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JERUSALEM: Israel’s hard-right government on Monday pushed through parliament a key clause of its controversial judicial reform package despite months of mass protests and concerns voiced by foreign allies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition allies approved the bill in a Knesset vote boycotted by opposition lawmakers, some of whom shouted “shame, shame”. Critics charge the judicial revamp will undermine Israel’s liberal democracy by removing checks and balances on the executive, while the government argues it needs to curb judicial overreach. The bill, passed with 64 votes in the 120-seat chamber, aims to limit the powers of the Supreme Court in striking down government decisions which the judges deem “unreasonable”.

The reform package has triggered one of the biggest protest movements in Israel’s history since it was unveiled by the government in January.

The bill was passed hours after Netanyahu, 73, returned to the Knesset — only a day after undergoing surgery to have a pacemaker fitted — as police outside the legislature used water cannon and mounted officers were deployed against a crowd of demonstrators.

President Isaac Herzog — who had tried but failed to broker a compromise after half a year of mass street protests — earlier warned that Israel faced a “national emergency”. Netanyahu’s coalition government, which includes far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, argues that the proposed changes are needed to ensure a better balance of power.

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