Protests continue to rock Israel for the 10th week as opponents of controversial judicial reforms sought by the government demonstrated Wednesday at Ben Gurion airport, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure on an official trip to Germany.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Knesset voted to approve a bill in the first reading that would allow lawmakers to scrap Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority vote.
The Netanyahu government, which includes ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right-wing parties, introduced its package to overhaul the judiciary in January.
The prime minister, who also has a planned trip to Britain, presented the plan as key to restoring the balance between the branches of government in a system he believes gives judges too much power over elected officials.
The reforms would also grant the ruling coalition more powers in appointing judges.
But the move has sparked 10 consecutive weeks of nationwide demonstrations, with critics expressing concerns that the reform package threatens Israel’s liberal democracy.
They have also charged that the proposed changes aim to protect the Israeli prime minister as he fights corruption charges.
At Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, some demonstrators held aloft banners that read “Crime Minister”, in reference to Netanyahu’s ongoing legal battle.
Israeli President Issac Herzog has tried to broker dialogue and called on the coalition government last week to halt the legislation, dubbing it “a threat to the foundations of democracy”.
Herzog warned late on Monday that the “constitutional and social crisis” was damaging the country and “could have diplomatic, economic, social and security repercussions”.
Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, has refused to engage in dialogue before the ruling coalition entirely freezes its push to turn the bills into law.
Lapid and three other Jewish opposition party leaders said they would boycott the final votes on the legal reform bills if they reach their third readings. The heads of the two Arab opposition parties did not attend the meeting.
A group of prominent scholars have meanwhile sought to present to the parliament a compromise version of the reforms, declaring that the aim was “preventing constitutional chaos.”