Jerusalem, Jul 25 (IANS): Israeli lawmakers have passed the first law limiting the Supreme Court's power, an important step for the government's controversial plan to overhaul the country's judicial system, amid massive protests across the country.
The law was passed on Monday with 64 in favour and zero vetoes in the 120-seat Parliament, as opposition lawmakers boycotted the final vote, Xinhua news agency reported.
The law cancels the Supreme Court's power to overrule decisions by the government that it deems "unreasonable". It is a key part of the ruling government's contentious plan to weaken the Supreme Court and reshape the judicial system.
Protesters blocked major highways in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other cities across the country. Police clashed with protesters and used water cannons to disperse them. In Jerusalem, the police also used "the Skunk", a vehicle that emits foul-smelling liquid with a strong odour, to drive away the protesters. At least 34 protesters have been arrested since Monday morning, according to the police.
David Ben, a 45-year-old teacher who attended the rally in Tel Aviv, said he felt sad and worried after the approval of the law.
"This legislation is led by the most extreme wing of the government, consisting of religious-nationalist parties of settlers. Today I feel that my government doesn't represent us anymore," he told the news agency.
The Israel Bar Association and other organisations and individuals filed at least four petitions to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the law.
The White House said in a statement that it was "unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority".
In a televised statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new law was "necessary" to enable the government "to rule" and called for "unity".
The judicial overhaul has triggered nationwide protests that last for 29 consecutive weeks. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to voice their objection to the government's plan to overhaul the judicial system. More than 11,000 military reservists, including pilots, announced they would resign, raising concerns that the military's preparedness would be affected.