Israeli lawmakers debate judicial overhaul bill amid protests

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Israeli lawmakers began a marathon debate on Sunday on the first major bill of a contentious plan to overhaul the judiciary ahead of a final vote on Monday, as massive crowds rally across the country to protest against the plan.

   The bill would cancel the Supreme Court’s power to override decisions by the ministers that it deems “unreasonable.”

   The two final rounds of votes at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, are slated for Monday after the bill passed its first reading earlier in July.

   Protesters on Sunday continued to flock to Jerusalem, where at least 83,000 arrived on Saturday after a four-day march with the Israeli flags, Channel 13 TV news reported.

   Thousands of protestors have erected tents in a park near the Knesset. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City, one of the holiest sites for Jews. They chanted and danced in circles before forming a human chain all the way to the Knesset.

   Hundreds of physicians marched from the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem to the Knesset, chanting slogans and holding posters.

   The proposed reform by the far-right coalition government has triggered widespread protests across Israel, and many workers and big companies have pledged to go on strike if the bill proceeds. Some 200 hi-tech companies and venture capital firms announced they have either gone on a full strike or would allow their employees to take a day off to attend the rallies.

   About a dozen of the country’s largest law firms also announced that due to the “one-sided legislative process and in light of the immense division within the people and the tangible and immediate threat to Israel’s security and economy,” they decided to go on a one-day strike and called on their employees to join the protests in Jerusalem.

   Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Sheba Hospital, recovering from an emergency operation that inserted a pacemaker into his chest. The hospital said in a statement that the procedure went off without complications. Netanyahu was expected to be discharged later on Sunday, his office said in a statement, adding that planned official trips to Türkiye and Cyprus would be rescheduled.

   Nationwide protests have been held for 29 weeks in a row over the far-right government’s divisive proposal to overhaul the judiciary.

   On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Israelis marched to Jerusalem and took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities across the country ahead of the parliamentary vote scheduled for Monday, state-owned Kan TV news reported.  

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