Tens of thousands of Israelis protest Netanyahu’s legal reforms | Protest News

Tens of thousands of Israelis protest Netanyahu's legal reforms |  Protest News
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has put reform of the country’s legal system at the center of his agenda.

Tens of thousands of Israelis held rallies in three cities to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the country’s legal system. weakening the Supreme Court.

Saturday’s protests in the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa present an early challenge to Netanyahu and his ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who have ordered police to take drastic action if protesters block roads or hang Palestinian flags.

Israeli media, citing police, said the crowd in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square had grown to at least 80,000 despite the cool and rainy weather.

The protesters, many covered with umbrellas, carried Israeli flags and signs reading “Guilty Government”, “End of Democracy” and other slogans.

Social media footage showed a small number of Palestinian flags on display despite Ben-Gvir’s calls.

“They’re trying to destroy the checks and balances of Israeli democracy. That’s not going to work,” said Asaf Steinberg, a protester from the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya. “We will fight until the last minute to save Israeli democracy,” he said.

Who is Netanyahu charged with corruptionmade overhauling the country’s legal system a key part of its agenda.

His right-wing government, in office for just over two weeks, has made proposals to weaken the Supreme Court by giving parliament the power to overturn court decisions by a simple majority vote. It also wants to give parliamentary control over the appointment of judges and reduce the independence of legal advisers.

Israeli protest
Israelis protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition and judicial reforms proposed to reduce the Supreme Court’s powers [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

Netanyahu’s justice minister said unelected judges have too much power.

But opponents of the plans say the proposed changes will undermine Israeli democracy. Israeli opposition leaders, former attorney generals and the head of the Israeli Supreme Court opposed the plan.

The legislative changes could help Netanyahu avoid a corruption conviction or even clear his case altogether. Since being indicted in 2019, Netanyahu has said the justice system has been biased against him.

The new government also announced its intention to pursue a policy of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and to implement social reforms that have worried members and supporters of the LGBTQ community.

Reporting from the rally in Tel Aviv, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said protesters were concerned that the far-right government was threatening democracy in Israel.

“This is an anti-government protest. They are concerned about the revocation of the Supreme Court, a crucial system of checks and balances that has been in place for decades,” he said.

“There is a lot of anger here at Benjamin Netanyahu, whom they say is guilty. There are many signs around that say he is fighting a case and should not be Israeli prime minister. They are also very concerned about minority rights in Israel, especially when it comes to gay rights. They’re afraid things can be undone.”

Thousands of people also attended the rallies in Jerusalem and Haifa.

No major unrest was reported, although Israeli media said the small crowd clashed with police as they tried to block the Tel Aviv highway.

Police increased their pre-march presence. Israeli media quoted police as saying that officers were instructed to be “very sensitive” and to allow the protests to proceed peacefully. But they also promised a stern response to any vandalism or violent behavior.

The polls differed on public opinion on the reforms. Last week, Channel 13 TV found that 53 percent of Israelis oppose changing the structure of court appointments, while 35 percent support it. However, on Thursday, Channel 14 TV found 61 percent in favor and 35 percent against it.

“There were tens of thousands of people at tonight’s demonstrations. Miki Zohar, a senior MP for Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, said that millions participated in the elections held here two and a half months ago.

“We promised people change, we promised management, we promised reform, and we will succeed,” he said.

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