Israeli police fire stun grenades on 'day of disruption' protest of judicial overhaul

Israeli police fire stun grenades on 'day of disruption' protest of judicial overhaul
Israel witnessed a 'Day of National Disruption' against a controversial government plan to overhaul the judiciary.
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Scuffles broke out between protesters and the police in Tel Aviv [Getty]

Israeli police fired stun grenades in Tel Aviv as scuffles broke out across the country on Wednesday in a "day of disruption" protest as lawmakers ploughed ahead with judicial changes that opponents see as a threat to democracy.

Tel Aviv police on horseback tried to stop demonstrators breaching barricades as traffic piled up. Live footage showed police dragging protesters off the road as demonstrators called out "shame" and "we are the majority and we are out on the streets". At least nine people were arrested, police said.

Demonstrations were expected to intensify in what protest organisers have dubbed a day of disruption. Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right extremist, said he would not allow "anarchists" to block roads.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalist-religious coalition government proposed what it has described as a reform of the judiciary in January.

It includes giving ruling coalition lawmakers decisive sway in picking judges and limits the scope of the Supreme Court to strike down legislation or rule against the executive.

In parliament, the Knesset's Constitution, Justice and Law Committee gave initial approval to more proposals in the plan, in a vote boycotted by opposition lawmakers.

Critics say the proposals undermine judicial independence, given Israel has no constitution and only one house of parliament that is controlled by the coalition.

The plan has yet to be written into law, but it has already affected the Israeli shekel and drawn concern from some Western allies about the health of democracy.

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"Slow down a little a bit, maybe bring people together, try and build some consensus," U.S. Ambassador Tom Nides said at Tel Aviv University's conference of the Institute for National Security Studies on Tuesday.

Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges that he denies, says the changes will restore balance between the branches of government and boost business. Economists and legal experts have said they will isolate Israel and wreak havoc on the economy.

Polls have shown the plan is unpopular with most Israelis who would prefer a compromise be reached. Warning the country was on the brink of "constitutional and social collapse," President Isaac Herzog is pushing for an agreed accord.