Israel’s largest-ever domestic crisis enters a new chapter
Thousands of people took to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Monday night, protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan.
Israel has been rocked by months-long demonstrations sparked by a controversial bill, which takes away the power of the unelected supreme court to overrule government decisions.
The bill was passed into law by a final vote of 64-0 in parliament on Monday. While every member of the ruling coalition voted in favour, the opposition shouted “Shame!” as they left.
Israeli Doctors Announce Massive Strike Action
In protest against the passing of a key part of the reform plan, doctors are set to hold a 24-hour strike on Tuesday, with exemptions for emergency care across the country and medical care in Jerusalem.
The Israeli Medical Association, which says it represents about 95% of doctors, is set to be joined in protests by 73% of interns, according to the Intern Doctors Organisation.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Moshe Arbel is reportedly seeking an injunction in an effort to prevent the worrying doctors’ strike from going ahead.
As Israel’s largest-ever domestic crisis deepens, a general strike, legal action and possible refusal from thousands of military reservists to report for duty are on the cards.
Skunk Gas Used On Protesters For The First Time
Police used water canons and skunk gas to disperse the protesters. A number of arrests have also been made. Critics of the bill fear it threatens Israel’s democracy.
Several protesters used different methods to control the stench from the skunk gas, including putting plugs in their noses or holding up sprigs of rosemary.
Walls and fences in Jerusalem were plastered with stickers reading “save Israel from Netanyahu” and “we won’t serve a dictator”.
Vote Could Damage Relations With American Jews?
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “It is unfortunate that the vote took place today with the slimmest possible majority.”
Jewish groups in the US raised warnings against the vote possibly damaging relations with American Jews, condemning the decision as a threat to democracy.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid called it “a sad day”, stressing he would urge the supreme court to strike down the controversial law.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, has pleaded for national unity, saying the bill would “return a measure of balance between the branches of government.”