Netanyahu leaves hospital as Israel faces a key vote — and a crisis — over divisive legal changes

July 24, 2023  -TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was released from the hospital Monday after an emergency heart procedure, facing an unprecedented national crisis ahead of parliament’s vote on the first major piece of legislation to remake the country’s justice system.

Demonstrators, many of whom feel the very foundations of their country are being eroded by the government’s plan, stepped up their opposition, blocking a road leading up to parliament. Businesses shuttered their doors in protest of the vote.

Driven by a governing coalition made up of ultranationalist and ultra-religious parties, the judicial overhaul has divided Israel, testing the delicate social ties that bind the country, rattling the cohesion of its powerful military and repeatedly drawing concern from even its closest ally, the United States.

Efforts to find a last-ditch compromise were underway, with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog shuttling between the sides, including a meeting at the hospital where Netanyahu was treated, to find an agreement over the way forward. But it was unclear whether those would result in a compromise ahead of the vote, expected Monday afternoon.

Early Monday, protesters banging on drums and blowing horns blocked a road leading to the Knesset, and police used water cannons to push them back. The protest movement said one of its leaders was arrested.

“The state of Israel stands before destruction and ruin that is being brought upon it by a gang of extremists and kooks. We must go up to Jerusalem today!” one branch of the protest movement called out to demonstrators on social media.

Israeli media reported that a consortium of businesses announced late Sunday that some of their members wouldn’t open on Monday in protest at the government’s plans, leading to big mall chains and some gas stations sealing their doors.

The dramatic events were being watched closely in Washington, from where the Biden administration has frequently spoken out against Netanyahu’s government and its overhaul plan. In a statement to the news site Axios late Sunday, Biden warned against pushing ahead with the legal changes that were sparking so much division.

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