Israel passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue

    The opposition is rooted in broad segments of society, including business leaders and top legal officials. Even the country’s military, seen by Israel’s Jewish majority as a beacon of stability, has been caught up in the political conflict as some reservists refuse to show up because of the changes. Israel’s international allies have also expressed concern.

    The law to protect Netanyahu passed by a vote of 61 to 47 in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

    It provides that a prime minister can be deemed unfit to govern solely for health or mental reasons and only he or his government can make that decision. It comes after the country’s attorney general faced increasing calls from opponents of Netanyahu to declare him unfit to rule over his legal troubles. The attorney general has already barred Netanyahu from involvement in the legal overhaul, saying he risks a conflict of interest from his corruption trial.

    The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a good governance organization, said it is challenging the law in court, which could lead to the first confrontation between judges and the government over the law changes. Experts say the overhaul could trigger a constitutional crisis that would leave Israel in chaos over who should be obeyed, the government or the courts.

    On Thursday, protesters launched a fourth weekday demonstration. They blocked major thoroughfares, set fire to tires near a major seaport and draped a large Israeli flag and a banner with the country’s declaration of independence over the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. Police said they made several arrests across the country. According to organizers, Shikma Bressler, one of the protest leaders, was among those arrested.

    Protesters blocked the main road in Tel Aviv on the coast and police used water cannons to disperse protesters in that city and Haifa to the north.

    Netanyahu called on opposition leaders to “stop the anarchy immediately” after what he said was an attack on Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency. Social media video showed a protester waving her flagpole in the direction of Dichter and hitting him once on the head, but he appeared unharmed and continued walking.

    A protest was planned later in the day in a large ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv. The organizers of the demonstration say the demonstration there is intended to make it clear to that community that their rights are threatened by the overhaul. Ultra-Orthodox leaders see the demonstration in their midst as provocative.

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