Israel protests: Half a million Israelis took to the streets to protest judicial reform

Jerusalem (CNN) Half a million Israelis have taken to the streets for the tenth consecutive week of protests against plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reform the country’s judicial system, organizers claim.

Israel has a population of just over 9 million, so if the organizers’ estimates are correct, about 5% of Israelis have come out to express their opposition to the proposed reforms.

Organizers said nearly half of the demonstrators – some 240,000 – gathered in Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, several hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the home of President Isaac Herzog. They raised Israeli flags and chanted slogans, including “Israel will not be a dictatorship.”

On Thursday, Herzog — whose role is largely ceremonial — urged the Netanyahu government to take judicial reform legislation off the table.



Israelis take part in a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest major changes to the country’s judicial system.

Say demonstrators and critics of Netanyahu’s plan It would weaken the country’s courts and undermine the judiciary’s ability to check the power of the country’s other branches of government.

The package of legislation would give Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, the power to veto Supreme Court decisions by a simple majority. It would also give the government the power to name judges, which currently rests with a committee made up of judges, legal experts and politicians. It would remove the authority and independence of legal advisers to government ministries, and take away the power of courts to invalidate “unreasonable” government appointments, as the Supreme Court did in January, forcing Netanyahu to fire Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri.



Demonstrators clashed with police during protests in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Critics accuse Netanyahu of pressing the legislation to get out of the corruption trials he is currently facing. Netanyahu denies this, saying that the trials collapse on their own, and that changes are necessary after judicial override by unelected judges.

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Israel does not have a written constitution, but rather a set of so-called Basic Laws.

“We’re done being polite,” said Shkma Pressler, an Israeli protest leader. “If the proposed laws are passed, Israel will no longer be a democracy.”

Two in three (66%) Israelis believe the Supreme Court should have the power to strike down laws that conflict with Israel’s basic laws, and nearly the same percentage (63%) say they support the current system for nominating judges, according to a poll last month for the Israel Democracy Institute. .

“The only thing this government cares about is crushing Israeli democracy,” said opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid.

CNN’s Michael Schwartz and Matthias Somme contributed to this report

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