Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Baroness Kennedy speak at the Uyghur protest


Thousands protest outside Israel’s parliament against judicial reforms

Thousands of Israelis protested outside parliament on Monday against the government’s controversial reform plan, which aims to give lawmakers substantially more control over the Supreme Court. caused widespread criticism and accusations that they would give the legislature almost unchecked authority. Thousands gathered outside the Israeli Knesset, waving Israeli flags and placards reading “Save Israel democracy” and “All the world is watching,” with multiple Israeli media outlets estimating the crowd at between 50,000 and 60,000. President Isaac Herzog, in a rare national speech late Sunday, focusing on the reform plan, warned that Israel was “on the brink of legal and social collapse.” Herzog, playing a largely ceremonial role, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline right-wing government to pause the legislative process and hold numerous ks with the opposition in hopes of reaching a compromise. “I appeal to you with a request that the bill not be introduced at first reading,” Herzog said. But the committee tasked with reviewing a plan in line with Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposal was to pass parts of the legislation on Monday. – ‘End of democratic era’ – It was not immediately clear when the government would hold its first vote in parliament. It takes three plenum votes for a bill to become law. There were minor disturbances in the hearing room as opposition lawmakers left their seats to verbally confront committee chair Simcha Rotman. Security personnel restrained at least two opposition members. Lapid later told journalists that the bill’s passage would mark “the end of this country’s democratic era,” calling the Netanyahu government “extremist and corrupt.” Netanyahu and his allies say the reforms are needed to address a power imbalance between elected representatives and the country’s highest court. His administration wants to give the government de facto control over Supreme Court nominees, a role currently filled by a mixed panel of politicians, judges and members of the bar association. Levin’s plan would also give parliament the power to make the highest judicial decisions through a simple majority vote. Corruption trial – Critics, including Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, have denounced the bill as an attack on the independence of Israel’s judiciary. Some critics of Netanyahu have also linked the reform plan to his ongoing corruption trial, arguing that he is trying to undermine a justice system he has accused of unfairly targeting him for political reasons. Netanyahu has denied the allegations of corruption. The veteran leader, who retook power last year after spending 14 months in the opposition, has also firmly rejected any connection between the Justice Minister’s proposal and his own trial. Levin, responding to Herzog’s proposal, told the Israeli media that he was prepared and “wants to enter into a sincere dialogue with the members of the opposition” about ways to improve the judiciary. But he rejected any “link… between dialogue and progress with the legislative process”. not “become a means of dragging feet to delay and prevent substantial and meaningful reform of the justice system”. bur-bs/fz

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