Tens of thousands of Israelis rally against judicial reform plan

Al-Jazeera  /  April 22, 2023

Plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to weaken the Supreme Court have outraged many in Israeli society.

Tens of thousands of protesters have flocked to Tel Aviv and cities across Israel to express their opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government and its divisive plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system.

Crowds of Israelis held banners with the words “Crime Minister” overlaid on Netanyahu’s face in Tel Aviv at Saturday’s protest, the latest in a series of weekly actions since the start of the year.

Plans by Netanyahu’s government to weaken the Supreme Court have outraged Israelis who see it as an assault on their country’s system of checks and balances and a threat to its very democracy.

“This is not about so-called judicial reform, it’s about democracy,” said Sheila Katz, head of the National Council of Jewish Women, from the rally in central Tel Aviv.

“In order for your sacred courts to protect the rights of all people, they must remain independent from politics.”

Protests last month brought Israeli cities to a standstill and threatened to shut down the economy, compelling Netanyahu to delay the judicial reform plan in hopes of finding a compromise.

However, protesters have been undeterred. Crowds of Israelis chanting “Shame!” have flooded the streets in the weeks after Netanyahu backed down, demanding that the overhaul be scrapped altogether.

The plan would give Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, and his partners in Israel’s most hardline coalition in its history the final say in appointing the nation’s judges.

It would also give parliament, which is controlled by his allies, authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit the court’s ability to review laws.

Fears for future

Al-Jazeera’s Mohamed Jamjoom, reporting from Tel Aviv, said many people who came to the protest with their children expressed their worry for future generations.

Onderkant formulier

“They believe what is going on right now with the overhaul plan is a real danger to democracy om Israel,” Jamjoom said. “And if they are passed, they will push this country towards autocracy.”

The protests have galvanized people across Israeli society.

Thousands of officers in elite reserve units of the military have said they will refuse to report for duty. High-tech business leaders and the security establishment have come out against the proposal. Trade unions have called for a general strike.

The United States, Israel’s most crucial ally, has even publicly rebuffed Netanyahu, with President Joe Biden telling him that he “cannot continue down this road”.



Israelis protest judicial overhaul ahead of 75th independence day

Middle East Eye  /  April 22, 2023

Plans were paused last month after a wave of strikes and mass demonstrations, but weekly protests have continued.

Tens of thousands of Israelis joined protests on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to tighten controls on the Supreme Court, ahead of Israel’s independence day marking 75 years. 

The plans were paused last month in the face of a wave of strikes and mass demonstrations. The latest protests against them come as Israelis are set to mark both Israeli independence day and Israeli memorial day, which commemorates those killed in Israel’s wars and in terror attacks.

The proposals would give the government effective control over appointment of Supreme Court judges and allow parliament to overrule many decisions of the court. They have caused one of the biggest domestic crises in Israel’s recent history.

The government accuses activist judges of increasingly usurping the role of parliament, and says the overhaul is needed to restore balance between the judiciary and elected politicians.

Critics say it will remove vital checks and balances underpinning a democratic state and hand unchecked power to the government.

“There is this sentence from the bible, from David’s lamentation, saying ‘How heroes fell’. And actually, the question now turns to instead of ‘How heroes fell?’, to ‘For what?’,” 63-year-old lawyer David Gilat told Reuters. 

A poll released by Israel’s public broadcaster on Friday found the plans are deeply unpopular, with 53 percent saying they believe the plans will harm the country. Additionally, 60 percent of Israelis said the government does not represent them and 48 percent believe the situation in the country will continue to get worse. 

In central Tel Aviv, for the 16th consecutive week, crowds gathered in a show of defiance against plans they see as an existential threat to Israeli democracy. They were waving the blue and white Israeli flags that have become a hallmark of the protests over the past three months.

While Israel celebrates its Independence Day around this time of year, the occasion is known as Nakba Day (“Catastrophe”) to Palestinians, who mark the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians before and during the founding of the modern Israeli state in 1947-48 every year on 15 May.