July 24 (UPI) — Israel began voting on a series of judicial reforms Monday as police cracked down on protesters outside of the parliamentary building.
The body started the proceedings by weighing some 140 amendments to the so-called “reasonableness” law that would limit the ways in which the Supreme Court can overturn government decisions.
The vote comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stood by the reforms despite fierce opposition, was released from the hospital after a more than day-long stay over the weekend to be fitted with a pacemaker.
Ahead of the vote, Justice Minister Yariv Lenin told the Knesset that “reasonableness” was a subjective legal concept, stating that the high court was not justified in overruling elected officials based on the principle.
“You want to decide what’s reasonable and what’s not, instead of the people chosen by the nation?” Lenin said, referring to the high court judges. “That’s reasonable?”
Opponents argued that the law would give the government unchecked and unchallenged power, threatening Israel’s democracy.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid blasted the ruling coalition for failing to agree on a compromise.
“They want to tear apart the state, tear apart democracy, tear apart the security of Israel, the unity of the poeple of Israel, and our international relations,” he said.
While lawmakers debated inside the Knesset, protests roiled outside and groups continued to rally against the measure.
Protesters blocked roads as their numbers grew throughout Monday and police said at least 19 people were arrested as they doused demonstrators with water cannons.
In addition to the demonstrations, many groups have also threatened to stop work over the legislation.
A coalition of 150 significant businesses refused to open to show their displeasure over the bill.
Israel’s largest labor union, the Histadrut, has threatened to strike in hopes to duplicate a walkout in March that shuttered the country’s economy and forced a delay in the judicial bill’s process.
Military reservists also announced last week that they would stop serving if the measure is implemented.