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Israel Judicial Reform: Netanyahu Leaves Hospital Ahead of Key Vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been discharged from hospital after emergency surgery to fit a pacemaker.

Mr Netanyahu had been admitted to the Sheba Medical Centre on Saturday night.

His hospitalisation came ahead of a key vote expected in parliament on Monday on contentious plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.

Protests against the reform have swept across Israel, with many workers vowing to strike if it goes ahead.

In a video on Sunday following the surgery, Mr Netanyahu said he was in “excellent health” and planned to be in parliament for the vote.

The vote will amount to a showdown between the hard-line religious-nationalist coalition and swathes of Israeli society. Parliament began debating the highly contested bill to limit the Supreme Court’s powers on Sunday.

One by one, Israeli opposition MPs took to the floor of the parliament chamber, pleading with the government to ditch its judicial reform plans.

The last few days have seen tens of thousands of protesters march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to oppose the justice system changes, with people filling the main highway.

Many protesters camped up at Sacher Park in Jerusalem, near the parliament, after the four-day protest march.

Anti-government protesters stand among tents after spending the night in a tent camp at Sacher Park, near the Israeli Knesset, following a four-day protest march to Jerusalem against the government's planned justice system reform, in Jerusalem, 23 July 2023.

Demonstrations near the parliament are expected, and the coalition also faces the threat of a mass boycott of service duty by thousands of military reservists, including hundreds of air force pilots, if the law passes.

Three former army chiefs of staff and dozens of senior Israeli security officials signed a letter on Saturday criticising the government’s judicial reform plans and supporting reservists.

“This legislation is destroying the common foundations of Israeli society, ripping the people apart, dismantling the army and inflicting fatal harm to Israel’s security,” the letter reads.

Brothers in Arms, which represents 10,000 reservists, have voiced their frustration at the government’s plans.

“We’ve tried everything, this is where we draw the line,” Eyal Nave, one of the leaders of Brothers in Arms, said.

“We pledged to serve the kingdom and not the king,” Mr Nave said. Appealing directly to Mr Netanyahu, he said: “You and only you are responsible for what is happening here. We had faith in the government but the government broke us.

“I will not volunteer to serve in a dictatorial state,” Mr Nave added.

A boycott by such a large number would seriously impact the operational capability of the Israeli military and so this is being seen as one of the most pivotal moments in the anti-government protest movement so far.

Israel’s Supreme Court is the only source of scrutiny on the government’s use of its power.

Mr Netanyahu’s critics worry the reform will severely undermine Israel’s democracy by weakening the judicial system.

Supporters of the reforms argue that the Supreme Court has become increasingly “activist” over the decades, hindering the policies of democratically elected governments. They accuse judges of making politically-based decisions.

But many worry the prime minister – who currently faces corruption charges, which he denies – is trying to use the judicial reform to thwart his own legal issues.

Mr Netanyahu vehemently denies such accusations.

Merav Michaeli, a former government minister who chairs Israel’s Labour party, said “a tiny majority” of politicians was “coming to really ruin the state of Israel”.

Source : BBC