Thousands rally against Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul -

29 May, Monday

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Thousands rally against Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul

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Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv against a judicial overhaul by the hard-right government, ahead of a key week expected to see more legislative steps and mass protests.
Ednews reports citing The Guardian that the latest demonstration to hit Israel’s commercial hub came days after the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to press on with the changes despite mounting international alarm.
“We’re here today to show up and add our voice to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Israelis that support the values that this country was founded on,” said Daniel Nisman, citing democracy and tolerance as his key concerns.
“This is all we can hope for, that [Netanyahu] brings us back from the edge of the abyss,” he told AFP.
Demonstrations erupted in January after the coalition announced its reform package, which the government says is necessary to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.
Rallies have repeatedly drawn tens of thousands of protesters, according to Israeli media estimates, and an AFP journalist saw thousands already gathering in Tel Aviv early on Saturday evening.
“More Israelis are waking up,” said Josh Drill, a spokesperson for the Umbrella Movement group. “We’re not going to live in a dictatorship. Even if they do pass the judicial coup, this protest is not going anywhere.”
Plans to hand more control to politicians and diminish the role of the supreme court have been questioned by Israel’s top allies, including the US.
The US president, Joe Biden, expressed concerns over the proposed judicial reforms, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday.
Netanyahu was also faced with hundreds of protesters in London when he met Rishi Sunak on Friday.
During the talks, the British prime minister “stressed the importance of upholding the democratic values that underpin our relationship, including in the proposed judicial reforms”, a spokesperson said.
Israeli lawmakers are due to vote on a central part of the government’s proposals next week, which foresees changing the way judges are appointed. Netanyahu said on Thursday that the legislation “does not take control of the court, but balances and diversifies it”.
A parliamentary committee has amended the draft law with the aim of making it more palatable to opponents, but the opposition has ruled out backing any part of the reform package until all legislative steps are halted.
In response, demonstrators have announced a “national paralysis week”, including countrywide rallies, protests outside ministers’ homes and, on Wednesday, outside parliament.
In his televised address on Thursday, Netanyahu said he would do everything “to calm the situation and end the rift in the nation”.
He said his administration remained “determined to correct and responsibly advance the democratic reform that will restore the proper balance between the authorities” by ploughing on with the overhaul.
Netanyahu came under fire a day later from Israel’s attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, who said his public intervention was “illegal” due to his ongoing corruption trial.
The legal official cited a previous court ruling that an indicted prime minister has no right to act on a matter that could place him in a conflict of interest.

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