Israelis organize a “day of resistance” against Netanyahu’s plan

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli protesters on Thursday stepped up their opposition to the government’s controversial judicial reform plan, with plans to block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s way to the airport ahead of an official trip abroad and as visiting U.S. defense secretary. .

The demonstrators, who have been protesting against the overhaul for more than two months, have planned a “day of resistance to the dictatorship” on Thursday. Parents and children demonstrated across the country ahead of graduation, and some protesters barricaded the offices of a conservative think tank that is helping to push for judicial change.

The uproar over Netanyahu’s legal reform has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises. In addition to protests that have brought tens of thousands of Israelis into the streets and recently turned violent, opposition has grown from across society, with business leaders and legal representatives speaking out against the dangers of the plan. The split did not escape the Israeli army, which faced unprecedented resistance from its own ranks.

Netanyahu, who took office in late December after a long political stalemate, and his allies say the measures are aimed at reining in a court that has overstepped its authority. Critics say the realignment will upset the fragile system of checks and balances and push Israel toward authoritarianism.

Critics also say that Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, is driven by personal grudges and that he could find a way out of the charges through a major overhaul. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and says the legal changes have nothing to do with his trial.

Demonstrations were planned across the country as Netanyahu and his allies vowed to push through a series of bills that would strip the Supreme Court of its ability to review legislation and give coalition politicians control over judicial appointments.

Protesters planned to block highways leading to Israel’s main international airport ahead of Netanyahu’s state visit to Rome. Police under the watch of ultra-nationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have vowed to prevent riots.

Israeli media reported that the disruptions could force Netanyahu to change his plans to travel to the airport.

A visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday was also affected by the protests. An Israeli official said Austin’s meetings had been moved to a factory near the airport because of expected disruptions. The protest movement was concentrated in the center of Tel Aviv, near the Ministry of Defense. The Israeli official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

On Thursday morning, military reservists barricaded the Jerusalem offices of the Kohelet Forum, a conservative think tank that helped bring about the overhaul, with barbed wire and sandbags and displayed a banner reading “Kohelet is tearing Israel apart.”

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