Tens of thousands of Israelis continue Netanyahu judicial overhaul protests

Tens of thousands of Israelis continue Netanyahu judicial overhaul protests
3 min read
Israelis protested for a 16th week in a row in opposition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to overhaul the country's judiciary.
Protesters say that Netanyahu's judiciary overhaul plans undermine the country's democracy [Getty]

Tens of thousands of Israelis joined protests in Tel Aviv and other cities on Saturday to express criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to tighten controls on the Supreme Court, which they see as an attack on their democracy.

For the 16th week in a row, Israelis also protested against Netanyahu's government, which is the most far-right in the country's almost 75 year history. Many held banners with 'Crime-Minister' written on them.

The weekly protests have continued despite a pause of Netanyahu's plans last month to allow for talks on the reforms. The plans were also halted in the face of a wave of strikes and mass demonstrations.

Saturday's demonstration came ahead of another mass protest planned for the coastal city on Sunday to coincide with a Netanyahu speech to the general assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

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The proposals would give the government effective control over appointment of Supreme Court judges and allow parliament to overrule many decisions of the court. They have caused one of the biggest domestic crises in Israel's recent history.

Critics say it will remove vital checks and balances underpinning a democratic state and hand unchecked power to the government.

Netanyahu's coalition, however, argues that the changes are "needed" to re-balance powers between the lawmakers and the judiciary.

The coalition was formed in December last year, constitutes of the Israeli's premier Likud Party, as well as a number of extreme right-wing parties, including the Religious Zionism Party and Otzma Yehudit.

Netanyahu's cabinet includes ministers who have a history of making racist and xenophobic comments against Palestinians and Arabs, notably Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. The latter has denied the existence of Palestinian people, and has made calls to ransack Palestinian towns.

A poll released by Israel's public broadcaster on Friday found that the government's judicial overhaul plans are deeply unpopular, with 53 percent saying they believe the plans will harm the country.

Additionally, 60 percent of Israelis said the government does not represent them and 48 percent believe the situation in the country will continue to get worse.

Opponents of the reform plan another demonstration on Tuesday in Tel Aviv ahead of the country's so-called independence day on Wednesday, and those who back the reform are expected to gather on Thursday.

Israel's "independence" in 1948 was accompanied by a mass displacement of Palestinian people from their homes, which is commemorated as the Nakba - or catastrophe - by Palestinians today.

Since it was formed 75 years ago, Israel has gone on to subject Palestinians to forced expulsions, violence and violations of basic human rights.

At least 100 Palestinians have been killed so far in 2023 alone, in what has been described as the "bloodiest months" in recent Palestinian memory.

The New Arab Staff and Reuters.