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Israel: Thousands protest judicial reform plans in Tel Aviv

January 15, 2023

Protesters came out in opposition to plans by the newly elected government to overhaul the country's judicial system.

People protesting against the government's plans to overhaul the country's legal system, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, January 14, 2023.
Protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv to decry a new proposal to overhaul Israel's legal systemImage: Oded Balilty/AP/picture alliance

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of central Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest plans by Israel's new government to revamp the judiciary system in a way which they say would undermine democracy.

The protests are believed to be the largest since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's newest government, which includes far-right, ultraconservative and religious parties, was sworn in late last month. Some 80,000 people took part in the protests, Israeli media reported.

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

What are demonstrators protesting against?

The new Israeli government has launched proposals to grant parliament the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority vote, as well as control the appointment of judges.

Opposition parties are concerned the proposals could significantly weaken the Supreme Court, Israel's highest judicial body.

The proposal has been condemned by the Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut as a "fatal blow" to the country's democratic identity. The government, including Netanyahu, meanwhile argues it would restore the balance of power between the government's three branches.

Netanyahu is currently battling three separate legal cases involving charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud. The former prime minister denies any wrongdoing.

Former Defense Minister Benny Gantz was among those calling for Saturday's protest and taking part in it. In a tweet on Friday, he called on all the Israeli public, from the left and the right, to join the protests "for the preservation of Israeli democracy."

Veteran Israeli politician Netanyahu returned to the prime minister's office after his Likud party won the most seats in the November 1 election. His coalition government allies the Likud party with ultra-Orthodox parties, most notably the Religious Zionism party. 

rmt/kb (AP, dpa, Reuters)