Israelis protest against planned judicial reforms

Israelis protest against planned judicial reforms

A protester lit a pink flare during a protest against the government's controversial judicial overhaul bill in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2023. PHOTO AFP TEL AVIV - Israelis packed city streets on Saturday in a nationwide protest against plans by the hard-right government to curtail the Supreme Court's powers, which critics see as a threat to judicial independence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who says his aim is to balance out branches of government, has a parliamentary majority along with his religious-nationalist coalition allies, but his planned judicial overhaul has sparked concern at home and abroad.

The changes go toward ratification, the protests have escalated, affecting the economy -- the shekel has slipped and extending to a threat by some military reservists not to obey call-up orders.

President Isaac Herzog had appealed for the overhaul to be postponed and presented an alternative plan to the changes on Wednesday, which was swiftly rejected by the prime minister.

I came to Tel Aviv with my friends to demonstrate against what is called reforms, Ronen Shaike, 47, told a crowd at a demonstration in the city that he wanted to defend the country's democracy, which he accused the government of trying to destroy.

Netanyahu, who was in office for a sixth term in late December, said the demonstrations were aimed at toppling him. He is on trial in three corruption cases and denies all wrongdoing.

"I'm here to demonstrate with the people of Israel against the revolution, against the change of our state," Dalia Yosef, 72, said at the Tel Aviv demonstration.

On Saturday, protesters demonstrated in a central village where the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was spending his weekend.

Ben Gvir said on Twitter that he would support me as much as possible. Why do people in the synagogue gather outside the windows of the synagogue with loudspeakers, honk, scream and make people violate Shabbat? Israeli settlements have long been considered a political stronghold for Netanyahu's right-wing coalition partners, which has led to protests in the occupied West Bank. More than 50 mostly modern-Orthodox Jewish protesters chanted traditional Jewish songs holding blue and white flags at a central junction in the West Bank settlement of Efrat.

Shmuel Wygoda, a college professor, told Reuters in Efrat that they were trying to monopolize, to have all the power in their hands. It is a change that we know from history, from totalitarian regimes, that all the power is unfortunately used against the people when you have all the power in the hands of one side.