Tens of thousands of Israelis protest against Netanyahu justice plans

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The plans, which the government says are needed to crack down on activist judges, have drawn fierce opposition from groups including lawyers, and raised concerns among business leaders, widening the already deep political divisions in Israeli society. .

Netanyahu dismissed the protests, now in their third week, as a refusal by leftist opponents to accept the results of last November’s election, which produced one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history. .

Protesters say the future of Israeli democracy is at risk if the plans, which would tighten government control over judicial appointments and limit the Supreme Court’s powers to review government decisions, they pass

As well as threatening the independence of judges and weakening the oversight of the government and parliament, they say the plans will undermine the rights of minorities and open the door to more corruption.

“We are fighting for democracy,” said Amnon Miller, 64, among crowds of protesters, many of them carrying white and blue Israeli flags. “We have fought in this country in the army for 30 years for our freedom and we will not let this government take our freedom away.”

Saturday’s protests, which Israeli media said are expected to draw more than 100,000 people to central Tel Aviv, come days after the Supreme Court ordered Netanyahu to fire Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who leads the Shas religious party, due to a recent tax conviction.

The new government, which took office this month, is an alliance between Netanyahu’s Likud party and a group of smaller religious parties and hard-right nationalists who say they have a mandate for sweeping change.

Netanyahu, who is himself on trial on corruption charges he denies, defended the judicial reform plans, which are being examined by a parliamentary committee, saying they would restore a proper balance between the three branches of government. .

The Likud has been accusing the Supreme Court of being dominated by left-wing judges who it says interfere in areas outside of their authority for political reasons. Defenders of the court say it plays a vital role in ensuring accountability in a country that lacks a formal constitution to restrain government action.

A poll released by the Israel Democracy Institute last week showed that trust in the Supreme Court was much higher among Israelis on the left than among those on the right, but that there was no overall support. to weaken the powers of the court.

(Reporting by Emily Rose; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by David Holmes)

By Emily Rose

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