Latest World News: Huge crowds march in Israel during vote on NEA judicial overhaul

Tens of thousands of Israelis marched into Jerusalem and other protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv in a final show of force aimed at blocking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary.

Saturday’s protests came as more than 100 of Israel’s former security chiefs signed a letter begging Netanyahu to stop the legislation and thousands of additional military reservists said they would no longer report to work to protest the plan.

Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, is due to hold a final vote on Sunday and Monday on the bill that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers to overturn what it considers unreasonable government or ministerial decisions.

Critics view the legislation as a threat to Israeli democracy.

In Jerusalem on Saturday, marchers turned the city’s main entrance into a sea of ​​blue and white Israeli flags as they completed the final leg of a four-day, 70 km (45 mile) march from Tel Aviv to Israel’s parliament.

The group, which grew from hundreds to thousands as the march progressed, was greeted by cheering crowds of protesters before settling into rows of small white tents outside the Knesset ahead of the scheduled vote.

Democracy is no longer as secure as it used to be, said Ido Golan, a protester from central Israel who joined his partner and two young children, one of them on his back in a baby carrier.

It is very important for us and also for them to know that we did what we could to save democracy.

Thousands of people who marched from Tel Aviv to the Israeli parliament set up camp outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on Saturday, July 22, 2023 (Ohad Zwigenberg/ AP)

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of the coastal city of Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial and cultural capital, as well as in Beersheba, Haifa and Netanya.

Democracy or revolution! Respect existence or expect resistance! chanted protesters, many of whom wore shirts with democracy printed on them.

The government is not listening to us, that means it’s the beginning of a new era, a bad era, protester Idit Dekel, 55, told AFP news agency. For me it is catastrophic. This is the start of something we have never experienced before, he added.

Al Jazeeras Tel Aviv reporter Mohammed Jamjoom described Saturday’s protest in the city as massive and said protests also took place in 12 other locations.

Now Netanyahu says he is committed to pursuing those plans and that once this bill is passed, he will step back and try to find a compromise with opposition parties. But that’s not enough for the thousands and thousands of people across Israel today who say it’s a real threat to democracy, Jamjoom said.

Mortal Blows

Netanyahu and his far-right allies say the overhaul is necessary to limit what they say are excessive powers of unelected judges. But their critics say the plan will destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and set it on the path to authoritarian rule.

Joe Biden, the President of the United States, also urged Netanyahu to halt the plan and seek broad consensus.

An aerial view shows crowds attending a protest in Tel Aviv on July 22, 2023, ahead of the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul bill ahead of a vote in parliament (Jack Guez/ AFP)

The proposed overhaul has drawn heavy criticism from business and medical leaders and a growing number of military reservists in key units have said they will stop reporting for duty if the plan goes through.

An additional 10,000 reservists announced they were suspending duty on Saturday evening, according to Brothers in Arms, a protest group representing retired soldiers.

More than 100 former senior security officials, including retired military commanders, police commissioners and heads of intelligence agencies, joined those calls on Saturday, signing a letter to Netanyahu accusing him of compromising the IDF and urging him to suspend the legislation.

Among the signatories were Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister, and Moshe Ya’alon, former army chief and defense minister. Both are political rivals of Netanyahu.

The legislation crushes those things shared by Israeli society, tears the people apart, disintegrates the IDF and deals fatal blows to Israel’s security, the former officials wrote.

The legislative process violates the 75-year-old social contract between the Israeli government and thousands of reserve officers and soldiers from the land, air, sea and intelligence branches who volunteered for many years for the reserves to defend the democratic State of Israel, and are now announcing with broken hearts that they are suspending their voluntary service, the letter states.

Israel Katz, a senior cabinet minister from the Netanyahus Likud party, said the bill would somehow pass on Monday.

I represent citizens who are not ready to have their voices canceled because of threats of refusal to serve or those blocking the airport, highways and train stations, he told Channel 12 TV. There is a clear attempt here to use military service to force the government to change policy.

The final vote, scheduled for Monday, would mark the first major bill to be approved.

In addition to repealing the reasonableness clause, the overhaul also calls for other sweeping changes aimed at limiting the powers of the judiciary, ranging from limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions to changing the way judges are selected.

The protesters, who make up a large swath of Israeli society, see the overhaul as a power grab fueled by various personal and political grievances from Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, and his associates, who want to deepen Israel’s control over the occupied West Bank and perpetuate controversial exemption plans for ultra-Orthodox men.

Despite seven months of protests, Netanyahu doubled down on his overhaul early Sunday by posting a video announcing that he had to be hospitalized for a procedure to receive a pacemaker.

The 73-year-old leader said he expected to be discharged from hospital on Sunday afternoon and would head to the Knesset for the vote on the justice bill.

He hinted that last-minute changes were possible, saying he was still trying to agree with the opposition on the reasonableness clause.

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An Overview of Global Events in 2023

In 2023, the world witnessed a myriad of events that left a lasting impact on global affairs. From political developments and economic shifts to environmental challenges and breakthroughs in science and technology, the year was marked by significant changes and a sense of urgency for collective action. Here’s an overview of some of the latest world news in 2023.

Political Unrest and Diplomatic Strides:
In the political arena, several regions experienced unrest and geopolitical tensions. The ongoing conflict in the Middle East continued to dominate headlines, with efforts towards peace and stability remaining elusive. However, there were also moments of diplomatic breakthroughs as nations engaged in dialogues to ease tensions and work towards lasting solutions.

Economic Transformations:
The global economy faced both challenges and opportunities. Trade disputes between major powers affected markets, while some countries grappled with debt crises. On the other hand, emerging economies showed resilience and promising growth, fueling optimism for a more balanced global economic landscape.

Technological Advancements:
Innovation surged forward in the tech industry, with breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and space exploration. Quantum computing achieved milestones, promising radical transformations across industries. Renewable energy sources gained traction, with many countries setting ambitious goals to combat climate change.

Climate Crisis and Environmental Resilience:
As the climate crisis intensified, extreme weather events wreaked havoc in various parts of the world. Wildfires, hurricanes, and floods reminded humanity of the urgent need for climate action. In response, governments and communities across the globe doubled down on efforts to reduce carbon emissions, invest in sustainable infrastructure, and protect biodiversity.

Health and Pandemic Management:
Health remained a global priority as countries continued to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. With the emergence of new variants, vaccination efforts and public health measures remained crucial to curbing the spread of the virus. There were also significant advancements in medical research and technology, offering hope for better preparedness in handling future health crises.

Sports and Cultural Milestones:
Amidst the challenges, the world found moments of joy and unity through sports and culture. International sporting events brought together athletes from diverse backgrounds, promoting solidarity and camaraderie. Cultural exchanges and celebrations showcased the richness of human diversity and fostered mutual understanding.

In conclusion, the year 2023 was a dynamic period filled with significant events that shaped the course of history. From political unrest to technological advancements and environmental challenges, the world witnessed the complexities of the global landscape. While obstacles remained, there were also encouraging developments and collaborative efforts towards a more sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous future for all nations. As we move forward, the lessons learned from these events serve as a reminder of the importance of collective action and cooperation to address shared global challenges.