President issues warning as Israel moves forward with justice reform 

Tel Aviv, Mar. 14, (dpa/GNA) - The Israeli parliament on Monday evening approved a controversial bill that would make it much harder to suspend the country’s prime minister, bringing forward judicial reforms that have led to mass protests for weeks. 

Following hours of heated debate, 61 out of 120 lawmakers voted in favour and 51 against the proposed draft law in the first reading. The rest were absent or abstained. 

Two more readings are required in the Knesset, as the country’s parliament is known, before the controversial bill comes into force. 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned that the bitter dispute over the legal reforms was having serious repercussions on the nation that could have serious diplomatic, economic, social and security implications. 

“We are in a bad, very bad situation,” Herzog said, according to his office. He described the situation as an “internal struggle that is tearing us apart.” 

The president said he was making every effort to reach an agreement to save Israel from the crisis. 

He was meeting with everyone and listening to everyone, Herzog said, adding he was trying to find a solution “that will establish the principles of the State of Israel for many generations to come.” 

This is “not a political compromise, but a Sisyphean effort to find the right formula of balance and hope,” the president said. 

The reform of the judiciary in Israel is progressing rapidly, despite massive protests against the plans. 

According to media reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious government wants to push through key elements of its controversial justice reform in fast-track procedures before the end of this month. 

The draft bill, which was approved by a special committee on Monday ahead of the vote in the Knesset, stipulates that a three-quarters majority in parliament would be needed to remove a prime minister from office. This would also only be possible for psychological or other health reasons. 

The move is intended to prevent the Supreme Court or the Attorney General’s Office from influencing an impeachment. 

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara had warned that this change could lead to “absurd situations.” She argued that it creates a “black hole” because it prevents any legal supervision. 

The amendments are intended to allow parliament to overrule Supreme Court decisions by a simple majority. Netanyahu’s government also aims to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn simple laws. 

There have been massive protests against the judicial reform over the past 10 weeks, but efforts to find a compromise have so far been unsuccessful. 

Critics see the judicial reform as endangering the separation of powers and warn that Israel could turn into a dictatorship. 

The bill could also play into the hands of Prime Minister Netanyahu in a corruption trial that has been running against him for some time. 

The government, on the other hand, argues that the Supreme Court currently exercises too much political influence.  

A few days ago, Herzog spoke out publicly against the plans of the right-wing religious government for the first time. 

He said the judicial reform was wrong, repressive and undermined Israel’s democratic foundations.