TEL AVIV: Tens of thousands of demonstrators thronged Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on Saturday for the 22nd consecutive week to protest against a controversial plan to reform Israel’s judicial system.
The government’s reform proposals would curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians greater powers over the selection of judges.
In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced a “pause” to allow for talks on the reforms, which were moving through parliament and split the nation.
Israeli media said nearly 100,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for Saturday’s protest. The police do not supply official figures for the number of demonstrators.
On Friday, several hundred Israelis had protested outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea north of Tel Aviv in a demonstration police labelled as unauthorized. There were at least 17 arrests.
“We will keep demonstrating to show them that even if they have paused in the reform plan we will stay mobilized — they will not be able to pass laws on the sly,” said 55-year-old dentist Ilit Fayn at Saturday’s Tel Aviv protest.
“It’s important for us to eliminate the possibility of Israel becoming a dictatorship,” added Arnon Oshri, a 66-year-old farmer.
Netanyahu’s government, a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues that the proposed changes are needed to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.
But opponents of the plan believe it could open the way to a more authoritarian government.
“This corrupt government is full of outlaws who are degrading our country to the level of a third world country,” Oshri said.
“It took 2,000 years for the Jewish people to have a state, and we cannot lose it because of a bunch of fanatics.”