Israel: Protests against judicial overhaul continue with crowds across Tel Aviv

Israel: Protests against judicial overhaul continue with crowds across Tel Aviv
2 min read
Protests against Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial judicial overhaul have continued in Israel, with demonstrators taking to the streets in Tel Aviv.
Protesters have gathered for over three months against the hardline coalition’s highly contentious plans to overhaul Israel’s judicial system [source: Getty]

Thousands of Israelis again took to the streets of Tel Aviv late on Saturday to protest a government judicial overhaul they view as an attack on democracy.

The 15th consecutive week of protest came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 27 announced a "pause" to allow for dialogue on the reforms which were moving through parliament and split the nation.

"Let's save democracy" read signs in a sea of Israeli flags waved by demonstrators. AFP journalists also reported smoke bombs and flares being set off.

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Smaller protests also took place in the northern port of Haifa and outside the home of Justice Minister Yariv Levin in Modiin.

Israeli media reported tens of thousands had turned out, as occurred in some previous demonstrations.

"We are fighting for our democracy. We have no other country," one demonstrator, Nadav Tamir, 61, told AFP.

Karen Baron, a 45-year-old Tel Aviv psychiatrist, said: "I didn't want to come today but my sister told me, 'We have no choice', and it's true. We have no choice - we can't lower our guard. We have to defend our country."

The proposals would curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians greater powers over the selection of judges.

Netanyahu's government, a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues the changes are needed to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.

Palestinians, who are likely to be most negatively impacted by the judicial reforms, have been largely ignored by the protesters among wider conversations in Israel over the future of the country and its "democracy". 

Saturday's demonstration came a day after US rating agency Moody's announced it was lowering Israel's outlook from "positive" to "stable".

It said the change "reflects a deterioration of Israel's governance, as illustrated by the recent events around the government's proposal for overhauling the country's judiciary.

"While mass protests have led the government to pause the legislation and seek dialogue with the opposition, the manner in which the government has attempted to implement a wide-ranging reform without seeking broad consensus points to a weakening of institutional strength and policy predictability," Moody's noted.