Tens of thousands of Israelis rally against judicial overhaul

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis protested across the nation in opposition to government plans for judicial change, which opponents see as a danger to democracy.

In response to calls for a pause to allow for talks on the divisive plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government is preparing to move forward with its legislative agenda next week.

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Israeli media reported that the largest protest, in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, attracted about 100,000 protesters.

Many of them were carrying Israeli banners in blue and white.

“I’m demonstrating because the measures that the new government wants to take represent a real and immediate threat to Israeli democracy,” one protester, tech entrepreneur Ran Shahor, told AFP.

There were protests in other villages and cities across the more than nine million-person nation.

According to Israeli media, there were 10,000 protesters in Beersheba and 50,000 in Haifa, both of which were the largest demonstrations yet.

Although police detained three demonstrators who were obstructing traffic on Tel Aviv’s ring road, the demonstrations dispersed without much of a fuss.

Simcha Rotman, the chairman of the law committee in the parliament, has scheduled daily hearings on various aspects of the changes the government is implementing from Sunday through Wednesday in advance of votes.

The coalition intends to approve significant portions of the reforms prior to the start of the April 2 legislative break, according to Justice Minister Yariv Levin.

A pillar of Netanyahu’s administration, a coalition between extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that assumed office in late December, is the overhaul of the judiciary.

The legislation would prevent the Supreme Court from overturning any changes to the so-called Basic Laws, Israel’s quasi-constitution, and would give the government more sway in the committee that chooses judges.

At first reading, legislators have already approved these clauses.

Israeli President Issac Herzog — who, in his largely ceremonial role, has tried to broker dialogue — on Thursday called on the coalition the halt the legislation, dubbing it “a threat to the foundations of democrac”.

Another element of the reforms would give the 120-member parliament power to overrule Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes.

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