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Israel: Tens of thousands protest against judicial reforms

January 22, 2023

Demonstrators protested in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities for a third Saturday against planned judicial reforms. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it will restore balance between the three branches of government.

Protesters carying Israeli flags and posters on the streets of Tel Aviv
Demonstrators are worried proposed judicial revisions would reduce powers of the Supreme CourtImage: Corinna Kern/REUTERS

Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government.

Israeli media, citing police, said more than 100,000 people turned up for the demonstrations, for a third Saturday in a row.

Smaller protests were also reported in the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba.

Netanyahu has dismissed the protests as a refusal by leftist opponents to accept the results of last November's election.

Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who joined the demonstrations in Tel Aviv, however, said that "people came here today to protect their democracy."

What are demonstrators protesting against?

The protesters are unhappy with the new government's plans to overhaul the judiciary.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Yariv Levin said a simple majority in the Knesset would have the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions, meaning parliament could pass legislation without fear of it being struck down.

As part of the reforms, Levin also wants to change the composition of the body that appoints judges to grant politicians more power in their appointments.

Israelis protest Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government in Tel Aviv
Some 100,000 protesters turned out in central Tel Aviv filling the streets with blue and white national flagsImage: Oded Balilty/AP Photo/picture alliance

Opponents say it would stifle judicial independence. "They want to destroy judicial authority, there is no democratic country without a judicial authority," the head of the Israeli Bar Association, Avi Himi, said.

The new government, which took office this month, says they have a mandate for sweeping change.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu, who is battling three separate legal cases involving charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud, vowed to continue with the judicial overhaul plans despite the protests.

He said it would restore a balance between the three branches of government.

Saturday's protests come days after the Supreme Court ruled that  Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Shas party, cannot serve as a minister in Netanyahu's new government. 

A parliamentary committee was examining the reform plans.

lo/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)