ISRAEL: Tens of thousands of Israelis have gathered for a fifth week of protest against contentious judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration.
Demonstrators braved torrential rain to participate in Saturday’s protest in the central city of Tel Aviv, holding blue and white Israeli flags, chanting anti-justice minister slogans, and carrying signs labelling the new administration a “threat to world peace.”
Dov Levenglick, a 48-year-old software programmer, told the media news agency in Tel Aviv, “I’m here tonight protesting against the transition of Israel from a democracy to an autocracy.”
Local media claimed that protests took place in 20 towns across the nation and that thousands of people showed up in Tel Aviv alone.
Since the current prime minister’s government—dubbed the most rightwing in Israel’s history—took power in late December, the protests have become a weekly feature on Saturday evenings.
The government’s suggested measures, which it claims are required to limit judicial overreach, have been met with vehement resistance from groups including lawyers and business leaders, exacerbating Israel’s already pronounced political differences.
The ideas, which would tighten political control over judge selections and restrict the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule governmental decisions or Knesset laws, have been criticised as undermining Israeli democracy.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who was also in the throng in Haifa, can be heard saying in a social media video: “We will save our country because we are unwilling to live in an undemocratic country.”
Netanyahu, who is currently facing corruption charges, has described the demonstrations as a leftist opposition’s reluctance to recognise the results of the election held in November, which resulted in one of Israel’s most right-wing administrations ever.
Along with the judicial reforms, his government has also declared its desire to advance unauthorised settlements in the occupied West Bank and to enact social measures that have alarmed the LGBTQ community.
A resident of Ramat Gan city, Dania Shwartz, 44, told the media that demonstrators were “reclaiming” the Israeli flag.
She expressed worry that, as a member of the LGBTQ community, “this new government will try to pass laws that will affect my children.”
She referred to one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners renowned for its vehemently anti-gay position and stated, “For example, the Noam party wants to delegitimize families like ours, and it’s very scary.”
Last month, Aryeh Deri, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was forced to resign after being found guilty of tax cheating.
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