Israeli parliament approves key part of Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan

All 64 members of the ruling coalition voted in favor of the bill, but no lawmakers voted against it.

Netanyahu, who attended the vote hours after being released from a hospital following an emergency heart procedure, and his allies say the change is necessary to prevent unelected judges from overruling democratic leaders.

President Isaac Herzog had tried to find a compromise between the government and the opposition parties, and called the showdown between the two parties a «national emergency».

Thousands of protesters outside the Knesset believe the government’s proposed judicial reform is a national crisis and argue that a crucial check on political power will now be lost, damaging the Jewish state’s democracy and increasing Netanyahu’s power.

Protesters beat drums, honked horns and waved Israeli flags as they blocked a road leading to the Knesset. Businesses closed in protest. The police used water cannons against the demonstrating crowd.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the Knesset after being released from the hospital.Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Police earlier said that 12 protesters, dubbed «rioters», had been detained near the Knesset and that one had bitten a police officer.

Protesters say Netanyahu faces a choice between democracy and autocracy.

“After an unprecedented wave of protests and clear warnings from the security establishment, industry leaders, the high-tech sector, the unions and now directly from the White House, today Netanyahu will decide between the will of the people and the will of extremists in his own government,” Shikma Bressler, leader of the protest movement, said in a statement ahead of the final vote.

Many military reservists and retired veterans are taking part in direct action, a sign of how deeply reform is felt in Israeli society.

“We are not going to continue risking our lives by going to serve in an air force of a country that is not democratic. It’s as simple as that,» Guy Poran, a former air force pilot now leading a protest movement, said before the vote.

“Either you are in favor of this type of legislation or you are fighting against it. And this is something that has never happened in the 75 years of Israel’s existence. And frankly, it’s terrifying,” she said.