Over 80,000 attended protests in Israel’s three major cities on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plans.
Protesters described Netanyahu’s proposed changes to overhaul the judiciary which would make it easier for parliament to overturn Supreme Court rulings as an attack on democratic rule.
It follows Israel’s November legislative elections that allowed Netanyahu to form the most religious and hardliner government in Israeli history. Netanyahu, currently in his sixth term is seeking to rein in the Supreme Court in what he has described as a restoration of the balance of three branches of government.
Yet critics have said that these proposed reforms will cripple the judiciary’s independence, foster corruption and set back minority rights. Among those opposed are the Supreme court chief justice and the country’s attorney-general.
Protests were held in several cities in Israel. In Tel Aviv, a group of protesters is said to have clashed with police while attempting to block a major highway. In Israel’s northern city of Haifa, protests were held as well as outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Israeli media put the number of protest attendees in Israel at 80,000. Social media footage showed a small number of Palestinian flags on display, in defiance of Netanyahu’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir who is seeking to get such flags removed from public spaces on the basis that that “the flag is a form of supporting terror”.
Netanyahu is currently being tried on charges of bribery, fraud and breaches of trust – something that he strongly denies. Yet these reforms would enable Israel’s Knesset (parliament) to effectively annual Supreme Court rulings, effectively enabling the government to pass legislation without fear of it being denied by the judiciary. People have taken to the streets to protest in Israel since the November election to try and safeguard citizens’ liberties and guard against tyranny and uphold the separation of powers in Israel.
“Tens of thousands of people were at tonight’s demonstrations. In the election held here two and a half months ago, millions turned out,” tweeted Miki Zohar a senior lawmaker in Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty