“Day of Disruption” Protests in Israel Lead to Mass Arrests

Protesters in Israel

Large numbers were arrested in Israel, as protesters took to the streets for a “day of disruption” following the enactment of the first portion of controversial judicial reforms.

The legislation, intended to preserve the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was passed with the required majority of 61 votes to 47 votes early on Thursday morning, following a heated all-night debate.

Netanyahu delivered a televised address on Thursday evening in which he called for unity and pledged to protect civil rights and democracy.

“We cannot allow any disagreement, no matter how heated, to jeopardize our shared future,” he said. “To prevent a rift in the populace, each side must consider the claims and concerns of the other side seriously.

“Before now, my hands were tied. Now I am participating,” he said, referring to a now-obsolete decision by the attorney general’s office prohibiting his participation in the judicial overhaul due to a potential conflict of interest in light of his corruption trial.

The prime minister’s remarks came at the conclusion of a tumultuous day in Israel, during which the societal, constitutional, and political crises precipitated by the judicial reform were manifest.

According to the first part of the proposals enacted on Thursday, Israel’s attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, is no longer in a position to declare Netanyahu unfit for office, even if she believes he is attempting to use the judicial reform to overturn his criminal charges. The prime minister denies every accusation made against him.

Israel’s newly elected government, comprised of far-right and religious parties, introduced the amendment in February in response to the Baharav-Miara decision barring Netanyahu from engaging with the judicial reform, out of concern that the attorney general could declare Netanyahu “incompetent.”