JERUSALEM (AFP): An Israeli parliamentary committee has adopted a key clause of the hard-right government’s controversial judicial reforms, a statement said Thursday, as protests intensified ahead of final votes on the bill.
Parliament’s law committee approved the proposal, which would limit the “reasonability” clause that allows the judiciary to strike down government decisions, in a marathon debate that ended late on Wednesday.
After the panel’s endorsement, “with nine Knesset members supporting and seven opposing” according to a statement from parliament, the bill is due for second and third readings on Monday.
If approved next week by the full parliament, it would be the first major component of the government’s proposed legal overhaul to become law.
Opponents of the government’s reforms, unveiled in January shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, view them as a threat to Israeli democracy.
Protesters have kept up pressure on the government with a months-long wave of demonstrations.
On Thursday morning, demonstrators gathered outside government offices in northern port city of Haifa, organizers said, as hundreds were marching from Tel Aviv to the seat of parliament in Jerusalem.
The judicial reforms have split the nation and sparked one of the biggest protest movements in Israel’s history, with weekly demonstrations often drawing tens of thousands.
Other proposals include giving the government a greater say in the appointment of judges.
The reform package has also drawn international criticism, including from Israel’s close ally the United States.
The government, which includes Netanyahu’s extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues that the changes are necessary to ensure a better balance of power.
Some critics of Netanyahu, who is fighting corruption charges in court, have argued he was seeking to undermine a judicial system he has accused of targeting him unfairly for political reasons.