Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets of three Israeli cities to protest Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to reform the country’s legal system, and weaken its Supreme Court.
According to media reports, the crowd grew to around 80,000 people at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. Many were holding signs and flags indicating “criminal government”, “the death of democracy” or other slogans.
Asaf Steinberg, a protester, stated that “they are trying to destroy checks and balances in the Israeli democracy.” “And we will fight to the last minute to save Israel’s democracy.”
A few people were involved in scuffles with the police when they tried to block Tel Aviv’s highway. But there wasn’t any major unrest.
On Saturday night, smaller protests took place in Jerusalem as well as Haifa.
Israeli media reported that police said they were instructed by their superiors to be sensitive and allow peaceful protests to continue. They also promised a tough response for any vandalism and violent behaviour.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently being tried for corruption. He has made it a central part of his agenda to overhaul the country’s legal system.
His new government, made up of ultra-Orthodox parties and far-right nationalist parties has been in office for less than two weeks. It is proposing to weaken the Supreme Court, giving the parliament the power to repeal court decisions by a simple majority vote.
It also wants to control the appointment of judges by parliament and lessen the independence of legal advisors.
Justice Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that unelected judges are too powerful, but opponents of the plans claim the proposed changes will undermine Israeli democracy and strip the judiciary its independence.
Former Israeli attorney generals, Israeli opposition leaders and the president of Israel’s Supreme Court all spoke out against this plan.
These legal changes could allow Mr Netanyahu to avoid being convicted or make his case disappear completely. After being indicted in 2019, Mr Netanyahu claims that the justice system is biased against his case.
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Miki Zohar (a senior politician from Mr Netanyahu’s conservative Likud) was asked about the protests. She said that “tens of thousands” were present at tonight’s demonstrations. Millions of people participated in the two-and-a-half month election.
“We promised people change, governance, and reforms. We will keep our word.”