Israelis protest against planned judicial overhaul for 11th week
Israelis packed the city’s streets on Saturday in demonstrations across the country now in their 11th week against the hard-right government’s plans to curb the powers of the Supreme Court, which critics see as a threat to judicial independence.
The protesters fear that the proposed reforms, which are already moving through parliament and would increase the power of politicians over the courts, are a threat to Israeli democracy itself.
Protests in Israel against judicial reform are intensifying
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In Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square, thousands of demonstrators waved the Israeli flag, as well as the rainbow flag of the LGBTQ+ community.
The demonstrators blocked roads as they marched through the heart of the city. “Save democracy!” said one placard held up by the crowd.
“I am not worried about myself, but about my daughters and grandchildren,” said Naama Mazor, 64, a retiree from the city of Herzliya.
“We want to keep Israel democratic and liberal, Jewish of course, but liberal. We are very worried that it is going to be a dictatorship,” she told AFP.
“It is not a semi-democracy. We are a democracy or a dictatorship. There is nothing in between.”
Sagiv Golan, 46, from Tel Aviv, said the government “wanted to destroy civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and everything that stands for democracy … We want to show the voice of democracy.”
Israeli media reported demonstrations in more than 100 towns and cities, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba.
Since Netanyahu’s government announced the reforms in January, days after taking office, massive demonstrations have taken place regularly across Israel.
Opponents of the package have accused Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges he denies, of trying to use the reforms to overturn potential judgments against him. The prime minister has rejected the accusation.
Expressing concern about the deepening rift in Israeli society, President Isaac Herzog presented a proposed compromise on Wednesday, but the government immediately rejected it.
‘Anyone who thinks that a real civil war, with human lives, is a line we could never reach, has no idea what he’s talking about’
– Israeli President Isaac Herzog
“Anyone who thinks that a real civil war, with human life, is a line that we could never reach, has no idea what he’s talking about,” Herzog said.
Opposition party leaders said at a news conference Thursday that they supported Herzog’s outline.
“The offer is not perfect,” said former prime minister Yair Lapid. “It’s not what we wanted, but it’s a fair compromise that allows us to live together.”
The ruling coalition, which includes ultra-Orthodox Jewish and far-right parties, argues that the proposed reforms are necessary to correct a power imbalance between elected representatives and Israel’s high court.
Immediately after Herzog’s announcement, Netanyahu called it a “one-sided compromise”, and the “main points” only “perpetuate the current situation and do not provide the necessary balance between the powers”.
The reforms would allow lawmakers, among other things, to overturn supreme court rulings with a simple majority vote.
Other proposals would give the government more weight in the committee that selects judges and deny the supreme court the right to overturn any amendments to the so-called Basic Laws of Israel’s constitution.