Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tens of thousands rally in Tel Aviv against PM’s proposed reforms ahead of parliament session

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have gathered in central Tel Aviv for the latest weekly protest against the government’s judicial reform plans just days before legislators return for a new parliament session.

Opponents of the judicial reform bill have kept up demonstrations in the commercial hub and across the country since January, despite Netanyahu putting the controversial reform programme on ice a month ago.

“History has its eyes on you,” read a placard held aloft on Saturday at the rally in Tel Aviv, where demonstrators lit flares and waved national flags in the latest show of political discontent.

Israeli society has been deeply split over the proposed legislation, which seeks to weaken the Supreme Court and hand politicians greater influence over the selection of judges.

Netanyahu’s right-wing administration has argued the proposals are necessary to rebalance power between the judiciary and elected officials, while opponents said the changes represent a threat to democracy.

The weekly rallies have repeatedly drawn tens of thousands onto the streets of Tel Aviv.

The protesters gathered against the backdrop of cross-party talks hosted by President Isaac Herzog this month, which have sought to reach a compromise on the reform package.

The negotiations were launched after Netanyahu announced a halt to the legislative process on March 27 “out of a desire to prevent a rift in the nation”, in the face of mass protests and a general strike.

However, the opposition has remained sceptical of the prime minister’s intentions and no compromise has been reached.

With parliament due to hold an opening session on Monday after a recess, both backers of the reform and its detractors have sought to keep up the pressure on politicians.

The architect of the reform, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, addressed thousands of supporters who rallied in Jerusalem on Thursday.

The pro-reform protest was also attended by far-right Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich, who promised that the government will not “give up” on the package.

The cabinet ministers are part of a coalition of right-wing, extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties which took office in late December.

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