Israeli PM recovers from heart procedure, set to push judicial overhaul

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is recovering in hospital after an emergency heart procedure while opposition to his government's contentious judicial overhaul plan has reached a fever pitch and unrest has gripped the country.

Netanyahu's doctors said on Sunday the heart pacemaker implantation went smoothly and that Netanyahu, 73, feels fine.

According to his office, he was expected to be discharged later in the day. But tensions were surging as lawmakers were to begin a marathon debate on Sunday morning over the first major piece of the overhaul, ahead of a vote in parliament enshrining it into law on Monday.

Mass protests are set to continue. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Israel on Saturday night, while thousands marched into Jerusalem and camped out near the Knesset, or parliament, ahead of Monday's vote.

Netanyahu's sudden hospitalisation comes as the longest-serving leader of the country faces the gravest challenge of his leadership from Israeli citizens.

The domestic crisis has shaken the economy, forged cracks in Israel's military and tested the delicate social fabric that holds the polarised country together.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Netanyahu's hospitalisation would have an effect on the legislative process.

The weekly Cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday morning was postponed and Israeli Army Radio reported that a security assessment of the effect of the legal dispute on the military was also taken off Netanyahu's schedule.

Judicial overhaul plans move ahead

In announcing the hospitalisation, Netanyahu’s office said that he would be sedated and that a top deputy, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, would stand in for him while he underwent the procedure. Levin, a close confidant of the prime minister, is the mastermind of the overhaul.

In a brief video statement before the implantation, Netanyahu said he "feels excellent" and planned to push forward with the judicial overhaul as soon as he was released, adding that he expected to be released in time to go to the Knesset for Monday’s vote.

Netanyahu was rushed to hospital in the middle of the night a week after being hospitalised for what doctors said was dehydration.

They released him after implanting a device to monitor his heart but he was hospitalised again Sunday because it showed anomalies, prompting the need for a pacemaker.

Professor Roy Beinart, senior physician and director at the Davidai Arrhythmia Center at Sheba Medical Center’s Heart Institute, said in a video: "The implantation went smoothly, without any complications. He is not in a life-threatening condition."

Further increasing pressure on the Israeli leader, military reservists in fast-rising numbers have been declaring their refusal to serve under a government taking steps that they see as setting the country on a path to dictatorship. Those moves have prompted fears that the military could be compromised.

Netanyahu and his far-right allies announced the overhaul plan in January, days after taking office. They claim the plan is needed to curb what they say are the excessive powers of unelected judges.

Critics say the plan will destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and put it on the path toward authoritarian rule.


Source: TRT