Israel passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue


Israel’s parliament on Thursday passed the first of several laws that make up its contentious judicial overhaul as protesters opposing the changes staged another day of demonstrations aimed at raising alarm over what they see as the country’s descent toward autocracy.

Thousands of people protested throughout the coun-try, blocking traffic on main highways and scuffling with police in unrest that shows no sign of abating, especially as the overhaul moves ahead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition approved legislation that would protect the Israeli leader from being deemed unfit to rule because of his corruption trial and claims of a conflict of interest surrounding his involvement in the legal changes. Critics say the law is tailor-made for Netanyahu, encourages corruption and deepens a gaping chasm between Israelis over the judicial overhaul.

Netanyahu’s office said he would be delivering “an important declaration” Thursday evening after Israeli media reported that his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, would publicly call for a halt to the legisla-tive drive. Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife and close informal advisor, also issued a rare statement calling for broad compromise.

The legal changes have split the nation between those who see the new policies as stripping Israel of its democratic ideals and those who think the country has been overrun by a liberal judiciary. The gov-ernment’s plan has plunged the nearly 75-year-old nation into one of its worst domestic crises.

“Either Israel will be a Jewish, democratic and pro-gressive state or religious, totalitarian, failing, isolated and closed off.—AP