahu government's comprehensive legislative proposal will also be discussed there.

During a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, Herzog had already tried to calm down the most important ally. "Israeli democracy is solid, strong and resilient," said Herzog. At the same time, he described the domestic political situation in Israel as a "crisis" from which he was looking for a way out.

Protests continue

On Wednesday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered again in several places across the country to protest against the project. According to media reports, dozens of representatives from the medical sector stopped working for around two hours. Hospitals in Tel Aviv and Haifa, for example, took part in the warning strike initiated by the Medical Association.

According to the reports, only part of the medical facilities were affected. Some demonstrators also continued a protest march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that had started in the night. The protest movement encompasses large sections of Israeli society.

The pressure on the government, especially from the military, is increasing massively. Hundreds of reservists in the Israeli Air Force no longer want to appear on duty because of the plans of the right-wing religious government, as reported by Israeli media, citing army circles. Some reservists want to stop their service immediately, others only after the important part of the judicial reform is passed shortly.

Experts have been warning for some time that the refusal of a few hundred reservists could severely limit the air force's operational capability. According to the reports, however, the military stated that it could currently maintain its operational readiness.

Several hundred people protested in front of the US embassy building in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening. The organizers are appealing to the US to use its influence and prevent Israel's government from its controversial plans.

Controversial Plans

The draft law is one of several parts of the right-wing, religious Netanyahu government's plan to weaken the independent judiciary. According to the plans, the Supreme Court should no longer be able to judge decisions by the government or individual ministers as "inappropriate". At the beginning of the year, the judges classified the appointment of the chairman of the Schas party, Arie Deri, as interior minister because of his criminal past as "inappropriate". As a result, Netanyahu had to fire his confidante.

Observers expect that the coalition wants to reverse this with the new law. Critics also fear that opponents of government policy in key positions could be arbitrarily dismissed.