Tens of thousands of Israelis protest Netanyahu’s law reforms | protests news

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has made reforming the country’s legal system a central part of his agenda.

Tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated in three cities to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to change the country’s legal system and weaken the Supreme Court.

Saturday’s protests in the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa pose an early challenge to Netanyahu and his ultranationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who have ordered police to take tough action if protesters blocking the streets or displaying Palestinian flags.

Israeli media, citing police, reported that the crowd in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square had grown to at least 80,000 despite cool, rainy weather.

The protesters, many covered with umbrellas, held Israeli flags and signs reading “Criminal Government,” “The End of Democracy,” and other slogans.

Social media footage showed a handful of Palestinian flags despite Ben-Gvir’s calls.

“They are trying to destroy the control mechanisms of Israeli democracy. It won’t work,” said Asaf Steinberg, a protester from Herzliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. “And we will fight until the last minute to save Israeli democracy.”

Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, has made overhauling the country’s legal system the centerpiece of his agenda.

His right-wing Government, which has been in office for just over two weeks, has put forward proposals to weaken the Supreme Court by giving Parliament the power to overturn court decisions with a simple majority. It also wants to give parliament control over the appointment of judges and limit the independence of legal advisers.

Israelis are protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition and proposed judicial reforms to limit the powers of the Supreme Court [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

Netanyahu’s Justice Minister says unelected judges have too much power.

However, opponents of the plans say the proposed changes would undermine Israeli democracy. Israeli opposition leaders, former attorneys general and the president of Israel’s Supreme Court have all spoken out against the plan.

The legislative changes could help Netanyahu evade a corruption conviction or even have his trial disappear altogether. Since his indictment in 2019, Netanyahu has said that the justice system is biased against him.

The new government also announced that it will pursue a policy of expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank and implementing social reforms that worry members and supporters of the LGBTQ community.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, who was covering the rally in Tel Aviv, said the protesters were concerned that the far-right government was threatening democracy in Israel.

“This is a protest against the government. They are concerned about reducing the powers of the Supreme Court – a very important system of checks and balances that has been in place for decades,” he said.

“There is a lot of anger here at Benjamin Netanyahu, who say he is a criminal. There are many indications that he is on trial and should not be the Prime Minister of Israel. They are also very concerned about the rights of minorities in Israel, especially when it comes to gay rights. They are afraid that these things can be taken away.”

Thousands of people also came out for demonstrations in Jerusalem and Haifa.

No major unrest was reported, although Israeli media said small crowds clashed with police as they tried to block a highway in Tel Aviv.

The police increased their presence before the march. Israeli media quoted police as saying that officers had been instructed to be “very sensitive” and to allow the protest to proceed peacefully. But they also promised a harsh response to any vandalism or violent behavior.

Public opinion polls on the reforms are divided. Channel 13 TV found last week that 53 percent of Israelis were against changing the structure of court hearings, while 35 percent were in favor. But Channel 14 TV on Thursday found 61 percent in favor and 35 percent against.

“Tens of thousands of people attended the demonstrations tonight. Millions voted in the elections held here two and a half months ago,” tweeted Miki Zohar, a senior deputy in Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.

“We promised the people change, we promised governance, we promised reforms – and we will deliver,” he added.


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