Conflicts: Before Knesset session: Netanyahu needs pacemaker surgery

Before Knesset session: Netanyahu needs pacemaker surgery

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received a pacemaker.  Photo: Abir Sultan/EPA POOL via AP/dpa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received a pacemaker. photo

© Abir Sultan/EPA POOL via AP/dpa

Israel has decisive days ahead: Despite protests, the government wants to get a core element of its judicial reform through parliament. Surprisingly, the head of government still has to have an operation beforehand.

Shortly before a decisive vote in parliament on the planned restructuring of the judiciary, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a pacemaker. Doctors at the Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv reportedly said on Sunday morning that the operation had been successful. The prime minister woke up and was fine. The 73-year-old had previously surprisingly announced in a video message that he would be operated on: “I’m doing great, but I’m listening to my doctors,” he said.

Netanyahu: Efforts to reach compromise continue

His right-wing religious government wants to present a core part of its highly controversial plans to the parliament (Knesset) this Sunday in Jerusalem. The deliberation on the draft law begins at 09:00 (CEST). The final vote is not expected until Monday afternoon at the earliest. Several rallies by opponents and supporters of the project are planned during the day. The law is part of a larger package that critics see as a threat to Israel’s democracy.

According to Netanyahu, he should be released from the hospital on Sunday afternoon and be present for the vote in parliament. Efforts to reach a compromise with opponents continued in his absence. Netanyahu was unexpectedly hospitalized last weekend. At the time, it was said that he had been in the sun for too long without water and a hat. A heart monitor that was subsequently attached had now beeped; an immediate operation is necessary.

Protests don’t stop

On Saturday, several hundred thousand people took to the streets against the planned weakening of the judiciary. Channel 13 estimates that around 170,000 people gathered in the center of the coastal city of Tel Aviv and 85,000 in Jerusalem. According to media reports, there were occasional violent clashes with the police. Several demonstrators were arrested.

Organizers of the protests put the number of participants across the country at more than half a million. It would be one of the biggest protest days since the demonstrations began in early January. Israel has around 10 million inhabitants.

For more than six months, the planned restructuring of the judiciary has divided large sections of Israeli society. Protest signs in Tel Aviv read, for example, “Netanyahu the enemy of democracy” or “Save our homeland”. Many Israelis in the metropolis are afraid that Israel could change fundamentally with the legislative package.

Pressure on government from military ranks

Recently, resistance within the military has also increased. On Saturday, around 10,000 reservists announced that they would no longer appear on duty if the government did not stop their plans. According to reports, this could significantly affect the operational readiness of the military.

On Friday, more than 1,000 Air Force reservists had already threatened to refuse service. Defense Minister Joav Galant then announced that he was trying to reach a “consensus”. According to media reports, he is trying to postpone the vote scheduled for Monday. Negotiations on a compromise have so far been unsuccessful.

Demands for a general strike

Thousands also marched to the headquarters of the Confederation of Labor (Histadrut) in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, demanding a general strike be called. Meanwhile, Histadrut boss Arnon Bar-David held consultations on how to proceed.

The Histadrut, with around 800,000 members, called for a general strike at the end of March because of Netanyahu’s dismissal of Galant. The defense minister had previously publicly criticized the approach to restructuring the judiciary. Netanyahu then suspended the plans, and Galant’s dismissal was later reversed.

Bar association wants to take action against the law

The law should no longer allow the country’s highest court to assess a decision by the government or individual ministers as “inappropriate”. Critics fear that this will encourage corruption and thus the arbitrary filling of important posts and layoffs. The Netanyahu government, on the other hand, accuses the judiciary of interfering too much in political decisions.

The head of the Bar Association, Amit Becher, announced in Jerusalem that he would take action if the law was passed. “Should the government lift the adequacy standard on Monday, we will petition the Supreme Court on Tuesday.”


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