Israel faced a constitutional crisis unprecedented in its history on Monday after the Knesset voted to approve the first part of a controversial judicial overhaul that critics have described as a power grab.

Trade unions threatened a general strike, police used water cannon to quell angry street protests, activists began an appeal to the Supreme Court, the White House described the vote as “unfortunate,” Israeli financial markets tumbled and the shekel hit a two-week low against the US dollar.

The legislation limiting the Supreme Court’s powers to overturn government decisions it deemed “unreasonable” passed by a 64-0 vote after opposition Knesset members abandoned the session in protest, some shouting: “For shame!”

Within minutes of the vote, a political watchdog group and a centrist opposition leader said they would appeal against the law at the Supreme Court. The appeal itself risks miring Israel in a legal quagmire — asking the court to overturn a law that bars the court from overturning laws.

The Histadrut labor union threatened to declare a general strike if the government pursued what it called “unilateral” measures. A walkout by Histadrut in March prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the legislative process, paving the way for cross-party talks that ultimately collapsed.

The judicial overhaul has sparked the biggest protests in Israel’s history. As the Knesset met, demonstrators outside booed, beat drums, blew horns and chanted “shame.” Police used water cannon to disperse them and officers dragged away protesters who had chained themselves to posts and blocked the road outside parliament. The crisis has also seeped into the military.

Thousands of volunteer reservists have threatened to refuse report for duty if the government continues with the plans, and former senior officers have cautioned that Israel’s war-readiness could be at risk.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid described the vote as a “defeat for Israeli democracy.” He said: “The government can decide a policy but not change the character of the state of Israel, and that’s what happened today. This government can win the battle, but not the war.

”The White House said US President Joe Biden had “expressed his views that major changes in a democracy, to be enduring, must have as broad a consensus as possible. It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority.”

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