Small protests emerged across Israel on Wednesday, illustrating the broad-based nature of popular opposition to government plans to overhaul the country’s judiciary, cutting into key sectors of the economy, the security establishment and society.
Doctors rallied with flags and banners outside major hospitals. Employees of Israel’s famous high-tech industry gathered on bridges and at busy intersections. Dozens of people set off on foot from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on a 40-mile trek.
In what has become one of the most enduring themes in the months of protests that have gripped Israel, women dressed in red — a reference to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the dystopian novel-turned-TV series set in a totalitarian patriarchy — gathered. in places across the country.
The protests appeared to be timed to coincide with President Isaac Herzog’s planned address to the US Congress later on Wednesday, which will come at a tense period in relations between Israel and the US. On Tuesday, President Biden held a meeting with Mr. Herzog, who serves as Israel’s largely ceremonial president, at the White House.
Several lawmakers critical of Israel said they would boycott Mr. Herzog’s speech to Congress to protest the policies of the Israeli government.
In Israel, many demonstrators criticized Mr. Herzog’s efforts to try to forge a compromise between the Israeli government and opposition representatives on the judicial changes and hope that Mr. Biden will continue to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abandon the judicial system. changes the one-party legislative rush of the government.
In Israel on Tuesday, tens of thousands of demonstrators crowded railway platforms, blocked roads, including the main artery through Tel Aviv, and held a mass demonstration outside the Supreme Court and Parliament House in Jerusalem.
The protests were part of a calibrated build-up of opposition to moves by the government to finalize the first bill in the judicial review plan, which many critics, including top legal officials, described as a blow to the country’s democracy.
The protests are expected to peak this weekend or early next week, when Parliament is likely to hold a final vote on a bill limiting the Supreme Court’s use of “reasonable” grounds and limiting judicial review of government decisions and appointments.
Critics fear that the proposed law could undermine democracy by reducing judicial oversight over the cabinet and giving the government greater powers, paving the way for a more conservative and religious society and for the possible appointment of corrupt officials. Mr. Netanyahu’s government says the change would make elected lawmakers less sensitive to the subjective opinions of unelected judges.
The new measures, which are mostly supported by religious and social conservatives, have been opposed by a wide part of Israeli society, visible in the protests that have shaken the country in recent months. Some members of the Israeli military reserves campaigned against the law, and unions threatened general strikes.
On Wednesday, the country’s medical union went on a two-hour “warning strike”. Doctors and medical staff gathered outside hospitals holding banners with slogans such as “Doctors fighting for the life of democracy.”
Employees of Israel’s military industries were scheduled to hold a rally in Tel Aviv in the afternoon, and hundreds of reservists from the army’s medical corps planned to deliver letters to army officials announcing that they would no longer appear for reserve duty in light of what. their organizers called “the unilateral gallop of the government” to legislation that “will turn Israel into a dictatorship.”
Women’s groups and the high-tech employees planned to march in the evening to the branch of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Dozens of protesters also marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, carrying blue and white Israeli flags and chanting “De-mo-cra-tya!” — Hebrew for democracy. The marchers set out on Tuesday night, with long stops along the way to avoid the midday heat, and planned to arrive in Jerusalem by Saturday.