Opposition leaders framed the passage of the bill, which grants the government control over the committees that select judges, as a major catastrophe for Israel.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
The coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed the first reading of a bill in Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reform plan early Tuesday morning, which grants the government greater control over judicial appointments.
Sixty-three Knesset members voted in favor and 47 voted against, with no abstentions. However, some lawmakers, including the Yisrael Beiteinu party, boycotted the vote.
In order for the bill to become law, it will need to pass two additional readings in the Knesset.
Should the bill pass three readings, it will allow government officials elected by voters, rather than a group of bureaucrats who are not public officials, to choose the committee that approves judges.
The vote, which took place just after midnight, occurred following a chaotic day of protests throughout Israel, with some demonstrators breaking into the Knesset building and being physically removed by security.
Demonstrators also blocked major thoroughfares and highways in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, including Ayalon Highway and Highway 1, as well as attempting to prevent several members of Knesset from leaving their homes in order to vote.
Opposition leaders framed the passage of the bill as a major catastrophe for Israel.
“Coalition members, history will judge you for tonight. For the damage to democracy, for the damage to the economy, for the damage to security, for you tearing apart the nation of Israel and that you just don’t care,” said Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid.
The bill’s passage marked “a black day for democracy,” said National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, adding that “tomorrow morning we continue the struggle.”
MK Simcha Rothman, chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee who has acted as Levin’s ally in the proposed reforms, said that because the bill had cleared its first reading, the coalition was ready to engage in “dialogue” with the opposition over the content of the bills.
But on Monday, Gantz pledged not to negotiate with the coalition if the bills passed a first reading.
“Passing it in its first reading is cocking the gun and putting a bullet in the chamber, and I won’t negotiate under such circumstances,” Gantz was reported as saying by Hebrew-language media.
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