Israeli protesters pressed ahead on Thursday with demonstrations against a contentious government plan to overhaul the judiciary, pushing back against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he rejected a compromise proposal that was meant to defuse the crisis.
Despite the effort by the country’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, to seek a way out of the stalemate, the sides appeared to be further digging in. Netanyahu and his allies were set to barrel forward with their original plan despite weeks of mass protests and widespread opposition from across Israeli society and beyond as well as warnings by Herzog that Israel was headed toward an “abyss.”
Protesters were kicking off a third day of disruption since the crisis began, with roads set to close to make way for demonstrators. Protesters in Jerusalem drew a red streak on the streets leading to the country’s Supreme Court and a small flotilla of boats was blocking the shipping lane off the coast of the northern city of Haifa, The Associated Press reported.
Last week, Netanyahu had to be airlifted to the country’s main international airport for an overseas state visit after protesters blocked the road leading there, holding signs that read “don’t come back!” Tens of thousands have been attending weekly protests across the country each Saturday night.
The government says the plan will correct an imbalance between the judicial and executive branches that they say has given the courts too much sway in how Israel is governed. Critics say the overhaul upends the country’s system of checks and balances and gives the prime minister and the government too much power and strips it of judicial oversight. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes, could find an escape route from his legal woes through the overhaul.
Herzog had been meeting for weeks with actors on both sides of the divide to try to reach an acceptable middle ground and his proposal appeared to offer incentives to both sides.
But Netanyahu swiftly rejected the plan as he boarded a plane to Germany, saying it didn’t rectify the issue of balance between the branches. Protests were also expected in Berlin during Netanyahu’s official visit there.