1 of 5 | Tens of thousands of anti-judicial reform protesters chanting "democracy" gather in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Monday, one day before the High Court is set to hear a landmark case on the law limiting the reasonableness standard. The law prevents Israeli courts from weighing in on the reasonableness of government and ministerial decisions. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of protesters, chanting "democracy" amid controversial judicial reforms in Israel, packed in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Monday evening, one day before the High Court of Justice will hear a landmark case on the country's so-called "reasonableness" law.
The law, which was passed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition and prevents Israeli courts from weighing in on the reasonableness of government and ministerial decisions, is facing appeals. Tuesday's hearing will be the first time in Israeli history that the entire 15 judge bench will convene.
Monday's massive protests included speeches at the Supreme Court, before moving to a march toward Netanyahu's Jerusalem apartment where activists carried a banners that read, "The court is supreme."
At one point, protesters blocked the Begin highway before police cleared them to the side of the road.
Netanyahu, whose right-wing governing coalition pushed through the first in a series of planned measures in July despite a boycott by opposition lawmakers, called the reasonableness law necessary "to ensure that the elected government can implement policies in accordance with the majority of citizens' decisions."
"The realization of the voters' will is not the end of democracy; it is the essence of democracy," Netanyahu declared in July as the reforms passed.
The head of the Israel Bar Association argued Monday that most legal experts believe the High Court of Justice should review basic laws.
"The judges of Israel are the representatives of the people. They protect the people and the democratic regime," Amit Bachar, the head of the Israel Bar Association, said.
"These are days in which ministers give speeches and threaten judges and the attorney general, the way criminal organizations speak and not ministers," Bachar added, calling "false attempts to portray the judges as people acting against the will of the people" as "no lie greater or more evil than this."
In July, an organization called the Movement for Quality Government filed a petition with the Israeli High Court.
"The government of destruction has raised its malicious hand against the state of Israel: now it's the Supreme Court's turn to step up and prevent this legislation," organization head Eliad Shraga said in July.
"It fundamentally changes the basic structure of Israeli parliamentary democracy and the nature of the regime, while de facto abolishing the judiciary and seriously damaging the delicate fabric of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in the state of Israel," Shraga added.
The 15 justices, who sit on Israel's Supreme Court, have received extra security ahead of Tuesday's High Court hearing which will review the recently passed "reasonableness" law.
Next week, Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters building in New York.
Protesters are planning demonstrations against Netanyahu during his visit, which will include a meeting with President Joe Biden.
Activists projected a message for about 30 minutes last week onto the side of the U.N. building, which read, "Don't believe Crime Minister Netanyahu. Protect Israeli democracy."
"The slogan projected on the U.N. building wall is just a small taste of what is awaiting the indicted defendant Netanyahu on his visit to NYC," the New York protesters said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel. "The fight for Israeli democracy is global."
Opponents of changes to the judiciary system in Israel gather in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on September 11, 2023, a day before the court is set to hear a landmark case on the law limiting the "reasonableness" standard. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo