More than 100,000 protesters gathered in the coastal city of Tel Aviv alone on Saturday, chanting anti-regime slogans and carrying huge banners bearing caustic inscriptions against the regime’s politicians.
Once again in the focus was Netanyahu’s so-called judicial overhaul plan.
Proponents of the plan say it helps redistribute the balance of power between the politicians and the judiciary. Its opponents, however, accuse Netanyahu of trying his hand at a power grab. They say the premier, who is on trial on several counts of corruption charges, is also attempting to use the scheme to quash possible judgments against him.
The rallies have been a fixture since January, when the regime’s hard-right cabinet announced its plans to turn the scheme into law.
“I am here to tell everyone how scared I am …I am really afraid that the changes they want to do will destroy” Israel, one of the protesters was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“I came out here today with my family so that [we] can protest against the judicial coup. It’s a crucial time right now. We need to come out. We need to be in the streets,” another demonstrator added.
This week’s protests in Tel Aviv came after earlier on Saturday, violent clashes broke out between Eritrean protesters and the regime’s forces in which over 150 people were injured, including some 15 in serious condition. Around 30 Israeli forces were also hurt.
The rallies also came around two weeks before the Israeli Supreme Court is set to hear petitions regarding several key aspects of the overhaul scheme. According to Israeli media, the court’s decisions in favor of one or more of those petitions could lead to a direct confrontation between the executive and judicial branches of the regime and potentially even spark a “constitutional crisis.”
“We have a big vote in about two weeks. And I can’t tell you I am hopeful, but we are not gonna stop coming out until we are able to turn back and make sure that everyone has someone else watching over what they are doing. Nobody has the power to make changes at their whim,” a protester stated.
Shikma Bressler, one of the leaders of the anti-judicial overhaul protest movement, addressed the demonstration in Tel Aviv, saying that “wherever you look, the madness, the fanaticism, the messianic extremism, [and] all these sick evils are only increasing.”
As was the case in previous weeks, thousands of protesters also demonstrated outside Israeli president’s residence in the occupied city of al-Quds.
Demonstrators lit up flares and blocked the Karkur Junction in the northern part of the occupied territories, while in Haifa, which is likewise situated in the north, thousands joined the main rally at Horev junction.
Speaking in Haifa, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni said Netanyahu’s cabinet is “making reckless … decisions that are endangering all of our lives for the benefit of the right-wing messianic base, which is … acting wildly and violently in [the West Bank]….”
Protest organizers have planned a march for September 7-9, beginning in the northern city of Safed. A second march will be held from four locations in the south of the occupied territories towards the central city of Beersheba.